SOCIAL REVOLUTION AND CATHOLIC REACTION IN GERMANY.
By A. F. POLLARD, M.A.
Supposed revolutionary tendency of the Reformation . 174
Element of truth in the allegation. Discontent of the peasants . 175
The grievances of the peasants. The Roman Law . 176
Beginnings of the Peasants' Rising, 1524 . 177
Articles of the peasants. Spread of the movement . 178
Religious element in the rising . 179
Evangelical Brotherhood. Articles of Memmingen . 180
Ulrich in Württemberg . 181
Risings in the south and west . 182
Leaders, motives, and aims of the rebels . 183
Utopian schemes . 184
Socialistic and communistic movements in the towns . 185
Thomas Münzer and his teaching . 186
Massacre of Weinsberg, 1525 . 187
The rebels in Franconia. Attack on Würzburg . 188
Defeats of the rebels. Philip of Hesse and Truchsess . 189
Suppression of the rebellion, 1525-6 . 190
Results of the Peasants' Revolt. 191
Its nature. Religious reaction . 192
Attitude of Luther towards the revolt . 193
The Reformation in alliance with the Princes . 194
Secularisation of Church property. Opposing leagues . 195
Philip of Hesse. Recess of Speier, 1526 . 196
Clement VII and Charles V. Battle of Mohâcs, 1526 . 197
John Zapolya. Ferdinand King of Bohemia . 198
Ferdinand King of Hungary. Effects of these preoccupations . . . 199
The Princes and the Lutheran Church . 200
Demand for spiritual liberty. Luther's hymns and Catechism . . . 201
Pack's forgeries. Philip of Hesse and the Catholics . 202
Charles and Clement VII ; the Treaty of Barcelona, 1529. The Diet of Speier, 1529. Lutherans and Zwingliaiis . 203
Decisions of the Diet. The "Protest" . 204
The original Protestants . 205
SOCIAL REVOLUTION AND CATHOLIC REACTION IN GERMANY.
THE most frequent and damaging charge levelled at Luther between 1520 and 1525 reproached him with being the apostle of revolution and anarchy, and predicted that his attacks on spiritual authority would develop into a campaign against civil order unless he were promptly suppressed. The indictment had been preferred in the Edict of Worms, it was echoed by the Nuncio two years later at Nürnberg, and it was the ground of the humanist revolt from his ranks. By his denunciations of Princes in 1523 and 152e as being for the most part the greatest fools or the greatest rogues on earth, by his application of the text " He hath put down the mighty from their seats," and by his assertion of the principle that human authority might be resisted when its mandates conflicted with the Word of God, Luther had confirmed the suspicion. There was enough truth in it to give point to Murner's satire of Luther as the champion of the Bundschuh, the leader of those who proclaimed that, as Christ had freed them all, and all were children and heirs of one father, all should share alike, all be priests and gentlemen, and pay rents and respect to no man. The outbreak of the Peasants' War appeared to be an invincible corroboration of the charge, and from that day to this it has been almost a commonplace with Catholic historians that the Reformation was the parent of the revolt.
It has been no less a point of honour with Protestant writers, and especially with Germans, to vindicate both the man and the movement from the taint of revolution. The fact that the peasants adopted the Lutheran phrases about brotherly love and Christian liberty proves little, for in a theological age it is difficult to express any movement except in theological terms, and behind these common phrases there lay a radical divergence of aims and methods. The Gospel according to Luther may have contained a message for villeins and serfs, but it did not proclaim the worldly redemption they sought ; and the motives of the peasants in 1525 were similar to those which had precipitated half-a-dozen local revolts before Luther appeared on the scene. Even
And yet the assertion that there was no connexion between the Reformation and the Peasants' Revolt is as far from the truth as the statement that the one produced the other. The frequent association of religious and social movements excludes the theory of mere coincidence. Wat Tyler trod on the heels of Wiclif, and Ziska on those of Hus ; Kett appeared at the dawn of English Puritanism, and the Levellers at its zenith. When one house is blown up, its neighbour is sure to be shaken, especially if both stand on the same foundation ; and all government, whether civil or ecclesiastical, rests ultimately on the same basis. It is not reason, it is not law, still less is it force ; it is mainly custom and habit. Without a voluntary and unreasoning adherence to custom and deference to authority all society and all government would be impossible ; and the disturbance of this habit in any one respect weakens the forces of law and order in all. When habit is broken, reason and passion are called into play, and it would be hard to say which is more fatal to human institutions. The Reformation had by an appeal to reason and passion destroyed the habit of unreasoning obedience to the Papacy, and less venerable institutions inevitably felt the shock.
This appeal against habit and custom was made to the peasant more directly than to any other class. Popular literature and popular art erected him into a sort of saviour of society. In scores of dialogues he intervenes and confounds with his common sense the learning of doctors of law and theology ; he knows as much of the Scriptures as three parsons and more ; and in his typical embodiment as Karsthans he demolishes the arguments of Luther's antagonist, Murner. He is the hero of nearly all contemporary pamphlets ; with his hoe and his flail he will defend the Gospel if it comes to fighting; and even Luther himself, when Sickingen had failed, sought to frighten Princes and Prelates with the peasant's spectre. The peasant was the unknown factor of the situation ; his power was incalculable, but it would not be exerted in favour of existing institutions, and when hard pressed the religious Reformers were prepared, like Frankenstein, to call into existence a being over which their control was imperfect.
The discontent of the peasantry in Germany, as in other countries of Europe, had been a painfully obvious fact for more than a generation, and since 1490 it had broken out in revolts in Elsass, in the Netherlands, in Württemberg, at Kempten, at Bruchsal, and in Hungary. The device of the peasant's shoe, whence their league acquired the name of Bundschuh, had been adopted as early as 1493, and again in 1502; and the electoral Princes themselves had admitted that the common people were burdened with feudal services, taxes, ecclesiastical Courts, and other exactions, which would eventually prove intolerable. Hans Rosenblüt complained before the end of the fifteenth century that
Nor was this the only trouble in which the peasants were involved. The evil of enclosures, although it was felt in Germany, was not so prominent among their complaints as it was in England ; but their general distress produced two other symptoms, one of which seems to have been peculiar to those districts of Germany in which the revolt raged with the greatest fury. In the south-west, in the valleys of the Tauber and the Neckar, in the Moselle and middle Rhine districts, the practice of subdividing land had proceeded so far that the ordinary holding of the peasant had shrunk to the quarter of a ploughland ; and the effort to check this ruinous development only resulted in the creation of a landless agrarian proletariat. The other process, which was not confined to Germany, was the conversion of land into a speculative market for money. The financial embarrassments of the peasant rendered him an easy prey to the burgher-capitalist who lent him money on the security of his holding, the interest on which was often not forthcoming if the harvest failed, or the plague attacked his cattle ; and the traffic in rents, which inevitably bore hardly on the tenant, was one of the somewhat numerous evils which Luther at one time or another declared to be the ruin of the German nation.
