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Title: A History of Germany
       From the Earliest Times to the Present Day

Author: Bayard Taylor

Release Date: June 21, 2011 [EBook #36484]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by David Garcia, Neil Wyllie, Leonard Johnson and
the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from scanned
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(After a Photograph by J. C. Schaarwächter, Photographer to the Emperor.)







Copyright, 1874, 1893,

Electrotyped and Printed
at the Appleton Press, U. S. A.


When I assented to the request of the publishers that I would edit a new edition of the History of Germany, and write an additional chapter finishing the work down to the present date, I was fully aware of both my own shortcomings and the difficulty of the task. That I undertook it, nevertheless, is because I was strongly tempted to perform what I considered, in my case, an act of piety. Being naturally familiar with the aim and style of this book, I have tried to compile a new chapter in the simple narrative fashion by which the History has commended itself to its readers.

In his "Introductory Words" to the original edition the author says: "The History of Germany is not the history of a nation, but of a race. It has little unity, therefore it is complicated, broken, and attached on all sides to the histories of other countries. In its earlier periods it covers the greater part of Europe, and does not return exclusively to Germany until after France, Spain, England and the Italian States have been founded. Thus, even before the fall of the Roman Empire, it becomes the main trunk out of which branch the histories of nearly all European nations, and must of necessity be studied as the connecting link between ancient and modern history. The records of no other race throw so much light upon the development of all civilized lands during a period of fifteen hundred years.

"My aim has been to present a clear, continuous narrative, omitting no episode of importance, yet preserving a distinct line of connection from century to century. Besides referring to all the best authorities, I have based my labors mainly upon three recent German works—that of Dittmar, as the fullest; of Von Rochau, as the most impartial; and of Dr. David Müller, as the most readable. By constructing an entirely new narrative from these, compressing the material into less than half the space which each occupies, and avoiding the interruptions and changes by which all are characterized, I hope to have made this History convenient and acceptable to our schools."

The book is, indeed, eminently fitted for use in the higher grades of schools. But the scope, comprehensiveness, and style of the work make it in no less a degree inviting and attractive to the general reader.

The material for the preparation of the additional chapter was difficult of access, since the history of the last twenty years is on record chiefly in monographs and in the public press. The best guide I have found is the "Politische Geschichte der Gegenwart," by Prof. Wilhelm Müller. The author of the present book was fortunate in being able to close it with the glorious events of the years 1870 to 1871, and the birth of the new Empire. The additional chapter has no such ending. It deals with the beginning of a new era, and has to state facts, with an eye to their results in the future.

Marie Hansen-Taylor.

New York, 1893.



