THE threats of the victorious Catholic majority at Speier and the diplomacy of Philip of Hesse had, despite the forebodings of Luther and the imprecations of Melanchthon, produced a temporary alliance between the Lutheran north and the Zwinglian south; and the summer and autumn of 1529 were spent in attempts to make the union permanent and to cement it by means of religious agreement. In the secret understanding concluded between Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Nürnberg, Ulm, and Strasburg at Speier on April 22, it was arranged that a conference should be held at Rodach, near Coburg, in the following June. But this coalition between Lutheran Princes and Zwinglian towns had been concealed from the divines, and as soon as it came to their ears they raised a vehement protest. Melanchthon lamented that his friends had not made even greater concessions at Speier; if they had only repudiated Zwingli and all his works, the Catholics, he thought, might not have hardened their hearts against Luther; and he did his best to dissuade his friends in Nürnberg from participating in the coming congress at Rodach. Luther not only denounced the idea of defending by force what Melanchthon described as "the godless opinions" of Zwingli, but denied the right of Lutherans to defend themselves. Resort to arms he considered both wicked and needless; “Be ye still”, he quoted from Isaiah, “and ye shall be holpen”; and, while the conference at Rodach succumbed to his opposition, a vast army of Turks was swarming up the banks of the Danube and directing its march on Vienna. Solyman brandished the sword which Luther refused to grasp.
Hungary had failed to resist the Turks by herself; but the Austrian shield, under which she took shelter, afforded no better protection, and Ferdinand only escaped the fate of Louis II because he kept out of the way. Absorbed in the Lutheran conflict, he made no attempt to secure his conquests of 1527, and, when the Turkish invasion began, Zapolya descended from his stronghold in the Carpathians, defeated a handful of Ferdinand’s friends, and surrendered the crown of St Stephen on the scene of Mohacs to the Sultan. Unresisted, the Turkish forces swept over the plains of Hungary, crossed the imperial frontier, and on September 20 planted their standards before the walls of Vienna. But over these the Crescent was never destined to wave, and the brilliant defence of Vienna in 1529 stopped the first, as a still more famous defence a hundred and fifty years later foiled the last, Turkish onslaught on Germany. The valor of the citizens, the excellence of the artillery, with which the late Emperor Maximilian had furnished the city, and the early rigor of winter supplied the defects of the Habsburg power, and on October 15 Solyman raised the siege. Ferdinand failed to make adequate use of the Sultan’s retreat; lack of pay caused a mutiny of Landsknechte; and though Gran fell into his hands he could not recapture Buda, and the greater part of Hungary remained under the nominal rule of Zapolya, but real control of the Turk.
The relief of Vienna was received with mingled feelings in Germany. Luther, who had once denied the duty of Christians to fight the infidel as involving resistance to God’s ordinance, had been induced to recant by the imminence of danger and the pressure of popular feeling. In 1529 he exhorted his countrymen to withstand the Turk in language as vigorous as that in which he had urged them to crush the peasants; and the retreat of the Ottoman was generally hailed as a national deliverance. But the joy was not universal, even in Germany. Secular and religious foes of the Habsburgs had offered their aid to Zapolya; while Philip of Hesse lamented the Turkish failure and hoped for another attack. The Turk was in fact the ally of the Reformation, which might have been crushed without his assistance; and to a clear-sighted statesman like Philip no other issue than ruin seemed possible from the mutual enmity of the two Protestant Churches.
The abortive result of the meeting at Rodach in June and the abandonment of the adjourned congress at Schwabach in August only stirred the Landgrave to fresh efforts in the cause of Protestant union. On the last day in September he assembled the leading divines of the two communions at his castle of Marburg with a view to smoothing over the religious dissensions which had proved fatal to their political cooperation. The conference was not likely to fail for want of eminent disputants. The two heresiarchs themselves, Luther and Zwingli, were present, and their two chief supporters, Melanchthon and Oecolampadius. The Zwinglian cities of Germany were represented by Bucer and Hedio of Strasburg; the Lutherans by Justus Jonas and Caspar Cruciger from Wittenberg, Myconius from Gotha, Brenz from Hall, Osiander from Nürnberg, and Stephen Agricola from Augsburg. But they came in different frames of mind; Luther prophesied failure from the first, and it was with the greatest difficulty that Melanchthon could be induced even to discuss accommodation with such impious doctrines as Zwingli’s. On the other hand the Zurich Reformer started with sanguine hopes and with a predisposition to make every possible concession, in order to pave the way for the religious and political objects which he and the Landgrave cherished. But these objects were viewed with dislike and suspicion by the Lutheran delegates. Public controversy between Luther and Zwingli had already waxed fierce. Zwingli had first crossed Luther's mental horizon as the ally of Carlstadt, a sinister conjunction the effects of which were not allayed by Zwingli’s later developments. The Swiss Reformer was a combination of the humanist, the theologian, and the radical; while Luther was a pure theologian. Zwingli’s dogmas were softened alike by his classical sympathies and by his contact with practical government. Thus he would not deny the hope of salvation to moral teachers like Socrates; while Luther thought that the extension of the benefits of the Gospel to the heathen, who had never been taught it, deprived it of all its efficacy. The same broad humanity led Zwingli to limit the damning effects of original sin; he shrank from consigning the vast mass of mankind to eternal perdition, believed that God’s grace might possibly work through more channels than the one selected by Luther, and was inclined to circumscribe that diabolic agency which played so large a part in Luther’s theological system and personal experience.
Zwingli was in fact the most modern in mind of all the Reformers, while Luther was the most medieval. Luther’s conception of truth was theological, and not scientific; to him it was something simple and absolute, not complex and relative. A man either had or had not the Spirit of God; there was nothing between heaven and hell. One or the other of us, he wrote with regard to Zwingli, must be the devil’s minister; and the idea that both parties might have perceived some different aspect of truth was beyond his comprehension. This dilemma was his favorite dialectical device; it reduced argument to anathema and excluded from the first all chance of agreement. He applied it to political as well as religious discussions, and his inability to grasp the conception of compromise determined his views on the question of non-resistance. If we resist the Emperor, he said, we must expel him and become Emperor ourselves; then the Emperor will resist, and there will be no end until one party is crushed. Tolerance was not in his nature, and concession in Church or in State was to him evidence of indifference or weakness. Truth and falsehood, right and wrong, were both absolute. The Papacy embodied abuses, therefore the Pope was Antichrist; Caesar's authority was recognized by Christ, therefore all resistance was sin.
Between Luther's political doctrines and those of Zwingli there was as much antipathy as between their theology. Appropriately, the statue of Luther at Worms represents him armed only with a Bible, while that of Zwingli at Zurich bears a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. Zwingli had first been stirred to public protest by a secular evil, the corruption of his country by foreign gold; and political aims were inextricably interwoven with religious objects throughout his career. He hoped for a union both spiritual and temporal between Zurich and Bern and the cities of South Germany, by means of which Emperor and Pope should alike be eliminated, and a democratic republic established; aristocracy, he declared, had always been the ruin of States. Under the influence of this idea a civic affiliation had been arranged between Constance and Zurich in 1527, and extended to St Gallen, Basel, Mühlhausen in Alsace, and Biel in 1529; and it was partly to further this organization and to counteract the alliance of Austria with the five Catholic cantons that Zwingli journeyed to Marburg.
Doctrine of the Eucharist.
But the primary objects of the conference were theological, and it was on a dispute over the Eucharist that the differences between the two parties came to a head. On all other points Zwingli went to the limit of concession, but he could not accept the doctrine of consubstantiation. Luther chalked on the table round which they sat, the text “This is my Body”, and nothing could move him from its literal interpretation. Zwingli, on the other hand, explained the phrase by referring to the sixth chapter of St John, and declared that "is" meant only "represents"; the bread and the wine represented the body and blood, as a portrait represents a real person. Christ was only figuratively "the door" and the "true vine"; and the Eucharist instead of being a miracle was, in his eyes, only a feast of commemoration. This doctrine was anathema to Luther; at the end of the debate Zwingli offered him his hand, but Luther rejected it, saying "Your spirit is not our spirit". As a final effort at compromise Luther was induced to draw up the fifteen Marburg Articles, of which the Zwinglians signed all but the one on the Eucharist; and it was agreed that each party should moderate the asperity of its language towards the other. But this did not prevent the Lutheran divines from denying that Zwinglians could be members of the Church of Christ, or Luther himself from writing a few days afterwards that they were "not only liars, but the very incarnation of lying, deceit, and hypocrisy, as Carlstadt and Zwingli show by their very deeds and words". The hand which had pulled down the Roman Church in Germany made the first rent in the Church which was beginning to grow up in its place. Zwingli went back to Zurich to meet his death two years later at Kappel, and the Lutherans returned home to ponder on the fate which the approach of Charles V had in store.
Their stubborn determination to sacrifice everything on the altar of dogma was as fatal to plans for their internal defence as it had been to their alliance with Zwingli. A few weeks after the Marburg Conference a meeting was held at Schwabach to consider the basis of common action between the north German Princes and the south German cities. As a preparation for this attempt at concord Luther drew up another series of seventeen articles in which he emphasized the points at issue between him and Zwingli, and persuaded the Lutheran Princes to admit no one to their alliance who would not subscribe to every single dogma in this formulary. As a natural result Strasburg and Ulm refused to sign the articles at Schwabach, and in this refusal they were joined by the other south German cities at a further conference held at Schmalkalden in December. Luther even managed to shake the defensive understanding between Hesse and Saxony by persuading the Elector of the unlawfulness of any resistance to the Emperor. The Reformer was fortified in this attitude by a child-like faith - which Ferdinand was sagacious enough to encourage - in Charles' pacific designs, although the Emperor had denounced the Protest from Spain, was pledged by his treaty with the Pope to the extirpation of heresy, and arrested the Protestant envoys who appeared before him in Italy. So the far-reaching designs of Philip of Hesse and Zwingli for the defence of the Reformation were brought to naught at the moment when the horizon was clouding in every quarter.
In May, 1530, having in conjunction with Clement VII regulated the affairs of Italy and discussed schemes for regulating those of the world, Charles V crossed the Alps on his second visit to his German dominions. The auspices in 1530 were very different from those of 1521, Then he had left Spain in open rebellion, he was threatened with war by the most powerful State in Europe, and the attitude of the Papacy was still doubtful. Now Spain was reduced to obedience and the Pope to impotence; France had suffered the greatest defeat of the century; Italy lay at his feet; and Ferdinand had added two kingdoms to the family estate. Over every obstacle Charles seemed to have triumphed. But in Germany the universal agitation against Rome had resolved itself into two organized parties which threatened to plunge the nation into civil war. Here indeed was the scene of the last of Hercules' labors; would his good fortune or skill yield him a final triumph?
It is doubtful whether Charles had formed any clear idea of the policy he must adopt, and it is certain that his ignorance of German methods of thought and character and his incapacity to understand religious enthusiasm led him to underrate the stubbornness of the forces with which he had to deal. But his inveterate habit of silence stood him in good stead; Luther regarded with awe the monarch who said less in a year than he himself said in a day. Campeggi, who accompanied Charles on his march, daily instilled in his ear the counsels of prompt coercion; and the death of the politic Gattinara at Innsbruck was so opportune a removal of a restraining influence that Lutherans ascribed his end to Italian poison. It was, however, inconsistent with the Emperor's nature to resort to force before every method of accommodation had been tried and failed. In 1521 he refused to act on the papal Bull against Luther without a personal attempt at mediation; in 1530 he would not proceed against the Protestants by force of arms until he had tried the effect of moral suasion, and there is no need to regard the friendly terms in which he summoned the Lutheran Princes to the Diet of Augsburg as merely a cloak to conceal his hostile designs.
1530] Confession of Augsburg.
The Diet opened on June 20, 1530, and was very fully attended. Luther, who was still under the ban of the Empire, could come no nearer than Coburg; his place as preceptor of the Protestant Princes was taken by Melanchthon; and the celebrated Confession of Augsburg, though it was based on Luther’s Schwabach Articles, was exclusively Melanchthon’s work. The attitude of the Lutheran divines is well expressed by the tone of this document; they were clearly on the defensive, and the truculent Luther himself, who had dictated terms to the Archbishop of Mainz, was now reduced to craving his favor. Melanchthon was almost prostrated by the fear of religious war; and he thought it could best be averted by an alliance between Catholics and Lutherans against the Zwinglians, whom he regarded as no better than Anabaptists. His object in framing the Confession was therefore twofold, to minimize the differences between Lutherans and Catholics, and to exaggerate those between Lutherans and Zwinglians; he hoped thus to heal the breach with the former and complete it with the latter.