Besides these economic causes, the growing influence of Roman law affected the peasant even more than it had done the barons. By it, said the Emperor Maximilian, the poor man either got no justice at all against the rich, or it was so sharp and fine-pointed that it availed him nothing. Ignoring the fine distinctions of feudal law with respect to service it regarded the rendering of service as proof of servitude, and everyone who was not entirely free sank in its eyes to a serf. The policy of reducing tenants to this position was systematically pursued in many districts ; the Abbots of Kempten resorted not merely to the falsification of charters but to such abuse of their clerical powers as refusing the Sacrament to those who denied their servitude ; and one of them defended his conduct on the ground that he was only doing as other lords. It was in fact the lords and not the peasants who were the revolutionists ; the revolt was essentially reactionary. The peasants demanded the restoration of their old Haingerichte and other Courts, the abolition of novel jurisdictions and new exactions of rent and service. The movement was an attempt to revive the worn-out communal system
The peasant's condition was fruitful soil for the seeds of a gospel of discontent. The aristocratic humanist revival awoke no echoes in his breast, but he found balm of Gilead in Luther's denunciations of merchants as usurers, of lawyers as robbers, and in his assertion of the worthlessness of all things compared with the Word of God, which peasants could understand better than priests. More radical preachers supplied whatever was lacking in Luther's doctrine to complete their exaltation. Carlstadt improved on Luther's declaration that peasants knew more of the Scriptures than learned doctors by affirming that they certainly knew more than Luther. Peasants adopted with fervour the doctrine of universal priesthood, and began themselves to preach and baptise. Schappeler announced at Memmingen that heaven was open to peasants, but closed to nobles and clergy. But while this was heresy, it was hardly sedition ; most of the preachers believed as Luther did, in the efficacy of the Word, and repudiated Miinzer's appeal to the sword; and the promise of heaven hereafter might be expected to reconcile rather than to exasperate the peasant with his lot on earth. Yet it exerted an indirect stimulus, for men do not rebel in despair, but in hope ; and the spiritual hopes held out by the Gospel produced that quickening of his mind, without which the peasant would never have risen to end his temporal ills.
The outbreak in 1524« can only have caused surprise by its extent, for that the peasants would rise was a common expectation. Almanacks and astrologers predicted the storm with remarkable accuracy ; indeed its mutterings had been heard for years, and in 1522 friends of the exiled Ulrich of Württemberg had discussed a plan for his restoration to the duchy by means of a peasant revolt. But the first step in the great movement was not due to Ulrich or to any other extraneous impulse. It was taken in June, 1524, on the estates of Count Siegmund von Lupfen at Stühlingen, some miles to the north-west of Schaffhausen. There had already been a number of local disturbances elsewhere, and the peasantry round Nürnberg had burnt their tithes on the field ; but they had all been suppressed without difficulty. The rising at Stühlingen is traditionally reported to have been provoked by a whim of the Countess von Lupfen, who insisted upon the Count's tenants spending a holiday in collecting snail-shells on which she might wind her wool ; and this trivial reason has been remembered, to the oblivion of the more weighty causes alleged by the peasants in their list of grievances. They complained of the enclosure of woods, the alienation of common lands, and the denial of their right to fish in streams ; they were compelled, they said, to do all kinds of field-work for their lord and his steward, to assist at hunts, to draw ponds and streams without any regard to the necessities of their own avocations; the lord's streams were diverted across their
These articles, which number sixty-two in all, are as remarkable for what they omit as for what they include. There is no trace of a religious element in them, no indication that their authors had ever heard of Luther or of the Gospel. They are purely agrarian in character, their language is moderate, and, if the facts are stated correctly, their demands are extremely reasonable. In its origin the Peasants1 Revolt bore few traces of the intellectual and physical violence which marked its later course. It began like a trickling stream in the highlands ; as it flowed downwards it was joined first by one and then by another revolutionary current, till it united in one torrent all elements of disorder and threatened to inundate the whole of Germany.
When once the movement had started, it quickly gathered momentum. A thousand tenants from the Stühlingen district assembled with such arms as they could collect, and chose as their captain Hans Müller of Bulgenbach, an old landsknecht who showed more talent for organisation than most of the peasants' leaders. In August he made his way south to Waldshut, probably with the object of obtaining the co-operation of the discontented proletariate in the towns. The towns had been permeated with new religious ideas to an extent which was almost unknown in the country, the upper classes by Lutheranism, the lower by notions of which Carlstadt and Münzer were the chief exponents. Waldshut itself was in revolt against its Austrian government, which had initiated a savage persecution of heretics in the neighbourhood and demanded from the citizens the surrender of their preacher, Balthasar Hubmaier. It was thus predisposed to favour the peasants' cause, but the often repeated statement that Müller, in August, 1524, succeeded in establishing an Evangelical Brotherhood is incorrect. That scheme, which probably emanated from the towns, was not effected until the meeting at Memmingen in the following February ; and the intervening winter elapsed without open conflict between the peasants and the authorities. The Archduke Ferdinand's attention was absorbed by the momentous struggle then being waged in North Italy, and every available landsknecht had been sent to swell the armies of Charles V. The Swabian League, the only effective organisation in South Germany, could muster but two thousand troops, and recourse was had to negotiations at Stockach which were not seriously meant on the part of the lords. Many of the peasants, however, returned home on the understanding that none but ancient services should be exacted; but the lords,
In October and November, 1524, there were risings of the peasants all round the Lake of Constance, in the Allgau, the Klettgau, the Hegau, the Thurgau, and north-west of Stühlingen at Villingen. Further to the east, on the Hier in Upper Swabia, the tenants of the abbey of Kempten, who had long nursed grievances against their lords, rose, and in February, 1525, assembled at Sonthofen ; they declared that they would have no more lords, a revolutionary demand which indicates that their treatment by the abbots had been worse than that of the Lupfen tenants. The peasants of the Donauried (N.W. of Augsburg) had been agitating throughout the winter, and by the first week in February four thousand of them met at Baltringen, some miles to the north of Biberach ; before the end of the month their numbers had risen to thirty thousand. They were also joined by bands called the Seehaufen, from the northern shores of Lake Constance, while Hans Müller made an incursion into the Breisgau and raised the peasants of the Black Forest.
As the rebellion extended its area the scope of its objects grew wider, and it assimilated revolutionary ideas distinct from the agrarian grievances which had originally prompted the rising. A religious element began to obtrude, and its presence was probably due to the fact that it supplied a convenient banner under which heterogeneous forces might fight ; Sickingen had adopted a similar expedient to cloak the sectional aims of the knights, and men now began to regard the revolt as a rising on behalf of the Gospel. In this light it was viewed by the neighbouring city of Zurich, where Zwingli's influence was now all-powerful ; and the Zurich government exhorted the Klettgau peasants to adopt the Word of God as their banner. In conformity with this advice they gave a religious colour to their demands, and in January, 1525, offered to grant their lord whatever was reasonable, godly, and Christian, if he on his side would undertake to abide by the Word of God and righteousness. So, too, the Baltringen bands declared that they wished to create no disturbance, but only desired that their grievances should be redressed . in accord with godly justice ; and in the Allgau, where the peasant Häberlin had preached and baptised, the peasants formed themselves into a " godly union." On the other hand the Lake bands, with whom served some remnants of Sickingen's host, appear to have been more intent upon a political attack on lords and cities.
In March all these bodies held a sort of parliament at Memmingen, the chief town of Upper Swabia, to concert a common basis of action, and here the Zurich influence carried the day. Schappeler, Zwingli's friend, had been preaching at Memmingen on the iniquity of tithes, and
This programme was not adopted without some difference of opinion, in which the Lake bands led the opposition. But the proposal of an Evangelical Brotherhood was accepted on March 7; and the Twelve Articles, founded apparently upon a memorial previously presented by the people of Memmingen to their town Council, were then drawn up. The preamble repudiated the idea that the insurgents'1 "new Gospel" implied the extirpation of spiritual and temporal authority ; on the contrary, they quoted texts to show that its essence was love, peace, patience, and unity, and that the aim of the peasants was that all men should live in accord with its precepts. As means thereto they demanded that the choice of pastors should be vested in each community, which should also have power to remove such as behaved unseemly. The great tithes they were willing to pay, and they proposed measures for their collection and for the application of the surplus to the relief of the poor, and, in case of necessity, to the expenses of war or to meet the demands of the tax-gatherer ; but the small tithes they would not pay, because God had created the beasts of the field as a free gift for the use of mankind. They would no longer be villeins, because Christ had made all men free ; but they would gladly obey such authority as was elected and set over them, so it be by God appointed. They claimed the right to take ground game, fowls, and fish in flowing water; they demanded the restoration of woods, meadows, and ploughlands to the community, the renunciation of new-fangled services, and payment of peasants for those which they rendered, the establishment of judicial rents, the even administration of justice, and the abolition of death-dues, which ruined widows and orphans. Finally, they required that all their grievances should be tested by the Word of God ; if aught which they had demanded were proved to be contrary to Scripture, they agreed to give it up, even though the demand had been granted; and on the other hand they asked that their lords should submit to the same test, and relinquish any privileges which might hereafter be shown to be inconsistent with the Scriptures, although they were not included in the present list of grievances.