  1. The ancient Germans and their country. (330 B. C.—70 B. C.)
  2. The wars of Rome with the Germans. (70 B. C.—9 A. D.)
  3. Hermann, the first German leader. (9—21 A. D.)
  4. Germany during the first three centuries of our era. (21—300 A. D.)
  5. The rise and migrations of the Goths. (300—412.)
  6. The invasion of the Huns, and its consequences. (412—472.)
  7. The rise and fall of the Ostrogoths. (472—570.)
  8. Europe, at the end of the migration of the races. (570.)
  9. The kingdom of the Franks. (486—638.)
  10. The dynasty of the royal stewards. (638—768.)
  11. The reign of Charlemagne. (768—814.)
  12. The emperors of the Carolingian line. (814—911.)
  13. King Konrad, and the Saxon rulers, Henry I. and Otto the Great. (912—973.)
  14. The decline of the Saxon dynasty. (973—1024.)
  15. The Frank emperors, to the death of Henry IV. (1024—1106.)
  16. End of the Frank dynasty, and rise of the Hohenstaufens. (1106—1152.)
  17. The reign of Frederick I., Barbarossa. (1152—1197.)
  18. The reign of Frederick II. and end of the Hohenstaufen line. (1215—1268.)
  19. Germany at the time of the interregnum. (1256—1273.)
  20. From Rudolf of Hapsburg To Ludwig the Bavarian. (1273—1347.)
  21. The Luxemburg emperors, Karl IV. and Wenzel. (1347—1410.)
  22. The reign of Sigismund and the Hussite war. (1410—1437.)
  23. The foundation of the Hapsburg dynasty. (1438—1493.)
  24. Germany, during the reign of Maximilian I. (1493—1519.)
  25. The Reformation. (1517—1546.)
  26. From Luther's death to the end of the 16th century. (1546—1600.)
  27. Beginning of the Thirty Years' War. (1600—1625.)
  28. Tilly, Wallenstein and Gustavus Adolphus. (1625—1634.)
  29. End of the Thirty Years' War. (1634—1648.)
  30. Germany, to the peace of Ryswick. (1648—1697.)
  31. The war of the Spanish succession. (1697—1714.)
  32. The rise of Prussia. (1714—1740.)
  33. The reign of Frederick the Great. (1740—1786.)
  34. Germany under Maria Theresa and Joseph II. (1740—1790.)
  35. From the death of Joseph II. to the end of the German Empire. (1790—1806.)
  36. Germany under Napoleon. (1806—1814.)
  37. From the liberation of Germany to the year 1848. (1814—1848.)
  38. The Revolution of 1848 and its results. (1848—1861.)
  39. The struggle with Austria; the North-German union. (1861—1870.)
  40. The war with France, and establishment of the German Empire. (1870—1871.)
  41. The new German Empire. (1871—1893.)
  42.     Chronological Table of German History.





(330 B. C.—70 B. C.)

The Germans form one of the most important branches of the Indo-Germanic or Aryan race—a division of the human family which also includes the Hindoos, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, and the Slavonic tribes. The near relationship of all these, which have become so separated in their habits of life, forms of government and religious faith, in the course of many centuries, has been established by the evidence of common tradition, language, and physiological structure. The original home of the Aryan race appears to have been somewhere among the mountains and lofty table-lands of Central Asia. The word "Arya," meaning the high or the excellent, indicates their superiority over the neighboring races long before the beginning of history.

When and under what circumstances the Aryans left their home, can never be ascertained. Most scholars suppose that there were different migrations, and that each movement westward was accomplished slowly, centuries intervening between their departure from Central Asia and their permanent settlement in Europe. The earliest migration was probably that of the tribes who took possession of[Pg 2] Greece and Italy; who first acquired, and for more than a thousand years maintained, their ascendency over all other branches of their common family; who, in fact, laid the basis for the civilization of the world.

330 B. C.

Before this migration took place, Europe was inhabited by a race of primitive savages, who were not greatly superior to the wild beasts in the vast forests which then covered the continent. They were exterminated at so early a period that all traditions of their existence were lost. Within the last fifty years, however, various relics of this race have been brought to light. Fragments of skulls and skeletons, with knives and arrow-heads of flint, have been found, at a considerable depth, in the gravel-beds of Northern France, or in caves in Germany, together with the bones of animals now extinct, upon which they fed. In the lakes of Switzerland, they built dwellings upon piles, at a little distance from the shore, in order to be more secure against the attacks of wild beasts or hostile tribes. Many remains of these lake-dwellings, with flint implements and fragments of pottery, have recently been discovered. The skulls of the race indicate that they were savages of the lowest type, and different in character from any which now exist on the earth.

The second migration of the Aryan race is supposed to have been that of the Celtic tribes, who took a more northerly course, by way of the steppes of the Volga and the Don, and gradually obtained possession of all Central and Western Europe, including the British Isles. Their advance was only stopped by the ocean, and the tribe which first appears in history, the Gauls, was at that time beginning to move eastward again, in search of new fields of plunder. It is impossible to ascertain whether the German tribes immediately followed the Celts, and took possession of the territory which they vacated in pushing westward, or whether they formed a third migration, at a later date. We only know the order in which they were settled when our first historical knowledge of them begins.