In form the Confession is an apologia, and not a creed; it does not assert expressly the truth of any dogma, but merely states the fact that such doctrines are taught in Lutheran churches, and justifies that teaching on the ground that it varies little if at all from that of the Church of Rome. It does not deny the divine right of the Papacy, the character indelebilis of the priesthood, or the existence of seven Sacraments; it does not assert the doctrine of predestination, which had brought Luther into conflict with Erasmus; and the doctrine of the Eucharist is so ambiguously expressed that the only fault the Catholics found was its failure to assert categorically the fact of transubstantiation. In view of the substantial agreement which it endeavored to establish between Catholic and Lutheran dogma, it was represented as unjustifiable to exclude the Reformers from the Catholic Church; their only quarrel with their opponents was about traditions and abuses, and their object was not polemic or propaganda, but merely toleration for themselves.
This Confession was to have been read at a public session of the Diet on June 24; but, apparently through Ferdinand’s intervention, the plan was changed to a private recitation in the Emperor’s apartments, and there it was read on the 25th by the Saxon Chancellor, Bayer. Philip of Hesse was loth to subscribe so mild a pronouncement, but eventually it was signed by all the original Protestant Princes, with the addition of the Elector’s son, John Frederick, and by two cities, Nürnberg and Reutlingen. But the door was completely shut on the Zwinglians; in vain Bucer and Capito sought an arrangement with Melanchthon. He would not even consent to see them lest he should be compromised, and Lutheran pulpits resounded with denunciations of the Sacramentarians, as Zwingli and his supporters now began to be called. Zwingli himself, so soon as he read the Confession, addressed to Charles a statement of his own belief, in which he threw prudence and fear to the winds. He retracted the concessions he had made to Lutheran views at Marburg, and asserted his differences from the Catholic Church in such plain terms that Melanchthon said he was mad. The cities of Upper Germany were not prepared for such extremities; but, cut off from the Lutheran communion, they were compelled to draw up a confession of their own, which was named the Tetrapolitana from the four cities, Strasburg, Constance, Lindau, and Memmingen, which signed it. It was mainly the work of Bucer, was completed on July 11, and, while Zwinglian in essence, made a serious attempt to approach the doctrines of Wittenberg.
It appears to have been the hope of the Protestants, and probably of Charles also, that the Emperor would be able to make himself the mediator between the Lutherans and Catholics, and to effect an agreement by inducing each side to make concessions. But for the moment the Catholics distrusted Charles more than the Protestants did. They had secular as well as ecclesiastical grievances. They denounced the treaties concluded in Italy as wanting their concurrence; they were horrified at the example set by Charles in secularizing the see of Utrecht, and they refused to confirm the Pope’s grant of ecclesiastical revenues to Ferdinand; while the orthodox Wittelsbach were moving heaven and earth to prevent the election of Charles’ brother as King of the Romans. They were thus by no means disposed to place themselves in the Emperor's hands; they insisted rather that they should determine the Empire’s policy, and that Charles should merely execute their decrees; and, lacking the Emperor’s broader outlook, they were less inclined to make concessions to peace. It was the growing conviction that Charles was a helpless tool in the hands of their enemies which caused a revulsion of the Protestant feeling in his favor.
Yet the Catholics were not all in favor of extreme courses, and either Melanchthon’s moderation or the effect of twelve years’ criticism produced some modification of Catholic dogma, as expressed in the Confutation of the Confession drawn up by Eck, Faber, Cochlaeus, and others, and presented on August 3. The doctrine of good works was so defined as to guard against the previous popular abuses of it; and in other respects there were signs of the process of purifying Catholic dogma which had commenced at the Congress of Ratisbon in 1524 and was completed at the Council of Trent. But these concessions were too slight to satisfy even Melanchthon; and the Protestant Princes were not frightened into submission by the threats of Charles that unless they returned to the Catholic fold he would proceed against them as became the protector and steward of the Church.
Neither side was, however, prepared for religious war ; and, when the Confutation and Charles' menaces failed to precipitate unity, a series of confused and lengthy negotiations between the various parties, the Emperor, the Pope, the Catholic majority, and the Lutherans was initiated. In the course of these Melanchthon receded still further from the Protestant standpoint. He offered on behalf of the Lutherans to recognize episcopal authority, auricular confession and fasts, and undertook to regard the Communion in both kinds and the marriage of priests, which he had before demanded, as merely temporary concessions pending the convocation of a General Council. He even went so far as to assert that the Lutherans admitted papal authority, adhered to papal doctrine, and that this was the reason for their unpopularity in Germany. On the other hand, the Catholic members of the commission appointed to discuss the question were ready to concede a communion sub utrâque, on condition that the Lutherans would acknowledge communion in one kind to be equally valid, and declare the adoption of either form to be a matter of indifference.
Melanchthon was prepared to make these admissions, but his party refused to follow him any further. Luther grew restive at Coburg, and began to talk of the impossibility of reconciling Christ with Belial, and Luther with the Pope; to restore episcopal jurisdiction was, he thought, equivalent to putting their necks in the hangman’s rope, and on September 20 he expressed a preference for risking war to making further concessions. If the Catholics would not receive the Confession or the Gospel, he wrote to Melanchthon with a characteristic allusion to Judas, "let them go to their own place". The Princes had never been so timorous as the divines. They were not so much concerned for the unity of the Empire as Melanchthon was for that of the Church. Philip of Hesse told the Emperor he would sacrifice life and limb for his faith, and long before the Diet had reached its conclusion he rode off without asking the Emperor’s leave. The Elector’s fortitude was such that Luther declared the Diet of Augsburg had made him into a hero, and lesser Princes were not less constant. Their steadfastness and the uncompromising attitude of the Catholics stiffened the backs of the Lutheran divines; and, in reply to a taunt that the Confutation had demolished the Confession, they presented an Apology for the latter, the tone of which was much less humble. No agreement being now expected, the Catholic majority of the Estates drew up a proposal for the Recess on September 22. The Protestants were given till April 15 to decide whether they would conform or not, and meanwhile they were ordered to make no innovations on their own account, to put no constraint on Catholics in their territories, and to assist the Emperor to eradicate Zwinglians and Anabaptists. Against this proposal the Protestant Princes again protested; fourteen cities, including Augsburg itself, followed their example; and they then departed, leaving the Catholic majority to pursue its own devices, and to discover within itself opportunities for division.
The failure of Melanchthon’s plan of attaining peace with Catholics by breach with the Zwinglians produced a certain reaction of feeling and policy. Luther was, partially at any rate, disabused of his faith in Charles’ intentions, and the pressure of common danger facilitated a renewed attempt at union. With this object in view, Bucer, the chief author of the Tetrapolitana, called on Luther at Coburg on September 25, and was received with surprising favor. Luther even expressed a willingness to lay down his life three times if only the dissensions among the Reformers might be healed, and Bucer himself had a genius for accommodation. Under these favorable circumstances he contrived to evolve a plausible harmonization of the Wittenberg and Tetrapolitan doctrines of the Eucharist which was sufficient for the day and led to an invitation of the south German cities to the meeting of Protestant Powers to be held in December at Schmalkalden.
Meanwhile the Catholic majority of the Diet continued its deliberations at Augsburg. The aid against the Turks which Charles desired had not yet been voted, and before he obtained it the Emperor had to drop his demand for Ferdinand’s ecclesiastical endowment, and promise to press upon the Pope the redress of the hundred gravamina which were once more revived. Substantial concessions to individual Electors secured the prospect of Ferdinand's election as King of the Romans, which took place at Cologne on January 5, 1531; and the Diet concluded with the adoption of the Recess on November 19. The Edict of Worms was to be put into execution, episcopal jurisdictions were to be maintained, and Church property to be restored. Of more practical importance than these resolutions was the reconstitution of the Reichskammergericht, which henceforward began to play an important part in imperial politics. It was now organized so as to be an efficient instrument in carrying out the will of the majority, and was solemnly pledged to the suppression of Lutheranism. The campaign was to open, not on a field of battle, but in the Courts of law; and the attack was to be directed, not against the persons of Lutheran Princes, but against their secularization of Church property Countless suits were already pending before the Kammergericht; and, however inconsistent such a policy may have been in the Habsburgs who had themselves profited largely by secularization, the law of the Empire gave the Kammergericht no option but to decide against the Lutherans, and its decisions would have completely undermined the foundations of the rising Lutheran Church.
1530-1] League of Schmalkalden.
This resort to law instead of to arms is characteristic of Charles' caution Backed as he was by an overwhelming majority of the Diet, it might seem that the Emperor would make short work of the dissident Princes and towns. But in German imperial politics there was usually many a slip between judgment and execution; and of the Princes who voted for the Recess of Augsburg there were only two, the Elector Joachim of Brandenburg and Duke George of Saxony, who were ready to face a civil war for the sake of their convictions. In Germany were reproduced on a smaller scale all those elements of disunion which had made the attempted crusades of the previous century ridiculous fiascos. Each Catholic Prince desired the suppression of heresy, but no one would set his face against the enemy for fear of being stabbed in the back by a friend. The rulers of Bavaria and Austria were both unimpeachably orthodox, but Bavaria was again intriguing with Hesse against the House of Habsburg. The Emperor himself had few troops and no money. The multiplicity of interests pressing upon his attention prevented his concentration upon any one object, and increased his natural indecision of character. Never was his policy more hesitating and circumspect than in 1530-1 when fortune seemed to have placed the ball at his feet.
His inactivity enabled the Protestants to mature their plans and organize an effective bond of resistance. The doctrine of implicit obedience to the Emperor broke down as danger approached; the divines naively admitted that they had not before realized that the sovereign power was subject to law; and Luther, acknowledging that he was a child in temporal matters, allowed himself to be persuaded that Charles was not the Caesar of the New Testament, but a governor whose powers were limited by the Electors in the same way as the Roman consul's by the Senate, the Doge's by the Venetian Council, and a Bishop's by his Chapter. The Protestants, having already denied that a minority could be bound by a majority of the Diet, now carried the separatist principle a step further by declaring that the Empire was a federated aristocracy of independent sovereigns, who were themselves to judge when and to what extent they would yield obedience to their elected president. It is not, however, fair to charge them with adopting Protestantism in order to further their claims to political independence; it is more correct to say that they extended their particularist ideas in order to protect their religious principles.
The first care of the Princes and burghers who deliberated at Schmalkalden from December 22 to 81,1530, was to arrange for common action with regard to the litigation before the Reichskammergericht. But the decision which gave their meeting its real importance was their agreement to form a league for mutual defence against all attacks on account of their faith, from whatever quarter these might proceed. This, the first sketch of the Schmalkaldic League, was subscribed by the -Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Brunswick-Lüneburg Dukes, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, the two Counts of Mansfeld, and the cities of Magdeburg and Bremen. Margrave George of Brandenburg and the city of Nürnberg were not yet prepared to take the decisive step; and, although the Tetrapolitan cities, reinforced by Ulm, Biberach, Isny, and Reutlingen, expressed their concurrence in the League at a second meeting in February, 1531, and three Dukes of Brunswick, Philip, Otto, and Francis, and the city of Lübeck also acceded to it, its full and final development depended upon the result of the contest then raging between Lutherans and Zwinglians for control of the south German cities.