On the basis of these demands negotiations were reopened with
Ulrich, the exiled Duke of Württemberg, and his party constituted one of the discontented elements which were certain to rally to any revolutionary standard. He had announced his intention of regaining his duchy with the help of " spur or shoe," of knights or peasants. The former hope was quenched by Sickingen's fall, but as soon as the peasants rose Ulrich began to cultivate their friendship ; in the autumn of 1524, from Hohentwiel, of which he had recovered possession, on the confines of the territory of his Swiss protectors and of the disturbed Hegau, he established relations with the insurgents, and took to signing his name " Utz the Peasant." In February, 1525, he resolved to tempt his fate ; supported by ten thousand hired Swiss infantry he crossed the border and invaded Württemberg. The civil and religious oppression of the Austrian rule had to some extent wiped out the memory of Ulrich's own harsh government, and he was able to occupy Ballingerf, Herrenberg, and Sindelfingen without serious opposition, and to lay siege to Stuttgart on March 9. The news brought Truchsess into Württemberg; but Ulrich was on the eve of success when the tidings came of the battle of Pavia (February 24). Switzerland might need all her troops for her own defence, and those serving under Ulrich's banner were promptly summoned home. There was nothing left for Ulrich but flight so soon as Truchsess appeared upon the scene ; and the restoration of Austrian authority in Württemberg enabled the general of the Swabian League once more to turn his arms against the peasants.
But the respite, short as it was, had given the revolt time to spread in all directions, and before the end of April almost the whole of Germany, except the north and east and Bavaria in the south, was in an uproar. From Upper Swabia the movement spread in March to the lower districts of the circle. Round Leipheim on the Danube to the north-east of Ulm the peasants rose under a priest named Jacob Wehe, attacked Leipheim and Weissenhorn, and stormed the castle of Roggenburg, while a considerable portion of Truchsess1 troops sympathised with their cause and refused to serve against them. Even so, the remainder, consisting mostly of veterans returned from Pavia, were sufficient to crush the Leipheim contingent, whose incompetence and cowardice contrasted strongly with the behaviour of the Swiss and Bohemian peasants in previous wars. They fled into Leipheim almost as soon as Truchsess
Truchsess had every reason to be satisfied with this result, for from all sides appeals were pouring in for help. In the Hegau Radolfzell was besieged; to the south-east the cardinal archbishop of Salzburg, Matthew Lang, was soon shut up in his castle by his subjects of the city and neighbouring country, while the Archduke Ferdinand himself would not venture outside the walls of Innsbruck. Forty thousand peasants had risen in the Vorarlberg ; Tyrol was in ferment from end to end ; and in Styria Dietrichstein's Bohemian troops could not save him from defeat at the hands of the peasants. In the south-west Hans Müller, the leader of the Stühlingen force, moved through the Black Forest, and raising the Breisgau villagers appeared before Freiburg. The fortress on the neighbouring Schlossberg was unable to protect the city, which admitted the peasants on May 24. Across the Rhine in Elsass twenty thousand insurgents captured Zabern on May 13, and made themselves masters of Weissenburg and most of the other towns in the province ; Colmar alone withstood their progress. Further north in the west Rhine districts of the Palatinate, Lauterburg, Landau, and Neustadt fell into the rebels' hands, and on the east side of the river they carried all before them. In the Odenwald George Metzler, an innkeeper, had raised the standard of revolt before the end of March, and Jäcklein Rohrbach followed his example in the Neckarthal on the first of April. Florian Geyer headed the Franconian rebels who gathered in the valley of the Tauber, and the Austrian government in Württemberg had barely got rid of Ulrich when it was threatened by a more dangerous enemy in the peasants under Matern Feuerbacher. Further north still, the Thuringian commons broke out under the lead of Thomas Münzer.
So widespread a movement inevitably gathered into its net personalities and forces of every description. The bulk of the insurgents and some of their leaders were peasants ; but willingly or unwillingly they received into their ranks criminals, priests, ex-officials, barons, and even some ruling Princes. Florian Geyer was a knight more or less of Sickingen's type, who threw himself heart and soul into the peasants' cause. Götz von Berlichingen, the hero of Goethe's drama known as Götz of the Iron
No less heterogeneous than the factors of which the revolutionary horde was composed were the ideas and motives by which it was moved. There was many a private and local grudge as well as class and common grievances. In Salzburg the Archbishop had retained feudal privileges from which most German cities were free ; in the Austrian duchies there was a German national feeling against the repressive rule of Ferdinand's Spanish ministers ; religious persecution helped the revolt at Brixen, for Strauss and Urbanus Regius had there made many converts to Luther's Gospel ; others complained of the tyranny of mine-owners like the Fuggers and other capitalist rings ; and in not a few districts the rising assumed the character of a Judenhetze. The peasants all over Germany were animated mainly by the desire to redress agrarian grievances, but hatred of prelatical wealth and privilege and of the voracious territorial power of Princes was a bond which united merchants and knights, peasants and artisans, in a common hostility.
Gradually, too, the development of the movement led to the production of various manifestoes or rather crude suggestions for the establishment of a new political and social organisation. Some of them were foreshadowed in a scheme put forward by Eberlin in 1521, which may not, however, have been more seriously intended than Sir Thomas More's Utopia. Its pervading principle was that of popular election ; each village was to choose a gentleman as its magistrate ; two hundred chief places were to select a knight for their bailiff; each ten bailiwicks
This Utopian scheme was too fanciful even for the most imaginative peasant leaders, but their proposals grew rapidly more extravagant. The local demand for the abolition of seigneurial rights gave place to universal ideas of liberty, fraternity, equality; and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the German peasants in 1525 anticipated most of the French ideas of 1789. The Twelve Articles of the Elsass peasants went beyond the originals of Memmingen in demanding not only the popular election of pastors but of all officials, and the right of the people to repudiate or recognise princely authority. So, too, the peasants' parliament at Meran in the Tyrol insisted that all jurisdictions should be exercised by persons chosen by the community. It was perhaps hostility to the Princes rather than perception of national needs that prompted the agitation for the reduction of all Princes to the status of lieutenants of the Emperor, who was to be recognised as the one and only sovereign ruler; but the conception of a democratic Empire had taken strong hold of the popular imagination. Hipler and Weigant, two of the clearest thinkers of the revolution, suggested writing to Charles and representing the movement as aimed at two objects dear to his heart, the reformation of his Church and the subjection of the Princes to obedience to the Empire. They, no less than the English, preferred a popular despotism to feudal anarchy. Even the conservative Swabians desired the abolition of a number of petty intermediate jurisdictions; and in more radical districts the proposed vindication of the Emperor's power was coupled with the condition that it was to be wielded in the people's interest. The Kaiser was to be the minister, and his subjects the sovereign authority.
Between this ruler and his people there were to be no intervening grades of society. Equality was an essential condition of the new order of things. Nobles like the counts of Hohenlohe and Henneberg, who swore through fear the oath imposed by the rebels, were required to dismantle their castles, to live in houses like peasants and burghers, to eat the same food and wear the same dress ; they were even forbidden to
It might well be inferred, even if it had not been stated by the peasants themselves, that they derived these ideas from teachers in towns ; and it was the co-operation of the town proletariate which made the revolt so formidable, especially in Franconia and Thuringia. A civic counterpart of Eberlin's peasant Utopia was supplied by a political pamphlet entitled The Needs of the German Nation, or The Reformation of Frederick III. As in the case of the Twelve Articles of Memmingen, the principle of Christian liberty was to be the basis of the new organisation ; but it was here applied specifically to the conditions of the poorer classes in towns. Tolls, dues, and especially indirect taxes should be abolished ; the capital of individual merchants and of companies was to be limited to ten thousand crowns ; the coinage, weights, and measures were to be reduced to a uniform standard; the Roman civil and canon law to be abolished, ecclesiastical property to be confiscated, and clerical participation in secular trades-against which several Acts of the English Reformation parliament were directed-to be prohibited.