In the fourth century before the Christian Era, all Europe west of the Rhine, and as far south as the Po, was Celtic; between the Rhine and the Vistula, including Denmark and southern Sweden, the tribes were Germanic; while the Slavonic branch seems to have already made its appearance in what is now Southern Russia. Each of these three branches of the Aryan race was divided into many smaller tribes, some[Pg 3] of which, left behind in the march from Asia, or separated by internal wars, formed little communities, like islands, in the midst of territory belonging to other branches of the race. The boundaries, also, were never very distinctly drawn: the tribes were restless and nomadic, not yet attached to the soil, and many of them moved through or across each other, so that some were constantly disappearing, and others forming under new names.


The Romans first heard the name "Germans" from the Celtic Gauls, in whose language it meant simply neighbors. The first notice of a Germanic tribe was given to the world by the Greek navigator Pytheas, who made a voyage to the Baltic in the year 330 B. C. Beyond the amber-coast, eastward of the mouth of the Vistula, he found the Goths, of whom we hear nothing more until they appear, several centuries later, on the northern shore of the Black Sea. For more than two hundred years there is no further mention of the Germanic races; then, most unexpectedly, the Romans were called upon to make their personal acquaintance.

In the year 113 B. C. a tremendous horde of strangers forced its way through the Tyrolese Alps and invaded the Roman territory. They numbered several hundred thousand, and brought with them their wives, children and all their movable property. They were composed of two great tribes, the Cimbrians and Teutons, accompanied by some minor allies, Celtic as well as Germanic. Their statement was that they were driven from their homes on the northern ocean by the inroads of the waves, and they demanded territory for settlement, or, at least, the right to pass the Roman frontier. The Consul, Papirius Carbo, collected an army and endeavored to resist their advance; but he was defeated by them in a battle fought near Noreia, between the Adriatic and the Alps.

The terror occasioned by this defeat reached even Rome. The "barbarians," as they were called, were men of large stature, of astonishing bodily strength, with yellow hair and fierce blue eyes. They wore breastplates of iron and helmets crowned with the heads of wild beasts, and carried white shields which shone in the sunshine. They first hurled double-headed spears in battle, but at close quarters fought with short and heavy swords. The women encouraged them with cries and war-songs, and seemed no less fierce and[Pg 4] courageous than the men. They had also priestesses, clad in white linen, who delivered prophecies and slaughtered human victims upon the altars of their gods.

102 B. C.

Instead of moving towards Rome, the Cimbrians and Teutons marched westward along the foot of the Alps, crossed into Gaul, devastated the country between the Rhone and the Pyrenees, and even obtained temporary possession of part of Spain. Having thus plundered at will for ten years, they retraced their steps and prepared to invade Italy a second time. The celebrated Consul, Marius, who was sent against them, found their forces divided, in order to cross the Alps by two different roads. He first attacked the Teutons, two hundred thousand in number, at Aix, in southern France, and almost exterminated them in the year 102 B. C. Transferring his army across the Alps, in the following year he met the Cimbrians at Vercelli, in Piedmont (not far from the field of Magenta). They were drawn up in a square, the sides of which were nearly three miles long: in the centre their wagons, collected together, formed a fortress for the women and children. But the Roman legions broke the Cimbrian square, and obtained a complete victory. The women, seeing that all was lost, slew their children, and then themselves; but a few thousand prisoners were made—among them Teutoboch, the prince of the Teutons, who had escaped from the slaughter at Aix,—to figure in the triumph accorded to Marius by the Roman Senate. This was the only appearance of the German tribes in Italy, until the decline of the Empire, five hundred years later.