Bucer, after his partial success with Luther at Coburg, proceeded to Zurich in the hope of bringing Zwingli to the point of concession where Luther had come to meet him. But as the German Reformer grew more conciliatory, the Swiss became more uncompromising. In February, 1531, the Swiss cities refused to join the Schmalkaldic League, and in the same month a Congress of Zwinglian divines at Memmingen attacked the Catholic ceremonial observed in Lutheran churches. This aggressive attitude may be traced to the rapid progress which Zwinglian doctrines were making in south Germany at the expense of the Augsburg Confession. At Augsburg itself the Tetrapolitan or Bucerian creed defeated its Lutheran rival; and in other German cities more violent manifestations of the Zwinglian spirit prevailed. Under the influence of Bucer, Blaurer, and Oecolampadius, Ulm, Reutlingen, Biberach, and other hitherto Lutheran cities destroyed pictures, images, and organs in their churches, and selected pastors who looked for inspiration to Zurich and not to Wittenberg; those cities which had already joined the Schmalkaldic League refused at its meeting at Frankfort in June to subscribe to the League’s project for military defence. South Germany seemed in fact to be about to fall like ripe fruit into Zwingli’s lap, when his power suddenly waned at home, and the defeat of Kappel (October 11, 1531) cut short his life, and ruined his cause in Germany; it was left for Calvin to gather up the fragments of Zwingli's German party, and to establish an ultra-Protestant opposition to the Lutheran Church.
This unexpected disaster to the Reformation in Switzerland appeared to Ferdinand to offer a magnificent opportunity for crushing the movement in Germany. He was thoroughly convinced that Swiss political and religious radicalism was the most formidable of the enemies of German Catholicism and the Habsburg monarchy, and that deprived of this stimulant the milder Lutheran disease would soon yield to vigorous treatment. He proposed to his brother an armed support of the Five Catholic cantons, and the forcible restoration of Catholicism in Zurich and Bern. But the Emperor declined to involve himself in a Swiss campaign. His intervention in Switzerland would, he feared, precipitate war with Francis I, who was already beginning again to cast longing eyes on Milan, and feeling his way to an understanding with Clement VII. The Pope's fear of a General Council, which Catholics no less than Protestants were demanding from Charles V, was a powerful weapon in the hands of Francis I. Clement was haunted by the suspicion that a Council might be as fatal to him as that of Basel had threatened to be to his predecessors; and the Emperor’s enemies suggested that if it met Charles would propose the restoration of the Papal States to the Empire from which they had been wrung. Rather than risk such a fate, some at least of his friends urged Clement to accede to the Lutheran demand for communion in both kinds and clerical marriage, and maintained that the Augsburg Confession was not repugnant to the Catholic faith. Without the help of the heretics it seemed impossible for Charles to resist the approaching Turkish onslaught; and the Emperor's confessor, Loaysa, urged him not to trouble if their souls went to hell, so long as they served him on earth. And so the term of grace accorded to the Lutherans by the Recess of Augsburg expired in April, 1531, without a thought of resort to compulsion; and instead of this, the Emperor suspended, on July 8, the action of the Reichskammergericht. He had missed the golden opportunity; it did not recur for fifteen years, during which two wars with the Turk in Europe, two wars in Africa, and two wars with France distracted his attention from German affairs.
This inaction on Charles’ part cooled the martial ardor of the Schmalkaldic League; and Zwinglian aggression in south Germany increased their disinclination to help the Swiss in their domestic troubles. In reality the battle of Kappel was of greater advantage to Luther than to the Emperor. For a second time the Reformation was freed from the embarrassment of a mutinous left wing; and Luther, although he professed to lament Zwingli’s fate, regarded the battle as the judgment of God, and Zwingli as damned unless the Almighty made an irregular exception in his favor. The cities of Upper Germany, deprived of their mainstay at Zurich, gravitated in the direction of Wittenberg; while the defeat of one section of the Reformers convinced the rest of the need for common defence. Under the pressure of these circumstances the Schmalkaldic League completed its organization, and of necessity assumed a predominantly Lutheran and territorial character. At two conferences held at Nordhausen and Frankfort (November-December, 1531) the military details of the League were settled, and the respective contributions of its various members fixed; the Princes obtained a large majority of votes in its council of war and exclusive command of its armies. Saxony and Hesse were treated as equal; if the seat of war was in Saxony or Westphalia the supreme command was to fall to the Elector, if in Hesse or Upper Germany to the Landgrave.
The accession of Göttingen, Goslar, and Eimbeck to the League, and the success of the Reformation at Hamburg, at Rostock, and in Denmark, where Christian's return to Catholicism brought 110 nearer his restoration to the throne, left the Schmalkaldic League in almost undisputed possession of north Germany; and it became a veritable Imperium in imperio with a foreign policy of its own. It might now be reckoned one of the anti-Habsburg powers in Europe; its agents sought alliance with France, England, Denmark, and Venice; and it began to regard itself as a League not merely for self-defence within the Empire, but for the furtherance of the Protestant cause all over Europe. Nor were its aims exclusively religious; theology merged into politics, and Protestantism sometimes labored under the suspicion of being merely anti-imperialism. France and Venice had few points in common with Luther; and Philip of Hesse’s plan to utilize a Turkish invasion for the restoration of Ulrich of Württemberg outraged patriotic sentiment. On the Catholic side Bavarian objects were no less selfish; and the Wittelsbachs endeavoured to undermine Ferdinand’s supports against the Turk in Germany, Bohemia, and Hungary. In both professedly religious camps there was political double-dealing; Hesse was ready to side with either Austria or Bavaria; while the Wittelsbachs fomented Charles’ hostility to the Lutherans and denounced his concessions as treason to the faith, at the same time that they were hand in glove with Hesse for an attack on the Habsburg power.
Turkish invasion repelled. [1532
These extreme and unpatriotic schemes were defeated by a tacit understanding between Catholic and Protestant moderates; and Germany presented a fairly united front to its infidel foe.
Saxony and cities like Ulm and Nürnberg convinced Charles that the coming of the Turk would be used for no sectional purposes; and the Emperor in return promised the Lutherans at least a temporary peace. He turned a deaf ear to the demands at the Diet of Ratisbon (April, 1532) for the execution of the Augsburg Recess, while Luther denounced the claims of his forward friends to toleration for all future Protestants even in Catholic territories as impossible and unreasonable. At Nürnberg (July 23, 1532) an agreement was reached by which all suits against the Protestants before the Reichskammergericht were quashed and they were guaranteed peace until the next Diet or a General Council. The understanding was to be kept secret for fear of offending the Catholics, but it sufficed to open to Charles the armouries of the Protestant cities, and Nürnberg sent double its quota to serve in the Turkish campaign.
Ferdinand had in vain sought to stave off the attack by which Solyman hoped to revenge his defeat at Vienna. He offered first to pay tribute for Hungary, and then to cede it to Zapolya on condition that it returned to the Habsburgs on Zapolya’s death. These terms were rejected with scorn, and on April 26 the Sultan commenced his march. His army was reckoned at a quarter of a million men, the stereotyped estimate of Turkish invading forces, but half of these were non-combatants; the Emperor’s troops did not exceed eighty thousand, but they were well equipped and eager for the fray. The same enthusiasm was not conspicuous in the Turkish ranks; they were foiled by the heroic resistance of Güns (August 7-28) and made no serious attempt either to take Vienna or to come to close quarters with the imperial forces; in September they commenced their retreat through Carinthia and Croatia, which they ravaged on their way.
The precipitate withdrawal of the Turks was followed by an equally sudden abandonment of the campaign by Charles V.
After all his brave words it was a shock to his friends and admirers when he made no effort to seize the fruits of victory and recover Hungary for his brother; for a vigorous prosecution of the war in 1532 might have restored to Christendom lands which remained under Turkish rule for nearly two centuries longer. There are explanations enough for his course; the German levies refused to pass the imperial frontiers, regarding self-defence as the limit of their duty; the Spaniards and Italians confined their efforts mainly to pillaging German villages; and Cranmer, who accompanied Charles’ Court, describes how they spread greater desolation than the Turks themselves and how the peasants in revenge fell upon and slew the Emperor’s troops whenever opportunity offered; so that delay in disbanding his army might have fanned the enmity between Charles’ German and Spanish subjects into war.
But other reasons accounted for the Emperor's departure from Germany, which was once more sacrificed to the exigencies of Charles’ cosmopolitan interests. The Pope, irritated alike by the Emperor’s bestowal of Modena and Reggio on the Duke of Ferrara, and by his persistence in demanding a General Council, was proposing to marry his niece Catharine de' Medici to Henry, Duke of Orleans; and a union between Clement and Francis I would again have threatened Charles’ position in Italy. He regarded two objects as then of transcendent importance, the reconciliation of the Pope and the convocation of a General Council. They were quite incompatible, yet to them Charles sacrificed the chance of regaining Hungary.
The result can only be described as a comprehensive failure.
The Emperor’s interviews with Clement in February, 1533, did not prevent the Pope’s alliance with France, nor his sanction of Cranmer’s appointment to the see of Canterbury, which enabled Henry VIII to complete his divorce from Catharine of Aragon. Charles’ two years’ stay in Germany had effected little; Ferdinand, indeed, was King of the Romans but his influence was less than before, while the power of the Protestants had been greatly increased. The Emperor had crossed the Alps in the spring of 1530 with a record of almost unbroken success; he recrossed them in the autumn of 1532 having added a list of failures; the German labor had proved herculean, but Charles had proved no Hercules. For another decade Germany was left to fight out its own political and religious quarrels with little help or hindrance from its sovereign. His intervention in 1530-2 had brought peace to no one; the Protestants had little security against the attacks of the Reichskammergericht; the Catholics were unable to prevent the progress of heresy; and while Charles was journeying farther and farther away from Germany the Habsburg authority in the Empire was threatened with one of the most serious checks it experienced.
Scheme to restore Ulrich in Wurttemberg. [1532-4
The restoration of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg was not merely a favorite design of the Protestants for the extension of the Reformation in south Germany; it was regarded by German Catholic Princes and by the Emperor’s foreign foes as an invaluable means of undermining the Habsburg power.
It is even believed that Clement VII himself in his anger at Charles’ persistent demand for a General Council, discussed the execution of this plan at his interview with Francis I at Marseilles in the autumn of 1533. At any rate the French King went from Marseilles to Bar-le-duc, where in January, 1534, he agreed with Philip of Hesse to give the enterprise extensive financial support, cloaked under a fictitious sale of Montbeliard (the property of Ulrich) to the French King. The moment was opportune. Ferdinand was busy in Bohemia and Hungary; the outbreak of the Anabaptist revolution gave Philip of Hesse an excuse for arming; and the decrepitude of the Swabian League neutralized the force by which Württemberg had been won and maintained for the Austrian House. Religious divisions had impaired the harmony of the League, and political jealousies had transformed it from a willing tool of the Habsburgs into an almost hostile power, In November, 1532, the Electors of Trier and the Palatinate and Philip of Hesse had agreed to refuse a renewal of the League; and in May, 1533, some of its most important city members, Ulm, Nürnberg, and Augsburg, formed a separate alliance for the defence of freedom of conscience.
The strictly defensive Catholic confederation established at Halle in ducal Saxony in the following November between the Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, Dukes George of Saxony, Eric and Henry of Brunswick, was neither a match for the Schmalkaldic League, nor had it any interest in the perpetuation of Austrian rule in Württemberg. Joachim told Philip that Ferdinand would get no help from the Electors; and his words proved true indeed. The Archbishops of Mainz and Trier observed a strict neutrality; the Elector Palatine's promise of aid was delusive; while the Catholic bishop of Münster and Duke Henry of Brunswick, possibly on the understanding that Philip would assist them to put down the Münster Anabaptists, consented to help him in Württemberg, and assurances of support were also forthcoming from Henry VIII, Christian III of Denmark, and Zapolya.
In 1532 Ulrich’s son Christopher, alarmed at the prospect of being carried off to Spain, escaped from the Emperor’s Court during the Turkish campaign, and in the following year appeared at a meeting of the Swabian League at Augsburg. His cause was warmly advocated by a French envoy and almost unanimously approved by the League. Bavaria, indeed, wished to restore Christopher, who had been educated as a Catholic, instead of his father, a strenuous Protestant, and on this score quarreled with Philip of Hesse. But French aid enabled Philip to dispense with Bavarian assistance. In April, 1534, he mustered a well-equipped army of 20,000 foot and 4000 horse, and on the 12th a manifesto was issued to the people of Württemberg, who, disgusted with Ferdinand's rule, were eager to rise on Ulrich’s behalf. It was in vain that Luther and Melanchthon prophesied woe for this contempt of their doctrine of passive obedience. Philip knew the feebleness of the foe; Ferdinand’s appeals to Charles had met with a cold response, and his lieutenant in Württemberg, Count Philip of the Palatinate, could hardly raise 9000 foot and 400 horse. With this little army he waited at Lauffen, where on May 12-13 an encounter, which can scarcely be called a battle, was decided against him, mainly by the excellence of the Hessian horse and artillery. Before the end of June the whole of Württemberg had been overrun by the invaders, and Luther had discerned the hand of God in the victors’ triumph.