Some of these grievances, especially those against the Church, were common to rich and poor alike, but socialistic and communistic ideas naturally tended to divide every town and city into two parties, and the struggle resolved itself into one between the commune, representing the poor, and the Council, representing the well-to-do. This contest was fought out in most of the towns in Germany; and its result determined the amount of sympathy with which each individual town regarded the peasants' cause. But nowhere do the cities appear to have taken an active part against the revolution, for they all felt that the Princes threatened them as much as they did the peasants. Waldshut and Memmingen from the first were friendly; Zurich rendered active assistance ; and there was a prevalent fear that the towns of Switzerland and Swabia would unite in support of the movement. The strength shown by the peasants exercised a powerful influence over the intramural struggles of commune and Council, and in many of the smaller towns and cities the commune gained the upper hand. Such was the case at Heilbronn, at Rothenburg, where Carlstadt had been active, and at Würzburg. At Frankfort the proletariate formed an organisation which they declared to be Council, Burgomaster, Pope, and Emperor all rolled into one; and most of the small cities opened their gates to the peasants,
The most extreme embodiment of the revolutionary spirit was found in Thomas Münzer, to whose influence the whole movement has sometimes been ascribed. After his expulsion from Zwickau he fled to Prague, where he announced his intention of following the example of Hus. His views, however, resembled more closely those of the extreme Hussite sect known as Taborites, and their proximity to Bohemia may explain the reception which the Thuringian cities of Allstedt and Mühlhausen accorded to Münzer's ideas. At Allstedt his success was great both among the townsfolk and the peasants ; here he was established as a preacher and married a wife ; here he preached his theocratic doctrines, which culminated in the assertion that the godless had no right to live, but should be exterminated by the sword of the elect. He also developed communistic views, and maintained that lords who withheld from the community the fish in the water, fowl of the air, and produce of the soil were breaking the commandment not to steal. Property in fact, though it was left to a more modern communist to point the epigram, was theft. The Elector Frederick would have tolerated even this doctrine ; but his brother Duke John and his cousin Duke George secured in July, 1524, Munzer's expulsion from Allstedt. He found an asylum in the imperial city of Mühlhausen, where a runaway monk, Heinrich Pfeiffer, had already raised the small trades against the aristocratic Council; but two months later the Council expelled them both, and in September Münzer began a missionary tour through southwestern Germany.
Its effects were probably much slighter than has usually been supposed, for the revolt in Stühlingen had begun before Münzer started, and his extreme views were not adopted anywhere except at Mühlhausen and in its vicinity. He returned thither about February, 1525, and by March 17 he and Pfeiffer had overthrown the Council and established a communistic theocracy, an experiment which allured the peasantry of the adjacent districts into attempts at imitation. Even Erfurt was for
Divisions were also rife in the other insurgent bands ; • the more statesmanlike of the leaders endeavoured to restrain the peasants' excesses and to secure co-operation from other classes, while the extremists, either following the bent of their nature or deliberately counting on the effects of terror, had recourse to violent measures. The worst of their deeds was the " massacre of Weinsberg," which took place on April 17, and for which the ruffian Jäcklein Rohrbach was mainly responsible. In an attempt to join hands with the Swabian peasants, a contingent of the Franconian army commanded by Metzler attacked Weinsberg, a town not far from Heilbronn held by Count Ludwig von Helfenstein. Helfenstein had distinguished himself by his defence of Stuttgart against Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, and by his rigorous measures against such rebels as fell into his power. When a handful of peasants appeared before Weinsberg and demanded admission the Count made a sortie and cut them all down. This roused their comrades to fury ; Weinsberg was stormed by Rohrbach, and no quarter was given until Metzler arrived on the scene and stopped the slaughter. He granted Rohrbach, however, custody of the prisoners, consisting of Helfenstein and seventeen other knights ; and, against Metzler's orders and without his knowledge, the Count and his fellow-prisoners were early next morning made to run the gauntlet of peasants' daggers before the eyes of the Countess, a natural daughter of the Emperor Maximilian.
These bloody reprisals were not typical of the revolt; they were the work of an extreme section led by a man who was little better than a criminal, and they were generally repudiated by the other insurgent bands. The Württemberg peasants under Feuerbacher disclaimed all connexion with the " Weinsbergers," as the perpetrators of the massacre came to be called, and the deed hastened, if it did not cause, a division among the revolutionary ranks. Götz von Berlichingen, Wendel Hipler, and Metzler, ajl men of comparative moderation, were chosen leaders of the insurgents from the Odenwald and the surrounding districts; and they endeavoured on the one hand to introduce more discipline among the peasants and on the other to moderate their demands. It was proposed that the Twelve Articles should be reduced to a declaration that the peasants would be satisfied with the immediate abolition of serfdom, of the lesser tithes, and of death-dues, and would
A violent opposition to these suggestions was offered by the extremists; their supporters were threatened with death, and Feuerbacher was deposed from the command of the Württemberg contingent. A like difficulty was experienced in the effort to induce military subordination. Believers in the equality of men held it as an axiom that no one was better than another, and they demanded that no military measures should be taken without the previous consent of the whole force. Rohrbach and his friends separated from the main body probably on account of the selection of Berlichingen as commander and of the moderate proposals of Hipler, and pursued an independent career of useless pillage. But while this violence disgusted many sympathisers with the movement, its immediate effect was to terrorise the Franconian nobles. Scores of them joined the Evangelical Brotherhood, and handed over their artillery and munitions of war. Count William of Henneberg followed their example, and the Abbots of Hersfeld and Fulda, the Bishops of Bamberg and Speier, the coadjutor of the Bishop of Würzburg, and Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg were compelled to sign the modified Twelve Articles, or to make similar concessions.
Nearly the whole of Franconia was now in the rebels' hands, and towards the end of April they began to concentrate on Würzburg, whose Bishop was also Duke of Franconia and the most powerful Prince in the circle. The city offered little resistance, and the Bishop fled to his castle on the neighbouring Frauenberg. This was an almost impregnable fortress ; and the attempt to capture it locked up the greatest mass of the peasants' forces during the crucial month of the revolution. It might have been taken or induced to surrender but for defects in the organisation of the besieging army. There was little subordination to the leaders or unity in their councils. Some were in favour of offering terms, but Geyer opposed so lukewarm a measure. The peasants obtained a fresh accession of strength by the formal entry of Rothenburg into the Evangelical Brotherhood on May 14, but on the following night, during the absence of their ablest commanders, the besiegers made an attempt to storm the castle which was repulsed with considerable loss.
Irretrievable disasters were meanwhile overtaking the peasants in other quarters of Germany. On the day after the failure to storm the Frauenberg was fought the battle of Frankenhausen, which put an end to the revolt in Thuringia. The dominions of Philip of Hesse had been less affected by the movement than those of his neighbours, mainly
The peasants had been crushed in the North, and they fared as ill in the South. Truchsess, after his truce with the Donauried, the Allgau, and the Lake contingents, had turned in the last week in April against the Black Forest bands, when he was ordered by the Swabian League to march to the relief of Württemberg, and so prevent a junction between the Franconian and Swabian rebels. On May 12 he came upon the peasants strongly entrenched on marshy ground near Böblingen. By means of an understanding with some of the leading burghers the gates of the town were opened, and Truchsess was enabled to plant artillery on the castle walls, whence it commanded the peasants' entrenchments. Compelled thus to come out into the open, they were cut to pieces by cavalry, though, with a courage which the peasants had not hitherto displayed, the Württemberg band prolonged its resistance for nearly four hours. Weinsberg next fell into Truchsess' hands and was burned to the ground, and Rohrbach was slowly roasted to death.