The Roman conquests, which now began to extend northwards into the heart of Europe, soon brought the two races into collision again, but upon German or Celtic soil. From the earliest reports, as well as the later movements of the tribes, we are able to ascertain the probable order of their settlement, though not the exact boundaries of each. The territory which they occupied was almost the same as that which now belongs to the German States. The Rhine divided them from the Gauls, except towards its mouth, where the Germanic tribes occupied part of Belgium. A line drawn from the Vistula southward to the Danube nearly represents their eastern boundary, while, up to this time, they do not appear to have crossed the Danube on the south. The district between that river and the Alps, now[Pg 5] Bavaria and Styria, was occupied by Celtic tribes. Northwards they had made some advance into Sweden, and probably also into Norway. They thus occupied nearly all of Central Europe, north of the Alpine chain.


At the time of their first contact with the Romans, these Germanic tribes had lost even the tradition of their Asiatic origin. They supposed themselves to have originated upon the soil where they dwelt, sprung either from the earth, or descended from their gods. According to the most popular legend, the war-god Tuisko, or Tiu, had a son, Mannus (whence the word man is derived), who was the first human parent of the German race. Many centuries must have elapsed since their first settlement in Europe, or they could not have so completely changed the forms of their religion and their traditional history.

Two or three small tribes are represented, in the earliest Roman accounts, as having crossed the Rhine and settled between the Vosges and that river, from Strasburg to Mayence. From the latter point to Cologne none are mentioned, whence it is conjectured that the western bank of the Rhine was here a debatable ground, possessed sometimes by the Celts and sometimes by the Germans. The greater part of Belgium was occupied by the Eburones and Condrusii, Germanic tribes, to whom were afterwards added the Aduatuci, formed out of the fragments of the Cimbrians and Teutons who escaped the slaughters of Marius. At the mouth of the Rhine dwelt the Batavi, the forefathers of the Dutch, and, like them, reported to be strong, phlegmatic and stubborn, in the time of Cæsar. A little eastward, on the shore of the North Sea, dwelt the Frisii, where they still dwell, in the province of Friesland; and beyond them, about the mouth of the Weser, the Chauci, a kindred tribe.

What is now Westphalia was inhabited by the Sicambrians, a brave and warlike people: the Marsi and Ampsivarii were beyond them, towards the Hartz, and south of the latter the Ubii, once a powerful tribe, but in Cæsar's time weak and submissive. From the Weser to the Elbe, in the north, was the land of the Cherusci; south of them the equally fierce and indomitable Chatti, the ancestors of the modern Hessians; and still further south, along the head-waters of the river Main, the Marcomanni. A part of what is now Saxony was in the possession of the Hermunduri, who together with their kindred, the Chatti, were called[Pg 6] Suevi by the Romans. Northward, towards the mouth of the Elbe, dwelt the Longobardi (Lombards); beyond them, in Holstein, the Saxons; and north of the latter, in Schleswig, the Angles.

East of the Elbe were the Semnones, who were guardians of a certain holy place,—a grove of the Druids—where various related tribes came for their religious festivals. North of the Semnones dwelt the Vandals, and along the Baltic coast the Rugii, who have left their name in the island of Rügen. Between these and the Vistula were the Burgundiones, with a few smaller tribes. In the extreme north-east, between the Vistula and the point where the city of Königsberg now stands, was the home of the Goths, south of whom were settled the Slavonic Sarmatians,—the same who founded, long afterwards, the kingdom of Poland.

Bohemia was first settled by the Celtic tribe of the Boii, whence its name—Boiheim, the home of the Boii—is derived. In Cæsar's day, however, this tribe had been driven out by the Germanic Marcomanni, whose neighbors, the Quadi, on the Danube, were also German. Beyond the Danube all was Celtic; the defeated Boii occupied Austria; the Vindelici, Bavaria; while the Noric and Rhætian Celts took possession of the Tyrolese Alps. Switzerland was inhabited by the Helvetii, a Celtic tribe which had been driven out of Germany; but the mountainous district between the Rhine, the Lake of Constance and the Danube, now called the Black Forest, seems to have had no permanent owners.