Nor was there any hope of retrieving the disaster; rather, Ferdinand dreaded lest Philip should with the help of the Anabaptists raise a general insurrection against the Habsburgs, and seize the imperial crown for himself, the Dauphin of France, or Duke William of Bavaria. Francis I regarded Württemberg as only a beginning, and was urging Philip on to fresh conquests, which would have helped him in his impending war with Charles. But the German Princes were content with securing their immediate objects without becoming the cat's paw of France, and peace was made with Ferdinand at Cadan on June 29. Ulrich was restored to Württemberg, but Ferdinand's pride was to some extent saved by the provision that the duchy was to be held as a fief of Austria - without however impairing its imperial status - and should pass to the Habsburgs in default of male heirs in Ulrich’s line; at the same time Ferdinand withdrew his original stipulation that the Reformation should not be established in Württemberg.
The Protestants, however, were bent upon more than a local victory for their faith, and they employed their advantage over Ferdinand to render more secure their general position in Germany. The great defect in the Nürnberg Peace of 1532 was the absence of any definition of the "religious cases" with which the Reichskammergericht was prohibited from dealing. When the Court appealed to Charles on the point, he replied that it was their business to determine what was, and what was not a "religious" suit; and as the Court was composed of Catholics it naturally asserted its jurisdiction in all suits about ecclesiastical property. But secularization of Church property was the financial basis of the reformed Churches, and by this time was also one of the main financial supports of Lutheran States. If they could be attacked on this ground the Peace of Nürnberg was of little value to them; and they grew more and more exasperated as the Kammergericht proceeded to condemn cities and Princes such as Strasburg and Nürnberg, Duke Ernest of Lüneburg and Margrave George of Brandenburg. Eventually, on January 30,1534, the Protestants formally repudiated the Kammergericht as a partisan body, thus rejecting the last existing national institution, for the Reichsregiment was already dissolved. This however afforded them no protection, and in the Peace of Cadan they insisted that Ferdinand should quash all such proceedings of the Chamber as were directed against the members of the Schmalkaldic League. With this demand the King was forced to comply; the only compensation he received was the withdrawal of the Elector of Saxony's opposition to his recognition as King of the Romans. It was no wonder that men declared that Philip of Hesse had done more for the Reformation by his Württemberg enterprise than Luther could do in a thousand books.
Other causes than the weakness of Ferdinand and the disinclination of Lutherans to promote the ends of Francis I moved Catholic and Protestant Princes to the Peace of Cadan. Both alike were threatened by their common foe, the spirit of revolution, which in two different forms had now submerged Catholic Münster and Protestant Lübeck. Of the two phenomena the Anabaptist reign at Münster was the more to be feared and the harder to be explained, for the term by which it is known represents a mere accident of the movement as being its essence. It was not essentially theological, nor is ‘anabaptist’ an adequate or accurate expression of its theological peculiarities. The doctrines of second baptism and adult baptism are inoffensive enough, but attempts to realize the millennium, if successful, would be fatal to most forms of government, and a familiar parallel to the Münster revolutionists may be found in the English Fifth-monarchy men of the seventeenth century. In both cases millenary doctrines were only the outward form in which the revolutionary spirit was made manifest, and the spirit of revolution is always at bottom the same because it has its roots in the depths of human nature. The motive force which roused the English peasants in 1381 was essentially the same as that which dominated Münster in 1534 and lined the barricades of Paris in 1848. The revolutionist becomes a believer in the brotherhood of man, in the perfectibility of the race, and in the practicability of the millennium. The narrower his experience of men and affairs, the wider his flights of fancy; and revolutionary principles commonly find their most fruitful soil among hand-workers of sedentary occupation and straitened circumstances. In those submerged classes materials for discontent ever abound, awaiting the coincidence of two events to set them free, the flash of vision into better things and the disturbance of the repressive force of law and order. The Reformation produced them both; and the new gospel of Divine justice for the oppressed set the volcanic flood in motion, and strife between Catholic and Protestant authorities gave it a vent.
It was not to be expected that the rigid, respectable condition into which Lutheranism had sunk under the aegis of territorial Princes or even the more elastic religion of Zwingli would satisfy all of those who had revolted from Rome. Extreme opinions soon became heard. Sebastian Franck declared that in the new Lutheran Church there was less freedom of speech and belief than among the Turks and heathen; and Leo had described Luther as another Pope who consigned at will some to the devil, and rewarded others with heaven. Luther had found his original strength in the spirit of revolutionary enthusiasm and religious exaltation; but as soon as the way was clear he exchanged the support of popular agitation for that of secular authority, and left the revolutionists to follow their own devices. Their ranks were swollen by a general feeling of disappointment at the meager results of the Reformation. The moral regeneration which had been anticipated, the amelioration of social ills, and the reform of political abuses seemed as far off as ever. "The longer we preach the Gospel", declared Luther, "the deeper the people plunge into greed, pride, and luxury"; and, acting on a principle enunciated by the Reformers themselves, men began to ascribe the evil practice in Lutheran spheres to the errors in Lutheran doctrine. Hence arose a number of theological ideas, which were anathema alike to Catholics and Protestants, but appealed with irresistible force to multitudes who found no solace in either of the more orthodox creeds. The mass of the peasantry had been put out of the pale of hope in 1525, and their complete indifference to ideas of any kind prevented a general rising ten years later; but in some of the towns the lower classes retained enough mental buoyancy to seek consolation in dreams for the burdens they bore in real life.
The Anabaptist doctrine was but one of an endless variety of ideas, many of which had long been current. All such opinions gained fresh vogue in the decade following the Peasants’ Revolt; but most of the ‘sectaries’ agreed in repudiating Luther’s views on predestination and the unfree will, and denounced the dependence of the Lutheran Church upon the State. They denied the right of the secular magistrate to interfere in religious matters, and themselves withdrew in varying degrees from concern in the affairs of this world. Some, anticipating the Quakers, refused to bear arms; the Gärtnerbrüder of Salzburg endeavored to live on the pattern of primitive simplicity. One sect denied the humanity of Christ; another, of whom Ludwig Hetzer was the chief, began by regarding Jesus as a leader and teacher rather than an object of worship, and ended by denying His divinity. Many thoughtful people, repelled by the harshness of Luther’s dogmas, insisted upon mercy as the pre-eminent attribute of God, and extended even to the devil the hope of salvation; while the idea that the flesh alone sinned leaving the spirit undefiled proved attractive to the lower sort and opened the door to a variety of antinomian speculations and practices.
Most of these dreamers indulged in Apocalyptic visions of an immediate purification of the world; but this at worst was only a species of quiet spiritual dram-drinking, and probably it would have gone no further but for the ruthless persecution which their doctrines called down upon them. Zwingli himself was hostile to them, and repressive measures were taken against their Swiss adherents; but in most parts of Germany they were condemned to wholesale death. Six hundred executions are said to have taken place at Ensisheim in Upper Alsace, a thousand in Tyrol and Görz, and the Swabian League butchered whole bands of them without trial or sentence. Many were beheaded in Saxony with the express approbation of Luther, who regarded their heroism in the face of death as proof of diabolic possession. Duke William of Bavaria made a distinction between those who recanted and those who remained obdurate; the latter were burnt, the former were only beheaded. Bucer at Strassburg was less truculent than Luther; but Philip of Hesse was the only Prince of sufficient moderation to be content with the heretics’ incarceration.
The doctrine of passive resistance broke down under treatment like this, and men’s sufferings began to set their hands as well as their minds in motion; a conviction developed that it was their duty to assist in effecting the purification which they believed to be imminent. In Augsburg, Hans Hut proclaimed the necessity incumbent upon the saints to purify the world with a double-edged sword, and his disciple, Augustin Bader, prepared a crown, insignia, and jewels for his future kingdom in Israel. Melchior Hofmann told Frederick I of Denmark that he was one of the two sovereigns at whose hands all the firstborn of Egypt should be slain. Not till the vials of wrath had been outpoured could the kingdom of heaven come. Hofmann, who had preached "the true gospel" in Livonia and then had combated Luther’s magical doctrine of the Eucharist at Stockholm, Kiel, and Strasburg, had by his voice and his pen acquired great influence over the artisans of northern Germany; and here, where men’s dreams had not been rudely dispelled by the ravages of peasants and reprisals of Princes, revolutionary ideas took their deepest root and revolutionary projects appeared most feasible. From 1529 onwards there were outbreaks in not a few north German towns, at Minden, Herford, Lippstadt, and Soest; but it was at Münster and Lübeck that the revolution in two different forms assumed a worldwide importance.
1533-4] The Netherlands and Munster.
Münster had long been a scene of strife between Catholic and Protestant. The Lutheran attack was at first repelled by the Catholics, and Bernard Rottman, the most prominent of the Reforming divines, was expelled from the city. But he soon returned and established himself in the suburbs, where his preaching produced such an effect on the populace that the Reformers became a majority on the Council and secured control of the city churches. In 1532 the Chapter and the rest of the Catholic clergy, with the minority of the Council, left Münster to concert measures of retaliation with Count Franz von Waldeck, the newly-elected Bishop of Münster, and with the neighboring gentry, who for the most part adhered to the old religion. By their action all communication between the city and the external world was cut off; but, threatened with the loss of their rents and commerce, the citizens made a sally on December 26, surprised the Bishop and the chiefs of the Catholic party in their headquarters at Telgte (east of Münster), and carried off a number of prisoners as hostages. Alarm induced the Catholics to accept a compromise in February, by which Lutheranism was to be tolerated in the six parish churches, and Catholicism in the Cathedral and the centre of the city. Lutheranism, however, while acceptable to the wealthier members of the reforming party, no longer satisfied Rottman and the artisans. Rottman gradually adopted the Zwinglian view of the Eucharist and repudiated infant baptism; and, although condemned by the University of Marburg and the Council of Münster, he was not expelled from the city, but continued to propagate his doctrines among the lower orders, and eventually in 1533 determined to strengthen his position by introducing into Münster some Anabaptists from Holland.
In the Netherlands Charles V was enabled by the strength of his position as territorial prince and by means of the Inquisition to exercise an authority in religious matters which was denied him in Germany, but his repression had the effect of stimulating the growth of extremer doctrines. Schismatic movements had long been endemic in the Netherlands, and nowhere else did Melchior Hofmann find so many disciples. Chief among them were Jan Matthys, a baker of Haarlem, and Jan Beuckelssen or Bockelsohn, popularly known as Jan of Leyden. Matthys declared himself to be the Enoch of the new dispensation, and chose twelve apostles to proselytize the six neighboring provinces. Beuckelssen was one of them; though not yet thirty years of age he had seen much of the world; as a journeyman tailor he had travelled over Europe from Lübeck to Lisbon; abandoning his trade he opened an inn at Leyden, became a leading member of the local Rederykers, and wrote verses and dramas, in which he himself played a part. Finally he fell under the influence of the Scriptural teaching of Hofmann and Matthys, as whose forerunner he journeyed to Münster in January, 1534, and joined forces with Rottman and the Münster Anabaptists.
The arrival of Beuckelssen and his colleagues precipitated the conflict for which the Catholics and Lutherans had armed as early as the previous autumn. After a few days of ominous silence the insurrection broke out on February 9. It was premature; the Conservatives were still the stronger party, but in a moment of hesitation they consented to mutual toleration. The concession was fatal; in a fortnight the fanatical zeal of the revolutionists made thousands of fresh converts, especially among the women; and the legal security they had won in Münster attracted crowds of their fellow sectaries from Holland and the neighboring German towns. Matthys himself appeared on the scene; at the municipal election of the 21st the Anabaptists secured a majority on the Council; and Knipperdollinck, the executioner of the sect, became Burgomaster. Six days later there was a great prayer-meeting of armed Anabaptists in the town-hall. Matthys roused himself from an apparent trance to demand in the name of God the expulsion of all who refused conversion. Old and young, mothers with infants in arms, and barefooted children, were driven out into the snow to perish, while the reign of the saints began.