Truchsess' approach spread consternation in the camp at Würzburg. After the failure to storm the Frauenberg, Götz von Berlichingen deserted the peasants' cause, and about a fourth of his men returned to their homes. The remainder were detached from the camp at Würzburg
The surrender of Würzburg carried with it the relief of the hard-pressed castle of Frauenberg, and, the neck of the rebellion being thus broken, its life in other parts gradually flickered out. Rothenburg was captured by Margrave Casimir on June 28, but Carlstadt and several other revolutionary leaders escaped. Memmingen was taken by stratagem, and few of the cities showed any disposition to resist. The movement in Elsass had been suppressed by Duke Anthony of Lorraine with the help of foreign mercenaries before the end of May, and by July the only districts in which large forces of the peasants remained in arms were the Allgau, Salzburg, and Ferdinand's duchies. Truchsess, having crushed the revolt in Franconia, returned to complete the work which had been interrupted in Upper Swabia. With the aid of George von Frundsberg, who had returned from Italy, and by means of treachery in the peasants' ranks, he dispersed two of the Allgau bands on July 22, and compelled a third to surrender on the banks of the Luibas. A week before Count Felix von Werdenberg had defeated the Hegau contingent at Hilzingen, relieved Radolfzell, and beheaded Hans Müller of Bulgenbach.
In the Austrian territories and in Salzburg, however, the revolution continued active throughout the winter and following spring. Waldshut, which had risen against Ferdinand's religious persecution before the outbreak of the Peasants' War, held out until December 12, 1525. The revolt in Salzburg was indirectly encouraged by the jealousy existing between its Archbishop and the Dukes of Bavaria, and by a scheme which Ferdinand entertained of dividing the archbishop's lands between the two Dukes and himself. The Archduke had in June, 1525, temporarily pacified the Tyrolese peasantry by promising a complete amnesty and granting some substantial redress of their agrarian, and even of their ecclesiastical, grievances. But Michael Gaismayr and others, who aimed at a political revolution, were not satisfied, and Gaismayr fled to Switzerland, where he received promises of support from Francis I and other enemies of the Habsburgs. Early in 1526 he returned to the attack and in May laid siege to Radstadt. At Schladming, some fifteen miles to the east of Radstadt, the peasants defeated Dietrichstein, and
The Austrian duchies were one of the few districts in which the revolt resulted in an amelioration of the lot of the peasants. Margrave Philip of Baden, whose humanity was recognised on all sides, pursued a similar policy, and the Landgrave of Hesse also made some concessions. But as a rule the suppression of the movement was marked by appalling atrocities. On May 27 Leonard von Eck, the Bavarian chancellor, reports that Duke Anthony of Lorraine alone had already destroyed twenty thousand peasants in Elsass ; and for the whole of Germany a moderate estimate puts the number of victims at a hundred thousand. The only consideration that restrained the victors appears to have been the fear that, unless they held their hand, they would have no one left to render them service. " If all the peasants are killed," wrote Margrave George to his brother Casimir, "where shall we get other peasants to make provision for us ?" Casimir stood in need of the exhortation ; at Kitzingen, near Würzburg, he put out the eyes of fifty-nine townsfolk, and forbad the rest under severe penalties to offer them medical or other assistance. When the massacre of eighteen knights at Weinsberg is adduced as proof that the peasants were savages, one may well ask what stage of civilisation had been reached by German Princes.
The effects of this failure to deal with the peasants' grievances except by methods of brutal oppression cannot be estimated with any exactitude; but its effects were no doubt enduring and disastrous. The Diet of Augsburg in 1525 attempted to mitigate the ferocity of the lords towards their subjects, but the effort did not produce much result, and to the end of the eighteenth century the German peasantry remained the most wretched in Europe. Serfdom lingered there longer than in any other civilised country save Russia, and the mass of the people were effectively shut out from the sphere of political action. The beginnings of democracy were crushed in the cities ; the knights and then the peasants were beaten down. And onjy the territorial power of the Princes profited. The misery of the mass of her people must be reckoned as one of the causes of the national weakness and intellectual sterility which marked Germany during the latter part of the sixteenth century. The religious lead which she had given to Europe passed into other hands, and the literary awakening which preceded and accompanied the Reformation was followed by slumbers at least as profound as those which had gone before.
The difficulty of assigning reasons for the failure of the revolt itself
The effect of its suppression upon the religious development of Germany was none the less disastrous. In its religious aspect the Peasants' Revolt was an appeal of the poor and oppressed to " divine justice " against the oppressor. They had eagerly applied to their lords the biblical anathemas against the rich, and interpreted the beatitudes as a promise of redress for the wrongs of the poor. They were naturally unconvinced by Luther's declarations that the Gospel only guaranteed a spiritual and not a temporal emancipation, and that spiritual liberty was the only kind of freedom to which they had a right. They felt that such a doctrine might suit Luther and his knightly and bourgeois supporters, who already enjoyed an excessive temporal franchise, but that in certain depths of material misery the cultivation of spiritual and moral welfare was impossible. It was a counsel of perfection to advise them to be content with spiritual solace when they complained that they could not feed their bodies. They did not regard poverty as compatible with the "divine justice" to which they appealed; and when their appeal was met by the slaughter of a hundred thousand of their numbers their faith in the new Gospel received a fatal blow. Their aspirations, which had been so vividly expressed in the popular literature of the last five years, were turned into despair, and they relapsed into a state of mind which was not far removed from materialistic atheism. Who knows, they asked, what God is, or whether there is a God ? And the minor questions at issue between Luther and the Pope they viewed with profound indifference.
Such was the result of the Peasants' Revolt and of Luther's intervention. His conduct will always remain a matter of controversy, because its interpretation depends not so much upon what he said or
Yet terror and his proximity to Thuringia, the scene of the most violent and dangerous form of the revolt, while they may palliate, cannot excuse Luther's efforts to rival the brutal ferocity of Miinzer's doctrines. He must have known that the Princes' victory, if it came at all, would be bloody enough without his exhortations to kill and slay the peasants like mad dogs, and without his promise of heaven to those who fell in the holy work. His sympathy with the masses seems to have been limited to those occasions when he saw in them a useful weapon to hold over the heads of his enemies. He once lamented that refractory servants could no longer be treated like " other cattle " as in the days of the Patriarchs ; and he joined with Melanchthon and Spalatin in removing the scruples of a Saxon noble with regard to the burdens his tenants bore. " The ass will have blows," he said, " and the people will be ruled by force " ; and he was not free from the upstart's contempt for the class from which he sprang. His followers echoed his sentiments ; Melanchthon thought even serfdom too mild for stubborn folk like the Germans, and maintained that the master's right of punishment and the servant's duty of submission should both be unlimited. It was little wonder that the organisers of the Lutheran Church afterwards found the peasants deaf to their exhortations, or that Melanchthon was once constrained to admit that the people abhorred himself and his fellow-divines.
It is almost a commonplace with Lutheran writers to justify Luther's action on the ground that the Peasants' Revolt was revolutionary,
Luther in fact saved the Reformation by cutting it adrift from the failing cause of the peasants and tying it to the chariot wheels of the triumphant Princes. If he had not been the apostle of revolution, he had at least commanded the army in which all the revolutionaries fought. He had now repudiated his left wing and was forced to depend on his right. The movement from 1521 to 1525 had been national, and Luther had been its hero ; from the position of national hero he now sank to be the prophet of a sect, and a sect which depended for existence upon the support of political powers. Melanchthon admitted that the decrees of the Lutheran Church were merely platonic conclusions without the support of the Princes, and Luther suddenly abandoned his views on the freedom of conscience and the independence of the Church. In 1523 he had proclaimed the duty of obeying God before men ; at the end of 1524 he was invoking the secular arm against the remnant of papists at Wittenberg ; it was to punish the ungodly, he said, that the sword had been placed in the hands of authority, and it was in vain that the Elector Frederick reminded him of his previous teaching, that men should let only the Word fight for them. Separated from the Western Church and alienated from the bulk of the German people, Lutheran divines leant upon territorial Princes, and repaid their support with undue servility; even Henry VIII extorted from his bishops no more degrading compliance than the condoning by Melanchthon and others of Philip of Hesse's bigamy. Melanchthon came to regard the commands of princes as the ordinances of God, while Luther looked upon them as Bishops of the Church, and has been classed by Treitschke with Machiavelli as a champion of the indefeasible rights of the State.