The greater part of Germany was thus in possession of Germanic tribes, bound to each other by blood, by their common religion and their habits of life. At this early period, their virtues and their vices were strongly marked. They were not savages, for they knew the first necessary arts of civilized life, and they had a fixed social and political organization. The greater part of the territory which they inhabited was still a wilderness. The mountain chain which extends through Central Germany from the Main to the Elbe was called by the Romans the Hercynian Forest. It was then a wild, savage region, the home of the aurox (a race of wild cattle), the bear and the elk. The lower lands to the northward of this forest were also thickly wooded and marshy, with open pastures here and there, where the tribes settled in small communities, kept their cattle, and cultivated the[Pg 7] soil only enough to supply the needs of life. They made rough roads of communication, which could be traversed by their wagons, and the frontiers of each tribe were usually marked by guard-houses, where all strangers were detained until they received permission to enter the territory.


At this early period, the Germans had no cities, or even villages. Their places of worship, which were either groves of venerable oak-trees or the tops of mountains, were often fortified; and when attacked in the open country, they made a temporary defence of their wagons. They lived in log-houses, which were surrounded by stockades spacious enough to contain the cattle and horses belonging to the family. A few fields of rye and barley furnished each homestead with bread and beer, but hunting and fishing were their chief dependence. The women cultivated flax, from which they made a coarse, strong linen: the men clothed themselves with furs or leather. They were acquainted with the smelting and working of iron, but valued gold and silver only for the sake of ornament. They were fond of bright colors, of poetry and song, and were in the highest degree hospitable.

The three principal vices of the Germans were indolence, drunkenness and love of gaming. Although always ready for the toils and dangers of war, they disliked to work at home. When the men assembled at night, and the great ox-horns, filled with mead or beer, were passed from one to the other, they rarely ceased drinking until all were intoxicated; and when the passion for gaming came upon them, they would often stake their dearest possessions, even their own freedom, on a throw of the dice. The women were never present on these occasions: they ruled and regulated their households with undisputed sway. They were considered the equals of the men, and exhibited no less energy and courage. They were supposed to possess the gift of prophecy, and always accompanied the men to battle, where they took care of the wounded, and stimulated the warriors by their shouts and songs.

They honored the institution of marriage to an extent beyond that exhibited by any other people of the ancient world. The ceremony consisted in the man giving a horse, or a yoke of oxen, to the woman, who gave him arms or armor in return. Those who proved unfaithful to the marriage vow were punished with death. The children of freemen and[Pg 8] slaves grew up together until the former were old enough to carry arms, when they were separated. The slaves were divided into two classes: those who lived under the protection of a freeman and were obliged to perform for him a certain amount of labor, and those who were wholly "chattels," bought and sold at will.

Each family had its own strictly regulated laws, which were sufficient for the government of its free members, its retainers and slaves. A number of these families formed "a district," which was generally laid out according to natural boundaries, such as streams or hills. In some tribes, however, the families were united in "hundreds," instead of districts. Each of these managed its own affairs, as a little republic, wherein each freeman had an equal voice; yet to each belonged a leader, who was called "count" or "duke." All the districts of a tribe met together in a "General Assembly of the People," which was always held at the time of new or full moon. The chief priest of the tribe presided, and each man present had the right to vote. Here questions of peace or war, violations of right or disputes between the districts were decided, criminals were tried, young men acknowledged as freemen and warriors, and, in case of approaching war, a leader chosen by the people. Alliances between the tribes, for the sake of mutual defence or invasion, were not common, at first; but the necessity of them was soon forced upon the Germans by the encroachments of Rome.

The gods which they worshipped represented the powers of Nature. Their mythology was the same originally which the Scandinavians preserved, in a slightly different form, until the tenth century of our era. The chief deity was named Wodan, or Odin, the god of the sky, whose worship was really that of the sun. His son, Donar, or Thunder, with his fiery beard and huge hammer, is the Thor of the Scandinavians. The god of war, Tiu or Tyr, was supposed to have been born from the Earth, and thus became the ancestor of the Germanic tribes. There was also a goddess of the earth, Hertha, who was worshipped with secret and mysterious rites. The people had their religious festivals, at stated seasons, when sacrifices, sometimes of human beings, were laid upon the altars of the gods, in the sacred groves. Even after they became Christians, in the eighth century, they retained their habit of celebrating some of[Pg 9] these festivals, but changed them into the Christian anniversaries of Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide.