Like the earliest Christians they sought to have all things in common, and as a commencement they confiscated the goods of the exiles. To ensure primitive simplicity of worship they next destroyed all images, pictures, manuscripts, and musical instruments on which they could lay their hands. Tailors and shoemakers were enjoined to introduce no new fashions in wearing apparel; gold and silver and jewels were surrendered to the common use; and there was an idea of pushing the communistic principle to its logical extreme by repudiating individual property in wives. The last was apparently offensive to public opinion even in purified Munster, and the nearest approach to it effected in practice was polygamy, which was not introduced without some sanguinary opposition, and did not probably extend far beyond the circle of Beuckelssen and the leaders of the movement. These eccentricities were regarded by their authors as a necessary preparation for the second coming of Christ. That the end of the world was at hand was a common idea of the day. No one was more thoroughly possessed by it than Luther; but while he set little store on the Book of Revelation, the Anabaptists of Münster found in it their chief inspiration. They conceived that they were making straight the path of the Lord by abolishing all human ordinances such as property, marriage, and social distinctions. The notion was not entirely new; at one end of the religious scale the Taborites had held somewhat similar views, and at the other, monastic life was also based on renunciation of private property, of marriage, and of the privilege of rank. The idea of preparing for the Second Advent gave the movement its strength, and stimulated the revolutionists of Münster to resist for a year and a half the miseries of a siege and all the forces which Germany could bring against them.
The rule of Matthys the prophet was brought to a sudden end by his death in a sortie at Easter, and his mantle fell upon Jan of Leyden, probably a worse but certainly an abler man. His introduction of polygamy provoked resistance from the respectable section led by Mollenbeck, but they were mercilessly butchered after surrender. "He who fires the first shot", cried Jan, in words which might have been borrowed from Luther's attack on the peasants, "does God a service". After his victory he dispensed with the twelve elders who had nominally ruled the new Israel, and by the mouth of his prophet Dusentschur announced it as the will of God that he should be king of all the world and establish the Fifth Monarchy of the Apocalypse. He assumed the pomp and circumstance of royalty, easily crushed an attempt of Knipperdollinck to supplant him, defeated the besiegers with much slaughter on August 30, 1534, when they tried to take the city by storm, and in October sent out twenty-eight apostles to preach the new kingdom to the neighboring cities. They were armed with Dusentschur’s prophecy of ruin for such as did them harm; but almost all were seized and executed, and a young woman, who attempted to play the part of Judith to the Holofernes of the Bishop of Münster, met with a similar fate.
These misfortunes probably dimmed the faith of the besieged in Münster.
Although there were thousands of Anabaptists scattered throughout the north of Germany and the Netherlands, their sporadic risings were all suppressed, and no town but Warendorf accepted Munster’s proposals of peace. The Württemberg war, which had distracted the Princes of Germany, was over; and the Lübeck war prevented Hanseatic democrats from assisting the people of Münster as effectually as it kept north German Princes from joining the siege. But it was April, 1535, before the mutual jealousies of the various Princes, the dissensions between Catholics and Protestants, the inefficiency of the national military organization, and the common fear lest Charles V should seize the occasion to extend his Burgundian patrimony at the expense of Germany by appropriating Münster to himself, permitted a joint expedition in aid of the Bishop of Münster, who had hitherto carried on the siege with the help of some Hessian troops.
After that the result could not long remain doubtful; but the city offered a stubborn resistance, and it was only by means of treachery that it was taken by assault on the night of June 24. The usual slaughter followed; Jan of Leyden and Knipperdollinck were tortured to death in the market-place with red-hot pincers. Münster was deprived of its privileges as an imperial city; the Bishop's authority and Catholicism were re-established, and a fortress was built to support them. The Anabaptists were dispersed into many lands, and their views exercised a potent influence in England and America in the following century; but the visionary and revolutionary spirit which gave Anabaptism its importance during the German Reformation passed out of it to assume other forms, and Anabaptism slowly became a respectable creed.
Two of the three revolutions which disturbed Germany in 1534-5, the Württemberg war and the Münster insurrection, were thus ended; there remained a third, the attempt of commercial democracy to establish an empire over the shores of the Baltic. The cities of the Hanseatic League had long enjoyed the most complete autonomy, and whatever authority neighboring Princes and Prelates could claim within the walls of any of them was a mere shadow. Hence the Lutheran Reformation, appealing as it did most powerfully to the burgher class, won an easy and an early victory in most of these trading communities.
But this victory was the beginning rather than the end of strife, for the social ferment which followed on the religious revolt inevitably produced a division between the richer and poorer classes. It bore little relation to differences on religious questions, though here as elsewhere in the sixteenth century every movement tended to assume a theological garb, and the rich naturally favored conservative forms of religion, while the poor adopted novel doctrines. Thus risings at Hanover in 1533, at Bremen in 1530-2, and at Brunswick in 1528 were directed partly against the old Church and partly against the aristocratic Town Councils.
The chief of these municipal revolutions occurred at Lübeck and Stralsund, but, although the triumph of the democracy was accompanied by a good deal of iconoclasm, and Wullenwever, the leader of the Lübeck populace, was accused of Anabaptism, the struggle was really social and political, or, according to Sastrow, the burgomaster of Greifswald, between the respectable and the disreputable classes. In both cities the oligarchic character of the Town Council was abolished, and power was transferred to demagogues depending on the support of the artisans; but the importance of these changes consists not so much in their constitutional aspect, though this was of considerable significance, as in the effect they produced upon the external policy of the Hanseatic League.
Lübeck and the Scandinavian North.
That famous organization had lost much of the power it wielded in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Its position was based on a union between the so-called Wendic cities of the Baltic and the towns of Westphalia and the Netherlands, and upon the control which they exercised over the united Scandinavian kingdoms, and thus over the whole trade of the Baltic and the North Sea. The most potent voice in the confederation had hitherto been that of Lübeck, but the development of Bruges and Antwerp under the fostering care of their Burgundian rulers provoked a bitter rivalry between the Flemings and the League; Lübeck insisted upon the exclusion of Dutch trade from the Baltic, and the Dutch naturally resented this limitation of their commerce. At the same time this loosening of the bond between the eastern and western cities weakened the League’s hold on the Scandinavian kingdoms; and Christian II, who had married Charles V’s sister, conceived the idea of utilizing his Burgundian allies for the purpose of breaking the domination of the Baltic cities. The plan was ruined by Christian’s vices, which gained him the hatred of all his subjects and enabled the Lübeckers, by timely assistance to Christian’s uncle, Frederick, Duke of Holstein, to evict their enemy from the throne of Denmark and Norway; similar aid was rendered to Gustavus Vasa, who in the same year (1523) drove Christian out of Sweden; and thus the union of the three Scandinavian kingdoms which had lasted since the Peace of Kalmar (1397) was permanently broken up.
Christian, however, was not content with his defeat, and with a view to securing the assistance of his Habsburg brothers-in-law and of Catholic Europe, he abjured his Lutheranism and represented his attempt to regain his thrones as a crusade against heresy. In 1531-2 he overran Norway, but Lübeck blockaded the coast, forced him to capitulate, and procured his lifelong imprisonment at Sonderburg. This outrage on royal majesty, coupled with the mercantile hostility between Lübeck and the Netherlands, precipitated naval war between the Dutch and Baltic cities; and the situation was complicated by the death of Frederick I in April, 1533. Several claimants for his vacant throne appeared. Frederick left two sons, Christian III, a Lutheran, and John, who seems to have entertained some hopes of maintaining his pretensions by the help of the Catholic party. The old King, Christian II, was regarded as impossible, and the Habsburgs put forward as their candidate Count Frederick of the Palatinate (afterwards the Elector Palatine Frederick II), who married old Christian's daughter. Such was the situation with which the democrats of Lübeck, who had obtained control of the Council in February and elected Jürgen Wullenwever Burgomaster in March, 1533, had to deal.
The distrust with which the revolutionists of Lübeck were viewed by both Protestant and Catholic Princes made Wullenwever’s course a difficult one. He started for Copenhagen to conclude an alliance between the two cities, but Copenhagen looked on him askance, and he then offered his friendship to the young Christian III with no better result. Lübeck, however, found an unexpected ally in Henry VIII, who was then trying every means to reduce the Habsburg power, and regarded with alarm the prospect of a Habsburg victory in Denmark. Marx Meyer, a military adventurer who had taken service under Lübeck, had been sent to sea in command of a fleet against the Dutch. Landing in England without a passport, he had been lodged in the Tower of London; but Henry saw in him a convenient instrument against the Habsburgs. He conferred on Meyer a knighthood, and promised Lübeck assistance; while the Lübeckers undertook to tolerate no Prince upon the Danish throne of whom the English King did not approve. But Henry's promises were not very serious, and the Lübeckers were wise in not putting too much trust in them. They were better advised in concluding a four years’ truce with the Netherlands at the price of free trade through the Sound in order to concentrate their efforts upon establishing their control over Denmark.
The element on which they relied was the democratic spirit in the Scandinavian kingdoms and particularly in the towns. Melchior Hofmann had preached at Stockholm, where Gustavus Vasa declared that the populace aimed at his assassination. At Malmo and Copenhagen the Burgomasters eventually adopted Wullenwever’s views, and both peasants and artisans in Denmark were excited and discontented. The expulsion of the old King Christian had been in the main an aristocratic revolution, abetted by Lübeck in revenge for Christian's attacks on her mercantile monopoly; and the rule of Frederick I had been marked by aristocratic infringements of the commercial privileges of the townsfolk and by oppression of the peasants. Both classes were ready to rise for their old Bauernkönig; and Lübeck, aware that Christian would be a puppet in her hands, determined to restore the sovereign whom ten years before she had deposed. The town took into its service Count Christopher of Oldenburg, a competent soldier, albeit a canon of Cologne, and stipulated in case of success for the cession of Gothland, Helsingborg, and Helsingor. In May, 1534, Christopher arrived at Lübeck, and, having won a few trifling successes over Duke Christian, he put to sea with a powerful fleet and appeared off Copenhagen in June. Everywhere almost popular insurrections broke out in favor of the old King or against the ruling nobility. This war was called the Grevefeide, and it was in the name of the "Peasant King" that Christopher summoned the town and county proletariate to rise against their lords. Seeland, Copenhagen, Laaland, Langeland, and Falster once more recognized him as their sovereign; revolts of the peasants in Fünen and Jutland led to a similar recognition, while Oldendorp, whom Wullenwever describes as the originator of the movement, roused some of the Swedish cities. The Lübeck revolutionists seemed to be carrying all before them; democratic factions triumphed at Stralsund, Rostock, Riga, and Reval, and sent contributions in men or money to the common cause. In Lübeck itself Wullenwever strengthened his position by expelling the hostile minority from the Council, and Bonnus, the Lutheran superintendent, resigned his charge. "Had the cities succeeded as they hoped", wrote a Pomeranian chronicler, "not a Prince or a noble would have been left".
The revolution at Münster was now at its height, and the Princes and nobles were aware of their peril; but the Württemberg war also was raging, and they were compelled to content themselves with denouncing the action of Lübeck, leaving to Duke Christian the task of effective resistance. He proved equal to the occasion. In September he completely blockaded the mouth of the Trave and cut off Lübeck from communication with the sea. The city was compelled to restore all the territory it had taken from Holstein, but both parties were left free to carry on hostilities in Denmark. There the Estates, threatened by internal, revolts and external foes, had elected Duke Christian King, and in December he captured Aalborg and pacified Jutland. He was helped by contingents from three Princes connected, with him by marriage, the Dukes of Prussia and Pomerania and Gustavus of Sweden, whose throne had been offered by Lübeck to Albrecht of Mecklenburg. Near Assens in Fünen on June 11, 1535, Christian's general, Johann Rantzau, defeated the Lübeck allies under Count Johann von Hoya, and almost simultaneously his fleet, commanded by the Danish admiral Skram, won a less decisive victory over the ships of Lübeck off Bornholm. Fünen and Seeland submitted, and in August Copenhagen and Malmö alone held out.