Erastiis, like most political philosophers, only reduced to theory what had long been the practice of Princes.
This alliance of Lutheran State and Lutheran Church was based on mutual interest. Some of the peasant leaders had offered the Princes compensation for the loss of their feudal dues out of the revenues of the Church. The Lutherans offered them both , they favoured the retention of feudal dues and the confiscation of ecclesiastical property ; and the latter could only be satisfactorily effected through the intervention of the territorial principle, for neither religious party would have tolerated the acquisition by the Emperor of the ecclesiastical territories within the Empire. Apart from the alleged evils inherent in the wealth of the clergy, secularisation of Church property was recommended on the ground that many of the duties attached to it had already passed to some extent under State or municipal supervision, such as the regulation of poor relief and of education ; and the history of the fifteenth century had shown that the defence of Christendom depended solely upon the exertions of individual States, and that the Church could no longer, as in the days of the Crusades, excite any independent enthusiasm against the infidel. It was on the plea of the necessities of this defence that Catholic as well as Lutheran princes made large demands upon ecclesiastical revenues. With the diminution of clerical goods went a decline in the independence of the clergy and a corresponding increase in the authority of territorial Princes ; and it was by the prospect of reducing his Bishops and priests to subjection that sovereigns like Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg were induced to adopt the Lutheran cause.
The Lutherans had need of every recruit, for the reaction which crushed the peasants threatened to involve them in a similar ruin. Duke Anthony of Lorraine regarded the suppression of the revolt in the light of a crusade against Luther, and many a Gospel preacher was summarily executed on a charge of sedition for which there was slender ground. Catholic Princes felt that they would never be secure against a recurrence of rebellion until they had extirpated the root of the evil ; and the embers of social strife were scarcely stamped out when they began to discuss schemes for extinguishing heresy. In July, 1525, Duke George of Saxony, who may have entertained hopes of seizing his cousin's electorate, the Electors Joachim of Brandenburg and Albrecht of Mainz, Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbiittel, and other Catholic Princes met at Dessau to consider a Catholic League, and Henry of Brunswick was sent to Charles to obtain the imperial support. The danger produced a like combination of Lutherans, and in October, 1525, Philip of Hesse proposed a defensive alliance between himself and Elector John at Torgau; it was completed at Gotha in the following March, and at Magdeburg it was joined by that city, the Brunswick-Luneburg Dukes, Otto, Ernest, and Francis, Duke Philip of Brunswick-Grubenhagen,
Duke Henry of Mecklenburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt-Köthen, and Counts Gebhard and Albrecht of Mansfeld.
This league was the work of Philip of Hesse, the statesman to whom the Reformation in Germany largely owed its success ; his genuine adoption of its doctrines had little effect on his personal morality, yet he risked his all in the cause and devoted to it abilities of a very high order. But for his slender means and narrow domains he might have played a great part in history ; as it was, his courage, fertility of resource, wide outlook, and independence of formulas enabled him to exert a powerful influence on the fortunes of his creed and his country. He already meditated a scheme, which he afterwards carried into effect, of restoring Duke Ulrich of Württemberg ; and the skill with which he played on Bavarian jealousy of the Habsburgs more than once saved the Reformers from a Catholic combination. He wished to include in the league the half-Zwinglian cities of South Germany, and although his far-reaching scheme for a union between Zwinglian Switzerland and Lutheran Germany was baulked by Luther's obstinacy and Zwingli's defeat at Kappel, he looked as early as 1526 for help to the Northern Powers which eventually saved the Reformation in the course of the Thirty Years' War.
Meanwhile a Diet summoned to meet at Augsburg in December, 1525, was scantily attended and proved abortive. Another met at Speier in the following June, and its conduct induced a Reformer to describe it as the boldest and freest Diet that ever assembled. The old complaints against Rome were revived, and the recent revolt was attributed to clerical abuses. A committee of Princes reported in favour of the marriage of priests, communion in both kinds, the abolition, of private masses, a reduction in the number of fasts, the joint use of Latin and German in baptismal services and in the celebration of the Eucharist, and the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture. To prevent the adoption of these resolutions Ferdinand produced instructions from the Emperor, dated the 23rd of March, 1526, in which he forbade innovations, promised to discuss the question of a General Council with the Pope, and demanded the execution of the Edict of Worms. The cities, however, again declared the last to be impracticable, and called attention to the fact that, whereas at the date of Charles' letter he had been at peace with the Pope, they were now at open enmity. They declined to believe that the Emperor's intentions remained the same under these altered conditions ; and they proposed sending a deputation to Spain to demand the suspension of the Edict of Worms, and the immediate convocation of a General or at least a National Council. Meanwhile the Princes suggested that as regarded matters of faith each Prince should so conduct himself as he could answer for his behaviour to God and to the Emperor ; and this proposal was adopted, was promulgated in the Diet's Recess, and thus became the law of the Empire. Both the Emperor and
The Diet had presumed too much upon Charles' hostility to the Pope, but there were grounds for this assumption. Although his letter arrived too late to affect the Diet's decision, the Emperor had actually written on July 27, suggesting the abolition of the penal clauses in the Edict of Worms, and the submission of evangelical doctrines to the consideration of a General Council. But this change of attitude was entirely due to the momentary exigencies of his foreign relations. Clement VII was hand in glove with the League of Cognac, formed to wrest from Charles the fruits of Pavia. The Emperor, threatened with excommunication, replied by remarking that Luther might be made a man of importance ; while Charles' lieutenant, Moncada, captured the castle of St Angelo, and told the Pope that God himself could not withstand the victorious imperial arms. Other Spaniards were urging Charles to abolish the temporal power of the Papacy, as the root of all the Italian wars ; and he hoped to find in the Lutherans a weapon against the Pope, a hope which was signally fulfilled when Frundsberg led eleven thousand troops, four thousand of whom served without pay, to the sack of Rome.
Moreover Ferdinand was in no position to coerce the Lutheran princes. The peasant revolts in his Austrian duchies were not yet subdued, and he was toying with the idea of an extensive secularisation of ecclesiastical property. He had seized the bishopric of Brixen, meditated a partition of Salzburg, and told his Estates at Innsbruck that the common people objected altogether to the exercise of clerical jurisdiction in temporal concerns. And before long considerations of the utmost importance for the future of his House and of Europe further diverted his energies from the prosecution of either religious or political objects in Germany; for 1526 was the birth-year of the Austro-Hungarian State which now holds in its straining bond all that remains of Habsburg power.
The ruin which overtook the kingdom of Hungary at Mohdcs (August 30, 1526) has been ascribed to various causes. The simplest is that Hungary, and no other State, barred the path of the Turks, and felt the full force of their onslaught at a time when the Ottoman Power was in the first flush of its vigour, and was wielded by perhaps the greatest of Sultans. Hungary, though divided, was at least as united as Germany or Italy ; it was to some extent isolated from the rest of Europe, but it effected no such breach with Western Christendom as Bohemia had done in the Hussite wars, and Bohemia escaped the heel of the Turk. The foreign policy of Hungary was ill-directed and inconsequent ; but if the marriage of its King with the Emperor's sister and that of its Princess
But Hungary's necessity was the Habsburgs' opportunity. For at least a century that ambitious race had dreamt of the union of Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary under its sway. Under Albrecht II and his son Wladislav the dream enjoyed a twenty years' realisation (1437-57); but after the latterY death Bohemia found a national King in Podiebrad and Hungary in Corvinus. On the extinction of these two lines the realms were again united, but not under Austrian rule ; and for more than a generation two Polish princes of the House of Jagello successively sat on the Cech and Magyar thrones. The Emperor Maximilian, however, never ceased to grasp at the chance which his feeble father had missed ; and before his death two of his grandchildren were betrothed to Louis II and his sister Anna, while the Austrian succession, in default of issue to Louis, was secured by solemn engagements on the part of both the kingdoms.