Thus, from all we can learn respecting them, we may say that the Germans, during the first century before Christ, were fully prepared, by their habits, laws, and their moral development, for a higher civilization. They were still restless, after so many centuries of wandering; they were fierce and fond of war, as a natural consequence of their struggles with the neighboring races; but they had already acquired a love for the wild land where they dwelt, they had begun to cultivate the soil, they had purified and hallowed the family relation, which is the basis of all good government, and finally, although slavery existed among them, they had established equal rights for free men.

If the object of Rome had been civilization, instead of conquest and plunder, the development of the Germans might have commenced much earlier and produced very different results.



(70 B. C.—9 A. D.)

70 B. C.

After the destruction of the Teutons and Cimbrians by Marius, more than forty years elapsed before the Romans again came in contact with any German tribe. During this time the Roman dominion over the greater part of Gaul was firmly established by Julius Cæsar, and in losing their independence, the Celts began to lose, also, their original habits and character. They and the Germans had never been very peaceable neighbors, and the possession of the western bank of the Rhine seems to have been, even at that early day, a subject of contention between them.

About the year 70 B. C. two Gallic tribes, the Ædui in Burgundy and the Arverni in Central France, began a struggle for the supremacy in that part of Gaul. The allies of the latter, the Sequani, called to their assistance a chief of the German Suevi, whose name, as we have it through Cæsar, was Ariovistus. With a force of 15,000 men, he joined the Arverni and the Sequani, and defeated the Ædui in several battles. After the complete overthrow of the latter, he haughtily demanded as a recompense one-third of the territory of the Sequani. His strength had meanwhile been increased by new accessions from the German side of the Rhine, and the Sequani were obliged to yield. His followers settled in the new territory: in the course of about[Pg 12] fourteen years, they amounted to 120,000, and Ariovistus felt himself strong enough to demand another third of the lands of the Sequani.




Southern France was then a Roman province, governed by Julius Cæsar. In the year 57 B. C. ambassadors from the principal tribes of Eastern Gaul appeared before him and implored his assistance against the inroads of the Suevi. It was an opportunity which he immediately seized, in order to bring the remaining Gallic tribes under the sway of Rome. He first sent a summons to Ariovistus to appear before him, but the haughty German chief answered: "When I need Cæsar, I shall come to Cæsar. If Cæsar needs me, let him seek me. What business has he in my Gaul, which I have acquired in war?"

On receiving this answer, Cæsar marched immediately with his legions into the land of the Sequani, and succeeded in reaching their capitol, Vesontio (the modern Besançon), before the enemy. It was then a fortified place, and its possession gave Cæsar an important advantage at the start. While his legions were resting there for a few days, before beginning the march against the Suevi, the Gallic and Roman merchants and traders circulated the most frightful accounts of the strength and fierceness of the latter through the Roman camp. They reported that the German barbarians were men of giant size and more than human strength, whose faces were so terrible that the glances of their eyes could not be endured. Very soon numbers of the Roman officers demanded leave of absence, and even the few who were ashamed to take this step lost all courage. The soldiers became so demoralized that many of them declared openly that they would refuse to fight, if commanded to do so.

In this emergency, Cæsar showed his genius as a leader of men. He called a large number of soldiers and officers of all grades together, and addressed them in strong words, pointing out their superior military discipline, ridiculing the terrible stories in circulation, and sharply censuring them for their insubordination. He concluded by declaring that if the army should refuse to march, he would start the next morning with only the tenth legion, upon the courage and obedience of which he could rely. This speech produced an immediate effect. The tenth legion solemnly thanked Cæsar for his confidence in its men and officers, the other legions,[Pg 13] one after the other, declared their readiness to follow, and the whole army left Vesontio the very next morning. After a rapid march of seven days, Cæsar found himself within a short distance of the fortified camp of Ariovistus.