These disasters were fatal to Wullenwever’s power in Lübeck; during his absence in Mecklenburg the restoration of the conservatives was effected in August. Wullenwever eventually fell into the hands of the Archbishop of Bremen, was delivered to the Archbishop's brother, Duke Henry of Brunswick, and put to death in September, 1537. With the ruin of his party the prosecution of his war began to languish, and in 1536 Christian took possession of Copenhagen and made himself master of the two kingdoms of Denmark and Norway. He was crowned by the Lutheran apostle Bugenhagen, under whose auspices religion according to the straitest sect of Wittenberg was established in Denmark. Christian’s triumph was no doubt largely due to national antipathy to the domineering interference of an alien State, but the national feeling was exploited by class prejudice, and the aristocracy in Denmark turned their victory to the same use as the German Princes did theirs in the Peasants’ War. In both cases Lutheranism made common cause with the upper classes ; the proclamation of the Gospel and the enforcement of serfdom went hand in hand, but the landlord was the predominant partner, and even the children of preachers remained in the status of serfs.
To Lübeck itself it is possible that the success of Wullenwever’s grandiose ideas of mercantile empire might have been more fatal than their failure. According to Baltic nautical ballads Lübeck long regretted its turbulent Burgomaster, and his name is surrounded in popular legend with something of the halo of a van Artevelde, but his attempt to clothe the new democratic spirit in the worn-out garb of the city-empire was doomed from the first to end in disaster. He could not have permanently averted the decay of the Hanse towns or prevented the absorption of most of them in the growing territorial States; temporary success would only have prolonged the struggle without affecting the last result. Besides the local circumstances which would have rendered ineffectual the endeavor of Lübeck, under whatever form of municipal government it might have been made, to establish an imperial State, there was no element of stability in the revolutionary spirit of which that endeavor was the last manifestation. The future of Germany was bound up with the fortunes of the territorial principle, and it is impossible to determine exactly in what degree the Lutheran Reformation owed its salvation to its own inherent vitality, and in what to its alliance with the prevailing political organization. Together Lutheranism and territorialism had crushed the revolutionary movement, whether it took the form of agrarian socialism, Münster Anabaptism, or urban democracy. From the conflict of creeds all but two had now been eliminated, Catholicism and Lutheranism; both were equally linked with the territorial principle, and, whichever prevailed, the political texture of Germany would still be the same. The subsidence of the revolutionary spirit narrowed the field of contention, and the question became merely one of fixing the limits of this or that territorial State and of locating the frontier between the two established forms of religion.
Yet peace was not any nearer because the rivals had beaten a common foe. The agreement of Nürnberg in 1532 had guaranteed to the members of the Schmalkaldic League immunity for their religion, but it did not define religion or provide security for future Protestants. At the Peace of Cadan in 1534 the first point was settled by Ferdinand's quashing all the processes in the Reichskammergericht against the Schmalkaldic allies; but the protection did not extend beyond the members of the League, and numerous other Protestant States were liable to practical ruin as the result of the Supreme Court's verdicts. This was a particularly dangerous cause of friction, because Catholic Princes had other than religious motives for executing the judgments of the Court against their Protestant neighbors; as executors of the Court's decrees they could legally seize the lands of recalcitrant cities or lords, and under the guise of religion extend their territorial power. Thus, Duke Eric of Brunswick-Calenberg was anxious to execute sentence on his chief town, Hanover, where a revolutionary movement had taken place; the Duke of Bavaria cast longing eyes on Augsburg; and the specific object of the Catholic League of Halle (1533) was to secure the execution of verdicts against all cities and Princes who were not among the Schmalkaldic confederates. The Catholics undoubtedly had the law on their side, but necessity drove their opponents to break it. They could hardly stand by while their fellow-countrymen were punished for holding the faith they held themselves; had they done so they would only have prepared the way for their own destruction. The obvious method of protecting their co-religionists was to admit them to the Schmalkaldic League; but this was an infraction of the terms of the Nürnberg Peace which would endanger their own security, and they would not have ventured on the step unless circumstances had tied the hands of the Austrian government.
Throughout the greater part of 1535 Charles V was engaged in the conquest of Tunis, and he was hoping to follow up his success in this direction with an attack on the Turks, who were embroiled in a war with Persia, when his plans were disconcerted by the hostile attitude of France. Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, died in 1535 without issue, and Francis I, fearing with good reason that Charles would seize the duchy himself, revived his claims to Milan, Genoa, and Asti. In the spring of 1536 he overran Savoy, which had become the Emperor's ally, entered into negotiations with the Turks and with Henry VIII for a joint action against the Habsburgs, and approached the Lutheran Princes with a similar object. The Lutherans were reluctant to side with the Emperor's enemies, but they had no hesitation in putting a high price on their friendship, and in turning Charles' necessities to account by demanding security for the threatened members of their Church.
In December, 1535, at a diet of the Schmalkaldic League, they undertook to admit all who would subscribe to the Confession of Augsburg; and Württemberg, Pomerania, Anhalt, and the cities of Augsburg, Frankfort, Hanover, and Kempten became thus entitled to its protection. They renewed their repudiation of the Reichskammergericht as a partisan body, and declared that conscience would not allow them to respect its verdicts. They refused in fact to yield to the national and imperial authorities that obedience in religious matters which they rigorously exacted from the subjects of their own territorial jurisdiction ; and at the moment when they were pleading conscience as a justification of their own conduct they declined to admit its validity when urged by their Catholic brethren.
1534-8] Ferdinand’s compromise with the Protestants
The Lutherans had not remained untainted by the pride of power and the arrogance of success. In Ferdinand's own dominions at this time Faber declared that but for him and the King all Vienna would have turned Lutheran, and that it needed but a sign to arm all Germany against the Roman Church. Ferdinand himself was urging such concessions as the marriage of the clergy and communion under both kinds, and complained to the Papal Nuncio that he could not find a confessor who was not a fornicator, a drunkard, or an ignoramus. In England Lutheranism had reached its highest water-mark in Henry’s reign; Melanchthon had dedicated an edition of his Loci Communes to the Tudor King, and was willing to undertake a voyage to England to reform the English Church. Francis I had invited Melanchthon and Bucer to France to discuss the religious situation. The new Pope, Paul III, who had succeeded Clement VII in 1534, began his pontificate by creating a number of reforming Cardinals, and sent Vergerio to Germany to investigate the possibilities of a concordat with the heretics and to ascertain the terms upon which they would support a General Council. In all the Scandinavian kingdoms the triumph of the new faith was complete, and the Protestant seemed to be the winning cause in Europe. Now, when Charles was threatened with a joint attack by Turks and French, it was no time to throw the Lutheran Princes into the enemy’s arms. For the moment temporal security was a more urgent need than the maintenance of the Catholic Church, and the suspension of all the ecclesiastical cases in the Reichskammergericht was the price which Ferdinand paid for the Lutheran rejection of alliance with Henry VIII and Francis I.
One of Ferdinand's motives was fear lest Bavaria should, by executing the judicial sentence against Augsburg, acquire predominant influence in that important city; and he was by no means averse from the plan, proposed by the Elector John Frederick of Saxony, of persuading Zwinglian Augsburg to adopt the Lutheran Confession and of then admitting it to the Schmalkaldic League. Augsburg was thus saved from what Ferdinand regarded as a more pernicious form of heresy than Lutheranism, and also from the clutches of the rival House of Wittelsbach. The way for this conversion was prepared by the Wittenberg Concord of 1536. The hostility between the Zwinglian and Lutheran sects had to some extent subsided since Zwingli's death. Melanchthon had modified his attitude towards predestination, and had been much impressed by Oecolampadius' treatise on the use of the Eucharist during the first three centuries. Luther even brought himself to entertain a friendly feeling for Zwingli’s successor Bullinger. After various preliminary negotiations, in which Bucer was as usual the leading spirit, a conference between Luther and representatives of the modified Zwinglianism which prevailed in the cities of Upper Germany was held in Luther’s house at Wittenberg in May, 1536. The two parties agreed on a form of words which covered their differences about the real presence in the Eucharist; they were not so successful with regard to the other disputed point, the reception of the body of Christ by unworthy communicants, but they agreed to differ. Luther expressed himself willing to bury the past and roll the stone upon it, and extended to Bucer and the Upper German cities that “brotherly love” which he had refused to Zwingli at Marburg in 1529.
The Concord of Wittenberg only stopped for a while the rifts which had begun to appear in the Schmalkaldic Union. The mere fact of security would have tended to relax the bonds, and there were personal as well as religious differences between John Frederick and Philip of Hesse. Philip expressed contempt for the dull but honest Elector, while John Frederick had grave doubts about Philip’s orthodoxy and the morality of his policy. Philip had always inclined to Zwinglian views and resented dictation from Wittenberg; and the two religious parties had nearly come to an open breach over the reformation of Württemberg. Ulrich himself was more Zwinglian than Lutheran, and his duchy was partitioned into two spheres of influence, in one of which the Lutheran Schnepf labored and in the other the Zwinglian Blaurer. The latter proved the stronger, and in 1537 Blaurer procured the abolition of images in spite of the opposition of Schnepf and Brenz, while Ulrich devoted the confiscated Church revenues to exclusively secular purposes. It seemed as though Hesse, Württemberg, and the Oberland cities might form a strong Zwinglian Union independent of the Lutheran League of Schmalkalden. Both the Elector and the Landgrave were hesitating whether to renew that League, and both were pursuing independent negotiations at the Court of Vienna, where Ferdinand by his conciliatory demeanor and concessions induced them both to turn a deaf ear to the persuasions of the Habsburgs’ foreign enemies.
The necessity for this pacific diplomacy on Ferdinand’s part was amply demonstrated by the course of the war with the French and the Turks from 1536 to 1538. In spite of the neutrality of Henry VIII and the Lutheran Princes Francis I more than held his own, and the ten years’ truce negotiated by Paul III at Nice in 1538 marked a considerable recovery from the humiliation of 1525-9. The real import of the agreement between the two great Catholic Powers, which followed at Aiguës-Mortes, was and is a matter of doubt. Ostensibly the alliance was to be directed against infidels and heretics; and Henry VIII, the Lutheran Princes, and the Turks had all some ground for alarm. Even if war was not intended the Lutherans dreaded the General Council which peace brought perceptibly nearer. They had brusquely declined to concur in the assembly vainly summoned by Paul to meet at Mantua in May, 1537, because the terms of the summons implied that its object was the extirpation of Lutherans and not of abuses. They justified their refusal to the Emperor by arguing that the proposed Papal Council was very different from that General Council contemplated by the Diets of 1523 and 1524; and the Elector John Frederick suggested a counter ecumenical council to be held at Augsburg under the protection of the Schmalkaldic League. One and all they denied the Pope's authority to summon a Council and read with delight Henry VIII’s manifesto to that effect.
1536-8] League of Nurnberg.
Apart from the General Council which the union of Paul, Charles, and Francis seemed to portend, the Lutherans had been thrown into alarm by the mission to Germany of the Emperor’s Vice-Chancellor, Held, who had received his instructions in October, 1536. Held had been a zealous member of the Reichskammergericht, and he was burning to avenge the contumely with which Protestants had treated the verdicts of that Court. He interpreted Charles’ cautious and somewhat ambiguous language as an order to form a Catholic League with the object of restraining, if not of attacking, the Lutheran Princes. He ignored the Treaty of Cadan and Ferdinand's later concessions, required that the Protestants should promise submission to the proposed Council and to the Kammergericht, and, when they refused, proceeded to build up his Catholic alliance. The Habsburg rulers, Ferdinand and the Queen-Regent of the Netherlands, were alarmed at Held’s proceedings; but the King could not afford to break with the ultra-Catholics whose tool Held was; and on June 10, 1538, the League of Nürnberg was formed under the nominal patronage of Charles V. Its organization was a faithful copy of that of the Schmalkaldic League, and its members were the Emperor, the King, the Archbishops of Mainz and Salzburg, and the Dukes of Bavaria, George of Saxony, and Eric and Henry of Brunswick. The League was professedly defensive, but its determination to execute the decrees of the Kammergericht, which the Schmalkaldic League had repudiated, really threatened war; and the occasion for it was almost provided by Duke Henry of Brunswick. He was chafing at the support given by the Schmalkaldic League to his two towns of Brunswick and Goslar, which had been condemned by the Kammergericht to restore the confiscated goods of the Church; and with a view to consolidating his territorial power he was eager to carry out the verdict of the Court. Personal animosity between him and his neighbor the Landgrave added fuel to the flames ; Philip was believed to be arming for war in the spring of 1539, and Held and Duke Henry were bent upon anticipating his attack.