The death of Louis at Mohâcs hastened the crucial hour. Both kingdoms prided themselves on their independence and right to elect their monarchs, and in both there was national antagonism to German encroachment. In Hungary, where the Reformation had made some slight progress, the Catholic national party was led by John Zapolya, who had earned a reputation by his cruel suppression of a Hungarian peasant revolt in 1514, and had eagerly sought the hand of the Princess Anna. His object throughout had been the throne, and the marriage of Anna to Ferdinand enraged him to such an extent that he stood idly by while the Turk triumphed over his country at Mohâcs. He would rather be King by the grace of Solyman than see Hungary free under Ferdinand. The nobles' hatred of German rule came to Zapolya's aid, and on November 10,1526, disregarding alike Ferdinand's claims through his wife and their previous treaty-engagements, they chose Zapolya King at Stuhlweissenburg, and crowned him the following day.
Had Ferdinand had only one rival to fear in Bohemia the result might have been similar, but a multitude of candidates divided the opposition. Sigismund of Poland, Joachim of Brandenburg, Albrecht of Prussia, three Saxon Princes, and two Bavarian Dukes, all thought of entering the lists, but Ferdinand's most serious competitors were his Wittelsbach rivals, who had long intrigued for the Bohemian throne. But if the Cechs were to elect a German King, a Wittelsbach possessed no advantages over a Habsburg, and Ferdinand carried the day at Prague on October 23, 1526. The theory that he owed his success to a Catholicism which was moderate compared with that of the Bavarian Dukes ignores the Catholic reaction which had followed the Hussite movement; and the Articles
He then turned his attention to Hungary ; his widowed sister's exertions had resulted in an assemblage of nobles which elected Ferdinand King at Pressburg on December 17, 1526; and the efforts of Francis I and the Pope, of England and Venice, to strengthen Zapolya's party proved vain. During the following summer Ferdinand was recognised as King by another Diet at Buda, defeated Zapolya at Tokay, and on November 3 was crowned at Stuhlweissenburg, the scene of his rival's election in the previous year. This rapid success led him to indulge in dreams which later Habsburgs succeeded in fulfilling. Besides the prospect of election as King of the Romans, he hoped to secure the duchy of Milan and to regain for Hungary its lost province of Bosnia. Ferdinand might almost be thought to have foreseen the future importance of the events of 1526-7, and the part which his conglomerate kingdom was to play in the history of Europe.
These diversions of Ferdinand, and the absorption of Charles V in his wars in Italy and with England and France, afforded the Lutherans an opportunity of turning the Recess of Speier to an account which the Habsburgs and the Catholic Princes had certainly never contemplated. In their anxiety to discover a constitutional and legal plea which should remove from the Reformation the reproach of being a revolution, Lutheran historians have attempted to differentiate this Recess from other laws of the Empire, and to regard it rather as a treaty between two independent Powers, which neither could break without the other's consent, than as a law which might be repealed by a simple majority of the Estates. It was represented as a fundamental part of the constitution beyond the reach of ordinary constitutional weapons ; and the neglect of the Emperor and the Catholic majority to adopt this view is urged as a legal justification of that final resort to arms, on the successful issue of which the existence of Protestantism within the Empire was really based.
It is safe to affirm that no such idea had occurred to the majority of the Diet which passed the Recess. The Emperor and the Catholic Princes had admitted the inexpediency and impracticability of reducing Germany at that juncture to religious conformity; but they had by no means forsworn an attempt in the future when circumstances might
The right to make ecclesiastical ordinances, which the Empire had exercised at Worms in 1521 and at Nürnberg in 1523 and 1524, but had temporarily abandoned at Speier, was not restored to the Church, but passed to the territorial Princes, in whose hostility to clerical privileges and property Luther found his most effective support. Hence the democratic form of Church government, which had been elaborated by François Lambert and adopted by a synod summoned to Homberg by Philip of Hesse in October, 1526, failed to take root in Germany It was based on the theory that every Christian participates in the priesthood, that the Church consists only of the faithful, and that each religious community should have complete independence and full powers of ecclesiastical discipline. It was on similar lines that " Free " Churches were subsequently developed in Scotland, England, France, and America. But such ideas were alien to the absolute monarchic principle with which Luther had cast in his lot, and the German Reformers, like the Anglican, preferred a Church in which the sovereign and not the congregation was the summits episcopus. In his hands were vested the powers of punishment for religious opinion, and in Germany as in England religious persecutions were organised by the State. It was perhaps as well that the State and not the Lutheran Church exercised coercive functions, for the rigour applied by Lutheran Princes to dissident Catholics fell short of Luther's terrible imprecations, and of the cruelties inflicted on heretics in orthodox territories.
The breach between the Lutheran Church and the Church of Rome was, with regard to both ritual and doctrine, slight compared with that effected by Zwingli or Calvin. Latin Christianity was the groundwork of the Lutheran Church, and its divines sought only to repair the old foundation and not to lay down a new. Luther would tolerate no figurative interpretation of the words of institution of the Eucharist, and he stoutly maintained the doctrine of a real presence, in his own sense. With the exception of the " abominable canon," which implied a sacrifice, the Catholic Mass was retained in the Lutheran Service ; and on this question every attempt at union with the " Reformed " Churches broke down. The changes introduced during the ecclesiastical visitations of Lutheran Germany in 1526-7 were at least as much concessions to secular dislike of clerical privilege as to religious antipathy to Catholic doctrine. The abolition of episcopal jurisdiction increased the independence of parish priests, but it enhanced even more the princely
It was not these questions of ecclesiastical government or ritual which evoked enthusiasm for the Lutheran cause. Its strength lay in its appeal to the conscience, in its emancipation of the individual from the restrictions of an ancient but somewhat oppressive system, in its declaration that the means of salvation were open to all, and that neither priest nor Pope could take them away; that individual faith was sufficient and the whole apparatus of clerical mediation cumbrous and nugatory. The absolute, immediate dependence on God, on which Luther insisted so strongly, excluded dependence on man ; and the individualistic egotism and quickening conscience of the age were alike exalted by the sense of a new-born spiritual liberty. To this moral elation Luther's hymns contributed as much as his translation of the New Testament, and his musical ear made them national songs. The first collection was published in 1524, and Luther's Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, written in 1527, has been described by Heine as the Marseillaise of the Reformation ; it was equally popular as a song of triumph in the hour of victory and as a solace in persecution. Luther was still at work on his translation of the Bible, and his third great literary contribution to the edification of the Lutheran Church was his Catechism, which appeared in a longer and a shorter form (1529), and in the latter became the norm for German Churches. The way for it had been prepared by two of Luther's disciples, Johann Agricola and Justus Jonas ; and other colleagues in the organisation of the Lutheran Church were Amsdorf, Luther's Elisha, Melanchthon, whose theological learning, intellectual acuteness, and forbearance towards the Catholics, were marred by a lack of moral strength, and Bugenhagen. The practical genius of the last-named reformer was responsible for the evangelisation of the greater part of North Germany, which, with the exception of the territories of the Elector of Brandenburg, of Duke George of Saxony, and of Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbiittel, had by 1529 broken away from the Catholic Church.