Such a development was, however, repugnant to responsible people on both sides. The Emperor had not in fact been so truculent as Held represented; his real intention in sending his Vice-Chancellor to Germany seems to have been to provide safeguards for his imperial authority, which in 1536-7 was threatened at least as much by Catholic as it was by Protestant enmities. The Pope appeared to be indifferent to the fate of the Church and Empire in Germany, and regarded with apparent unconcern the alliance between France and the infidels against the Christian Emperor. If Charles was to make head against them he must feel more secure in Germany, and the only means feasible were a Council summoned without the concurrence of Francis or Paul, a national synod of the German people, or a perpetual compromise on the basis of the Nürnberg peace of 1532. The ten years' truce with France concluded at Nice relieved Charles of his more pressing anxieties, but in spite of appearances, brought him no nearer to the position from which he could dictate terms to the Lutherans. He was doubtless aware that Francis had given, both before and after the truce, satisfactory assurances to the German Princes to the effect that the concord was merely defensive and that he would not allow Charles to destroy them. And other dangers arose on the imperial horizon. In February, 1538, Ferdinand closed his long rivalry with Zapolya by a treaty which guaranteed to that potentate, who was then childless, a lifelong tenure of his Hungarian throne on condition that Ferdinand should be his successor. But this only enraged the really formidable foe, the Sultan, who regarded Hungary as his and Zapolya as only his viceroy; and in 1539 war was once more threatened on the banks of the Danube.
A still greater trouble menaced the Habsburgs in Flanders, and the revolt of Ghent extending though it did to Alost, Oudenaarde, and Courtrai, was only a part of the peril. Gelders, which had constantly been to the Burgundian House what Scotland was to England, passed in 1539 into the hands of a ruler who dreamt of uniting with the Schmalkaldic League on the east, with Henry VIII on the west, and possibly with Francis I on the south, and of thus surrounding Charles' dominions in the Netherlands with an impenetrable hostile fence. John, Duke of Cleves, had married Mary, the only child of William of Jülich and Berg; his son William, heir to the united duchy of Cleves-Julich-Berg, had also claims on the neighboring duchy of Gelders, whose Duke died without issue in 1538. The Estates of Gelders admitted William’s claims, and in February, 1539, he also succeeded his father in Cleves. He had been educated by Erasmus’ friend Conrad Heresbach, and the form of religion obtaining in Cleves was a curious Erasmian compromise between Popery and Protestantism, which erected the Duke into a sort of territorial Pope and bore some resemblance to the via media pursued by Henry VIII in England and by Joachim II in Brandenburg. Cleves was thus a convenient political and theological link between England and the Schmalkaldic League; and by means of it Cromwell in 1539 thought of forging a chain to bind the Emperor. Duke William's sister Sibylla was already married to the Elector Frederick of Saxony, and at the end of 1539 another sister Anne was wedded to Henry VIII.
Over and above these foreign complications the ever-increasing strength of the Lutheran party in Germany rendered an attack upon them a foolhardy enterprise on the Emperor's part unless his hands were completely free in other directions. In 1539 two of the chief pillars of the Catholic Church in the Empire were removed, the Elector of Brandenburg and Duke George of Saxony. Joachim I of Brandenburg had died in 1535, but it was four years later before his son and successor definitely seceded from the ancient Church. On his accession he joined the Catholic League of Halle and retained the old Church ritual, but in 1538 he refused adherence to the extended Catholic confederation of Nürnberg. In February, 1539, his capital Berlin with Kölln demanded the administration of the Sacrament in both kinds, and the Bishop of Brandenburg himself advocated a Reformation. Joachim II, however, taking Henry VIII as his exemplar, resolved to be as independent of Wittenberg as he was of Rome; and probably the chief motive in his Reformation was the facility it afforded him of self-aggrandizement by appropriating the wealth of the monasteries and establishing an absolute control over his Bishops. He became, in fact, though not in title, summus episcopus and supreme head of the Church within his dominions. Like the Tudor King he was fond of splendor and ritual, made few changes in Catholic use, and maintained an intermediate attitude between the two great religious parties.
The revolution in Albertine Saxony was more complete. Duke George, one of the most estimable Princes of his age, had kept intact his faith in Catholic dogma, though he had spoken with candor of the necessity for practical reforms. On his death in 1539 the Duchy passed to his brother Henry, who had preferred the religion of his Ernestine cousin the Elector to that of his brother the Duke. In order to avert the impending conversion of his duchy, George had made his brother's succession conditional upon his renouncing Lutheranism and joining the League of Nürnberg; if he rejected these terms the duchy was to pass to the Emperor or to Ferdinand. For this violent expedient there was no legal justification and no practical support within or without the duchy. The people had long resented the repressive measures with which Duke George had been compelled to support Catholicism, and they accepted with little demur the new Duke and the new religion. One Bishop, John of Meissen, petitioned Charles to be freed from his allegiance to the Duke; but even the Catholic members of the Estates repudiated his action, and in 1540 the Estates sanctioned the Lutheran Reformation which Duke Henry had begun without their concurrence.
Besides the Elector of Brandenburg and the Duke of Saxony, minor Princes and many towns threw in their lot with the Protestant cause. Joachim II’s brother, Margrave John of Brandenburg, who ruled in Cottbus and Peitz, joined the Schmalkaldic League in 1537. Ratisbon, long a Catholic stronghold, relinquished its ancient faith; its monasteries had only one or two inmates apiece; and only some twenty people gathered to worship in its cathedral. In other Catholic States there were said to be more monasteries than monks, and the number of candidates for ordination sank to five in four years in the see of Passau, and to seventeen in eight years in that of Laibach. Heidelberg, the Elector Palatine’s capital, was described as the most Lutheran city in Germany; and the Elector himself was, in the few moments he spared from the hunt and his cups, wavering between Luther and the Pope. Albrecht of Brandenburg, Luther's "devil of Mainz", was the only member of his family who remained Catholic, and he was compelled to flee from his palace at Halle. Mecklenburg-Schwerin was reformed by its episcopal Duke, and Brunswick-Calenberg by its Dowager-Duchess, Elizabeth of Brandenburg.
So the golden opportunity which the alliance with Paul and Francis at Nice appeared to afford to Charles for the reduction of German heresy passed away through no fault of the Emperor’s. The zealous Held was suppressed; the negotiations with the Lutherans were entrusted to the moderate Archbishop of Lund, who had contrived the agreement between Zapolya and Ferdinand; and Charles accepted the mediation of the doubtful Catholic, the Elector Palatine Ludwig V, and the doubtful Protestant, Joachim II of Brandenburg. The parties met at Frankfort in April, 1539. Henry VIII sent envoys to stiffen the Lutheran demands and prevent an agreement if possible. The Protestant terms were high; they wanted a permanent peace which no Council and no assembly of Estates should have the power to break; the Nürnberg League was to receive no fresh accessions, its Protestant rival of Schmalkalden as many as chose to join it; and all processes in the Reichskammergericht were to be suspended for eighteen months. All that Charles ultimately conceded was a suspension for six months, and he quietly gave his consent to the Nürnberg League. But its immediate object of enforcing the decrees of the Supreme Court was baulked; and for half a year even the latest recruits to Protestantism were to enjoy complete immunity. Beyond that nothing was settled, and the peace of the Lutherans depended upon the extent of the Emperor's troubles in other directions.
1540-1] Catholic hostility to Charles.
At first the Emperor prospered. Ghent was crushed with ease in February, 1540. As soon as Henry VIII realized that the Catholic alliance of France, the Pope, and the Emperor, involved no attack upon him, he repudiated his Low German connections and his plain wife from Cleves, and Charles1 ministers marveled at the ways of Providence. They succeeded also in keeping Philip of Hesse in good humor and in preventing Duke William's admission into the Schmalkaldic League. The clear-sighted Bucer deplored the Emperor's good fortune, and augured the same treatment for Protestant Germany which Charles had meted out to Ghent. But the hour was not yet come. In July, 1540, Francis I rejected the Emperor's conditions for the settlement of their disputes, betrothed his niece, Jeanne of Navarre, to Duke William of Cleves, and refused to surrender his claims on Milan and Savoy, or to join in action against Turk or heretic. Parties in Germany were more confounded than ever.
The spread of Lutheranism produced no union in the Catholic ranks, and at Frankfort Catholics as well as Lutherans had refused to serve against the Turks. Charles appears to have reached the not unreasonable conclusion that Catholicism, especially in the ecclesiastical principalities, would only be safe under the shadow of his territorial power. The Electors of Trier, Cologne, and Mainz, and other great Bishops, were ever being tempted to follow the example of Albrecht of Prussia and turn the lands of their sees into secular hereditary fiefs. Bucer had suggested this measure as necessary for the firm foundation of Protestantism, and the Elector of Cologne was beginning to waver. But these non-heritable ecclesiastical fiefs were the chief bulwark of Habsburg imperialism against the encroaching territorial tide; and it was natural that Charles should dream of extending his influence from Burgundy over Cologne, Münster, Bremen, and Osnabrück, so that if they were to be secularized at all, he might do the work and deal with them as he had dealt with Utrecht. This, of course, was not the view of the ecclesiastical Princes, who wished at least to choose between the advantages of their independent spiritual rule and those of an equally independent territorial authority; and there was actually talk of an alliance between them, backed by the Bavarian Dukes, and the Schmalkaldic League, for the defence of national freedom against the Habsburgs. Yet at the same time ultra-Catholics were denouncing Charles for his concessions at Frankfort. The Pope censured the Regent Maria and the Archbishop of Lund, and required the Emperor to annul the agreement with the Protestants on pain of being pronounced schismatic; while Cardinal Pole hinted that the Church had more to fear from Charles V than it had from Henry VIII.
For a while the Emperor had to tread delicately, and he took refuge in a series of religious conferences. The first was held at Hagenau in June, 1540, but produced no result. Another met at Worms in November; there were present eleven Catholics and eleven Protestants, but the former included Ludwig of the Palatinate, Joachim of Brandenburg, and William of Cleves, whose Catholicism was not of the Roman type. For once the Protestants were united, the Catholics divided, and Granvelle, who represented the Emperor, was an astute politician.
Morone, the papal Nuncio, was reduced to attempts to create Protestant dissensions over the Eucharist, and to gain time by substituting an interchange of writings for oral debate. The discussions began on January 14,1541, between Eck and Melanchthon, but the meeting was soon adjourned to the Diet at Ratisbon, where Charles would attend in person. It opened on April 5, and during its course the two parties made their nearest approach to unity. The Reforming movement in Italy had somewhat modified the Catholic view of justification, and Morone’s place was taken by the broad-minded Contarini; while on the other side Bucer had drawn up an alluring scheme of comprehension. He, Melanchthon, and Pistorius represented the Protestants; Eck, Pflug, and Gropper the Catholics. Of the latter Eck was the only fighting divine, and both the marriage of priests and the use of the cup were conceded, while an agreement was reached on the doctrine of justification.
Yet the most pertinent comment on Bucer’s scheme was Melanchthon’s, who compared it to Plato’s Republic. He and Luther and John Frederick on one side, and Aleander and the Roman theologians on the other, were convinced that no concord was possible between Rome and evangelical Germany. It has been found possible to elaborate formularies which will bear both a Catholic and a Protestant interpretation, but it requires a strong hand and an effective government to compel their acceptance; Charles could not coerce either Wittenberg or Rome; he had neither the will nor the means of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Bavaria organized an extreme faction among the Bishops and non-Electoral Princes, who revealed their double motives by threatening to seek another Emperor unless Charles afforded them better protection and obtained restitution of their secularized lands.
This intrigue proved fatal to the attempt at comprehension and the result of the Diet was to leave parties in much the same state as before. In July, 1541, Charles made a declaration to the Protestants, suggested by Brandenburg, that the Augsburg Confession should be no ground for proceeding against any Prince; that the Reichskammergericht should not exclude questions of ecclesiastical property from this guarantee; and that, although for the future monasteries must not be dissolved, they might adopt a "Christian reformation". But this declaration was to remain secret, and at the same time Charles renewed the Catholic League of Nürnberg. He was forced to ignore both Protestant and Catholic disobedience and to conciliate rebels in both the camps.
If this was a defeat for the Emperor, he found compensation elsewhere, and skillfully turned to his own advantage the most discreditable episode in the history of German Protestantism.
Philip of Hesse, like most of the Princes and many of the Prelates of his age, was a debauchee; but with his moral laxity he combined, like Henry VIII, some curious scruples of conscience, and he could not bring himself to take the sacrament while he was unfaithful to his wife. Insuperable antipathy prevented marital relations; continence was out of the question; debauchery endangered his soul. He put his hard case before the heads of the Lutheran Church.
They disbelieved in divorce; so did Henry VIII, but they did not possess Henry’s talent for discovering proofs that he had never been married to the wife he wished to repudiate; and bigamy, from which the Tudor abstained, appeared the only solution. The same idea had occurred before to Clement VII; a previous Pope had licensed bigamy in the case of Henry IV of Castile; and the Old Testament precedents were familiar to all. Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer all concurred in approving Philip’s second marriage on condition that it remained a secret.
The ceremony took place at Rothenburg on March 4, 1540, and the news soon leaked out. Melanchthon quailed before the public odium and nearly died of shame, but Luther wished to brazen the matter out with a lie. "The secret 'yea", he wrote, "must for the sake of Christ’s Church remain a public ‘nay’." By denying the truth of the rumors he would, he argued, be doing no more than Christ Himself did when He said He knew not the day and the hour of His second coming, and he also alleged the analogy of the confessional a good confessor must deny in Court all knowledge of what he has learnt in confession.
The moral effect of this revelation upon the Lutheran cause was incalculable. Cranmer wrote from England to his uncle-in-law Osiander of the pain which it caused, to the friends of the Reformation and the handle it gave to the enemy. Ferdinand avowed that he had long been inclined to evangelical doctrines, but that this affair had produced a revulsion of feeling. John Frederick and Ulrich of Württemberg refused to guarantee Philip immunity for his crime, the legal penalty for which was death; and the Landgrave, seriously alarmed, sought to make his peace with the Habsburgs, and possibly with Rome; as a last resort he felt he could obtain a dispensation from the Pope, who would willingly pay the price for a prodigal son. In the autumn of 1540 he began his negotiations with Granvelle, and on June 13, 1541, concluded his bargain with Charles; he abandoned his relations with England, France, and Cleves, undertook to exclude them all from the Schmalkaldic League, to side with Charles on all political questions, and to recognize Ferdinand as Charles’ successor in the Empire. In return he only obtained security against personal attacks; he would not be exempt from the consequences of a general war against Protestants. Philip’s son-in-law, Maurice, who succeeded his father Henry as Duke of Albertine Saxony in that year, was included in the arrangement; and Joachim of Brandenburg was induced to promise help against Cleves in return for the confirmation of his church establishment. As the Elector John Frederick could not be induced to abandon his brother-in-law of Cleves, the Schmalkaldic League was split into two parties pledged to take opposite sides in that all-important question; and the anger of German historians at this "treason" of Philip of Hesse is due not merely to its disastrous effect on Protestantism, but to the fact that it materially contributed to the conquest of Gelders by Charles and to its eventual separation from the Empire. But for Philip of Hesse’s bigamy Gelders might today be part of Germany and not of Holland.
League against Charles V [1540-2
The pressure of other dangers, however, gave Gelders a two years’ respite. The Emperor hurried from the Diet of Ratisbon to attempt the conquest of Algiers, a nest of pirates which was a perpetual menace to his Spanish and Italian possessions; and the disastrous failure of that expedition encouraged Francis I and Solyman to renew their war on the Habsburgs. Zapolya had died on July 23, 1540, but before his death he had been unexpectedly blessed with a son, John Sigismund. His widow and her minister George Martinuzzi, Bishop of Grosswardein, thereupon repudiated the treaty of Grosswardein (1538), by which Ferdinand was to succeed Zapolya, and crowned the infant John Sigismund. Their only hope lay in Solyman, and the Turk had determined to end the nominal independence which Hungary enjoyed under Zapolya. In August, 1541, he captured Buda, turned its church of St Mary into a mosque, and Hungary into a Turkish province. The Diet of Speier (January, 1542) offered substantial levies for the war, but they were ill-equipped and worse commanded by Joachim of Brandenburg. In September the army sat down before Pesth; on the 5th a breach was made, but the storming party failed; and afterwards, wrote Sir Thomas Seymour, who was present, “the soldiers for lack of wages refused to keep watch and ward or to make assault”. Two days later the siege was raised; Joachim and his troops returned in disgrace to Germany; and next year Solyman extended his sway over Fünfkirchen, Stuhlweissenburg, and Gran.
Misfortune attended the Emperor in the west as well as in the east. Cleves had definitely thrown in its lot with France, and the anti-imperial league was joined by Sweden, Denmark, and Scotland. The French alliance with Turkey was once more brought into play, the Pope was hostile to both the Habsburg brothers, and Henry VIII was still haggling over the price of his friendship. Francis I declared war in 1542; and, although, he failed before Perpignan, a Danish-Clevish army under Martin van Rossem defeated the imperialists at Sittard (March 24, 1543), Luxemburg was overrun, and a Franco-Turkish fleet captured Nice.
The Lutheran Princes meanwhile were making the best of their opportunities. In 1541 the Erasmian Pflug was elected Bishop of Naumburg, but John Frederick feared he would join the Nürnberg League; and in spite of Luther's warnings against the violence of his action he forced Amsdorf into the see. Pflug’s cause was adopted by some of the nobles of Meissen, a part of Saxony which was mainly Albertine but to some extent under Ernestine influence. The Catholic Bishop of Meissen naturally sided with Maurice, who had succeeded to his father in 1541, rather than with John Frederick. In 1542 he demurred to the Elector’s demand for levies for the Turkish war, and John Frederick without consulting his cousin marched his troops into Würzen, the property of a collegiate chapter founded by the Bishops of Meissen, and conveniently situated for incorporation in the Elector’s dominions. This inflamed the Albertine nobility, and Maurice began to arm. The Landgrave and Luther intervened; a compromise was patched up, and Würzen was partitioned; but a root of bitterness remained between the cousins, which bore fruit in later years.
1542] Attack upon Brunswick.
One aggression was promptly followed by another. Among the temporal Catholic Princes none of note were left except the Dukes of Bavaria and Duke Henry of Brunswick. Duke Henry (Luther’s ‘böser Heinz’) was described as the “greatest Papist in all Germany”, and he was left alone in the north to face the Schmalkaldic League. He had long been at enmity with Philip of Hesse, and his cruelty towards his wife was almost as great a scandal as the Landgrave’s bigamy. In his zeal for his faith or for his house he pronounced Charles’ suspension of the verdicts of the Reichskammergericht against Brunswick and Goslar to be contrary to the laws of the Empire, and despite the disapprobation of Ferdinand, Granvelle, and Albrecht of Mainz, he proceeded to attack the two towns. The Schmalkaldic League at once armed in their defence; but not satisfied with this the Elector and the Landgrave overran Henry’s duchy, Wolfenbüttel alone offering serious resistance (August, 1542). The Duke’s territories were sequestered by the League and evangelized by Bugenhagen. Ferdinand had to content himself with the League’s assurance that it would carry the war no farther, and with the pretence that it had been waged in defence of Charles’ suspending powers. But the sort of respect the Lutherans were willing to pay the imperial authorities was shown by their attitude towards the Kammergericht. They obtained admittance to it early in 1542, and thereupon declined to tolerate the presence of any clerical colleagues; but, failing to secure a majority on it, they declared in December that it had no jurisdiction over them or their allies. Encouraged perhaps by the result of the Brunswick war, Duke William of Cleves now abandoned his Erasmian compromise and adopted Lutheranism undefiled. Even more important was the simultaneous conversion of Hermann von Wied, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne, whose territories were surrounded on all sides by the composite duchy of Cleves-Jülich-Berg. Bishop Hermann had held the see since 1515; he had corresponded with Erasmus, and after 1536 had endeavored to reform the worst practical abuses in his diocese. Gropper's treatise, written to reconcile justification by faith with Catholic doctrine, probably indicates the direction in which the Archbishop's mind was moving. He next began to correspond with Bucer, who with his connivance commenced preaching at Bonn in 1542. Bucer was followed by Melanchthon, who completed the work of conversion. Franz von Waldeck, Bishop of Münster, Minden, and Osnabrück, was inclined to follow his metropolitan’s lead, and another important convert was Count Otto Henry, nephew, and eventually successor, of the Elector Palatine.
The Emperor’s fate trembled in the balance. Arrayed against him were France, Turkey, the Pope, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Gelders, and Cleves; he could only look for assistance from Henry VIII and the Lutherans, Henry became his ally in hope of reducing Scotland, but into which scale would the German sword be cast? Francis I was holding out all sorts of inducements, and his proposals were backed by Strasburg and Calvin. But the Princes were perhaps not bold enough, perhaps not bad enough, to seize the opportunity of effecting their sovereign's ruin. Francis was allied to both Turk and Pope; Charles was for once maintaining the national cause. To motives of patriotism was added the private agreement between Charles and the Landgrave. The Habsburgs were lavishing all their wiles on Philip; and Philip, in spite of Bucer’s warnings and in spite of his own real convictions, allowed himself to be duped. He opposed the admission of Denmark, Sweden, and Cleves into the Schmalkaldic League, and Duke William was thus left to his fate. With genuine insight Charles made the reduction of Gelders his first object. On August 22, 1543, he arrived before Duren, the principal stronghold in Gelders; on the 24th it was battered from break of day till 2 p.m., and then his Spanish and Italian troops took it by storm. Jülich, Koermonde, and Orkelen fell in the next few days, and on September 6 Duke William knelt before Charles at Venloo. Gelders and Zutphen were annexed to the Emperor's hereditary States, passed from him to Philip II, and thus were in effect severed from the Empire; Duke William repudiated his French bride and his heresy, and later (1546) was married to Maria, Ferdinand’s daughter. The Reformation in neighboring Cologne was checked, and during the winter Bucer declared that the subjection of Germany was inevitable and imminent.
Such was not the view taken by German Princes. Charles still needed their help to deal with France and the Turks, and they allowed themselves to be bought. Their price was heavy, but the Emperor was willing to pay it, knowing that if he succeeded he would get his money back with plenty of interest. At the Diet of Speier in February, 1544, his words were smooth and his promises ample. In fact he almost abandoned the Catholic position by committing himself to the pledge of a national settlement of the religious question whether the Pope liked it or not, and by confirming the suspension of all processes against the Protestants and their possession of the goods of the Church. In return the Lutheran Princes contributed some meagre levies for the French and Turkish wars. Their real concession was abstention from taking part with the Emperor's enemies, while Charles and Henry VIII invaded the French King's dominions. This time it was John Frederick who made private terms with the Habsburgs without his colleagues' knowledge. In return for an imperial guarantee of the Cleves succession to his wife, the sister of Duke William, in case William's line died out, the Elector of Saxony recognized Ferdinand as Roman King; and the compact was to be sealed by the marriage of John Frederick's son to one of Ferdinand's daughters. Other members of the hostile coalition were detached by the same skilful play upon particularist interests. Gustavus of Sweden and Frederick of Denmark had joined it from fear lest Charles should enforce the claims of his niece Dorothea (daughter of Christian II and Isabella), and her husband, Count Frederick of the Palatinate, to both those kingdoms. These were now abandoned and Francis I was left without allies except the Pope and the Sultan.
The campaign opened in 1544 with a French victory at Ceresole, but the tables were turned in the north. Aided by Lutheran troops Charles captured St Dizier while Henry VIII laid siege to Boulogne. In September the Emperor was almost within sight of the walls of Paris, when suddenly on the 18th he signed the preliminaries of the Peace of Crépy. Many and ingenious were the reasons alleged before the world and to his ally of England. In reality there had been a race between the two as to which should make peace first and leave the other in the grip of the enemy. Had Henry won he might have conquered Scotland, and there might have been no Schmalkaldic war. But Charles had proved the nimbler; it was he and not Henry who was left free to deliver his blows in another direction. At the cost of liberal terms to his foe he had duped one of the allies who had helped him to victory; it remains to recount the fate which befell the other.