But the respite afforded by the Diet of Speier, invaluable though it proved, was not of long duration, and the Lutheran Princes were soon threatened with attacks from their fellow-Princes and from the Emperor himself. A meeting between Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, Duke George of Saxony, and the Archduke Ferdinand, now King of Hungary and Bohemia, at Breslau in May, 1527, gave rise to rumours of a Catholic conspiracy ; and these suspicions, to which the Landgrave's hasty temperament led him to attach too ready a credence, were turned to account by one Otto von Pack, who had acted as Vice-Chancellor of
Duke George of Saxony. Pack forged a document purporting to be an authentic copy of an offensive league between Ferdinand, the Electors of Mainz and Brandenburg, Duke George of Saxony, the Dukes of Bavaria, and the Bishops of Salzburg, Würzburg, and Bamberg, the object of which was first to drive Zapolya from Hungary, and then to make war on the Elector of Saxony unless he surrendered Luther For this information the Landgrave paid Pack four thousand crowns, and despatched him to Hungary to warn Zapolya and to concert measures of defence. Another envoy was sent to Francis I ; and at Weimar in March, 1528, Philip concluded a treaty with the Elector of Saxony in which they agreed to anticipate the attack. The Landgrave at once began to mobilise his forces, but Luther persuaded the Elector to halt. All the parties concerned denied the alleged conspiracy, and eventually Philip himself admitted that he had been deceived. Illogically, however, he demanded that the Bishops should pay the cost of his mobilisation ; and as they had no force wherewith to resist, they were compelled to find a hundred thousand crowns between them.
The violence of this proceeding naturally embittered the Catholics, and Philip was charged with having concocted the whole plot and instigated Pack's forgeries. These accusations have been satisfactorily disproved, but the Landgrave's conduct must be held partially responsible for the increased persecution of Lutherans which followed in 1528, and for the hostile attitude of the Diet of Speier in 1529. The Catholic States began to organise visitations for the extirpation of heresy ; in Austria printers and vendors of heretical books were condemned to be drowned as poisoners of the minds of the people. In Bavaria in 1528 thirty-eight persons were burnt or drowned, and the victims included men of distinction such as Leonhard Käser, Heuglin, Adolf Clarenbach, and Peter Flysteden, while the historian Aventinus suffered prolonged imprisonment. In Brandenburg the most illustrious victim was the Elector's wife, the Danish Princess Elizabeth, who only escaped death or lifelong incarceration by flight to her cousin, the Elector of Saxony.
Meanwhile the Emperor's attitude grew ever more menacing, for a fresh revolution had reversed the imperial policy. The idea of playing off Luther against the Pope had probably never been serious, and the protests in Spain against Charles' treatment of Clement would alone have convinced him of the dangers of such an adventure. Between 1527 and 1529 he gradually reached the conclusion that a Pope was indispensable. Immediately after the Sack of Rome one of his agents had warned him of the danger lest England and France should establish patriarchates of their own ; and a Pope of the universal Church under the control of Charles as master of Italy was too useful an instrument to be lightly abandoned, if for no other reason than that an insular Pope in England would grant the divorce of Henry VIII from Catharine of
Aragon. The Emperor also wanted Catholic help to restore his brother-in-law, Christian II of Denmark, deposed by his Lutheran subjects ; he desired papal recognition for Ferdinand's new kingdoms ; and his own imperial authority in Germany could not have survived the secularisation of the ecclesiastical electorates Empire and Papacy, said Zwingli, both emanated from Rome ; neither could stand if the other fell. At the same time the issue of the war in Italy in 1528-9 convinced Clement that he could not stand without Charles, and paved the way for the mutual understanding which was sealed by the Treaty of Barcelona (June 29, 1529). It was almost a family compact ; the Pope's nephew was to marry the Emperor's illegitimate daughter, the Medici tyranny was to be re-established in Florence, the divorce of Catharine to be refused, the papal countenance to be withdrawn from Zapolya, and Emperor and Pope were to unite against Turks and heretics. The Treaty of Cambray (August 3) soon afterwards released Charles from his war with France and left him free for a while to turn his attention to Germany.
The growing intimacy between the Emperor and Pope had already smoothed the path of reaction, and reinforced the antagonism of the Catholic majority to the Lutheran princes. In 1528 Charles sent the Provost of Waldkirch to Germany to strengthen the Catholic cause ; Duke Henry of Mecklenburg returned to the Catholic fold ; the wavering Elector Palatine forbade his subjects to attend the preaching of Lutherans ; and at the Diet of Speier, which met on February 21, 1529, the Evangelicals found themselves a divided and hopeless minority opposed to a determined and solid majority of Catholics. Only three of their number were chosen to sit on the committee appointed to discuss the religious question. Charles had sent instructions denouncing the Recess of 1526 and practically dictating the terms of a new one. The Catholics were not prepared to admit this reduction of the Diet to the status of a machine for registering imperial rescripts ; but their modifications were intended rather to show their independence than to alter the purport of Charles' proposals, and their resolutions amounted to this : there was to be complete toleration for Catholics in Lutheran States, but no toleration for Lutherans in Catholic States, and no toleration anywhere for Zwinglians and Anabaptists ; the Lutherans were to make no further innovations in their own dominions, and clerical jurisdictions and property were to be inviolate.
The differentiation between Lutherans and Zwinglians was a skilful attempt to drive a wedge between the two sections of the anti-Catholic party,-an attempt which Melanchthon's pusillanimity nearly brought to a successful issue. The Zwinglian party included the principal towns of south Germany ; but Melanchthon was ready to abandon them as the price of peace for the Lutheran Church. Philip of Hesse, however, had none of the theological narrowness which characterised Luther and
Melanchthon, and, in a less degree, even Zwingli ; he was not so blind as the divines to the political necessities of the situation, and he managed to avert a breach for the time ; it was due to him that Strassburg and Ulm, Nürnberg and Memmingen, and other towns added their weight to the protest against the decree of the Diet. Jacob Sturm of Strassburg and Tetzel of Nürnberg were, indeed, the most zealous champions of the Recess of 1526 during the debates of the Diet ; but their arguments and the mediation of moderate Catholics remained without effect upon the majority. The complaint of the Lutherans that the proposed Recess would tie their hands and open the door to Catholic reaction naturally made no impression, for such was precisely its object. The Catholics saw that their opportunity had come, and they were determined to take at its flood the tide of reaction. The plea that the unanimous decision of 1526 could not be repealed by one party, though plausible enough as logic and in harmony with the particularism of the time, rested upon the unconstitutional assumption that the parties were independent of the Empire's authority ; and it was not reasonable to expect any Diet to countenance so suicidal a theory.
A revolution is necessarily weak in its legal aspect, and must depend on its moral strength ; and to revolution the Lutheran Princes in spite of themselves were now brought. They were driven back on to ground on which any revolution may be based; and a secret understanding to withstand every attack made on them on account of God's Word, whether it proceeded from the Swabian League or the national government, was adopted by Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Strassburg, Ulm, and Nürnberg. We fear the Emperor's ban, wrote one of the party, but we fear still more God's curse ; and God, they proclaimed, must be obeyed before man. This was an appeal to God and to conscience which transcended legal considerations. It was the very essence of the Reformation, though it was often denied by Reformers themselves; and it explains the fact that from the Protest, in which the Lutherans embodied this principle, is derived the name which, for want of a better term, is loosely applied to all the Churches which renounced the obedience of Rome.
A formal Protest against the impending Recess of the Diet had been discussed at Nürnberg in March, and adopted at Speier in April. When, on the 19th, Ferdinand and the other imperial commissioners refused all concessions and confirmed the Acts of the Diet, the Protest was publicly read. The Protestants affirmed that the Diet's decree was not binding on them because they were not consenting parties; they proclaimed their intention to abide by the Recess of 1526, and so to fulfil their religious duties as they could answer for it to God and the Emperor. They demanded that their Protest should be incorporated in the Recess, and on Ferdinand's refusal, they published a few days later an appeal from the Diet to the Emperor, to the next General Council of Christendom, or to a congress of the German nation. The Princes who signed