The German chief now agreed to an interview, and the two leaders met, half-way between the two armies, on the plain of the Rhine. The place is supposed to have been a little to the northward of Basel. Neither Cæsar nor Ariovistus would yield to the demands of the other, and as the cavalry of their armies began skirmishing, the interview was broken off. For several days in succession the Romans offered battle, but the Suevi refused to leave their strong position. This hesitation seemed remarkable, until it was explained by some prisoners, captured in a skirmish, who stated that the German priestesses had prophesied misfortune to Ariovistus, if he should fight before the new moon.

Cæsar, thereupon, determined to attack the German camp without delay. The meeting of the two armies was fierce, and the soldiers were soon fighting hand to hand. On each side one wing gave way, but the greater quickness and superior military skill of the Romans enabled them to recover sooner than the enemy. The day ended with the entire defeat of the Suevi, and the flight of the few who escaped across the Rhine. They did not attempt to reconquer their lost territory, and the three small German tribes, who had long been settled between the Rhine and the Vosges (in what is now Alsatia), became subject to Roman rule.

Two years afterwards, Cæsar, who was engaged in subjugating the Belgæ, in Northern Gaul, learned that two other German tribes, the Usipetes and Tencteres, who had been driven from their homes by the Suevi, had crossed the Rhine below where Cologne now stands. They numbered 400,000, and the Northern Gauls, instead of regarding them as invaders, were inclined to welcome them as allies against Rome, the common enemy. Cæsar knew that if they remained, a revolt of the Gauls against his rule would be the consequence. He therefore hastened to meet them, got possession of their principal chiefs by treachery, and then attacked their camp between the Meuse and the Rhine. The Germans were defeated, and nearly all their foot-soldiers slaughtered, but the cavalry succeeded in crossing the river, where they were welcomed by the Sicambrians.

Then it was that Cæsar built his famous wooden bridge[Pg 14] across the Rhine, not far from the site of Cologne, although the precise point can not now be ascertained. He crossed with his army into Westphalia, but the tribes he sought retreated into the great forests to the eastward, where he was unable to pursue them. He contented himself with burning their houses and gathering their ripened harvests for eighteen days, when he returned to the other side and destroyed the bridge behind him. From this time, Rome claimed the sovereignty of the western bank of the Rhine to its mouth.

53 B. C.

While Cæsar was in Britain, in the year 53 B. C., the newly subjugated Celtic and German tribes which inhabited Belgium rose in open revolt against the Roman rule. The rapidity of Cæsar's return arrested their temporary success, but some of the German tribes to the eastward of the Rhine had already promised to aid them. In order to secure his conquests, the Roman general determined to cross the Rhine again, and intimidate, if not subdue, his dangerous neighbors. He built a second bridge, near the place where the first had been, and crossed with his army. But, as before, the Suevi and Sicambrians drew back among the forest-covered hills along the Weser river, and only the small and peaceful tribe of the Ubii remained in their homes. The latter offered their submission to Cæsar, and agreed to furnish him with news of the movements of their warlike countrymen, in return for his protection.

When another revolt of the Celtic Gauls took place, the following year, German mercenaries, enlisted among the Ubii, fought on the Roman side and took an important part in the decisive battle which gave Vercingetorix, the last chief of the Gauls, into Cæsar's hands. He was beheaded, and from that time the Gauls made no further effort to throw off the Roman yoke. They accepted the civil and military organization, the dress and habits, and finally the language and religion of their conquerors. The small German tribes in Alsatia and Belgium shared the same fate: their territory was divided into two provinces, called Upper and Lower Germania by the Romans. The vast region inhabited by the independent tribes, lying between the Rhine, the Vistula, the North Sea and the Danube, was thenceforth named Germania Magna, or "Great Germany."

Cæsar's renown among the Germans, and probably also his skill in dealing with them, was so great, that when he[Pg 15] left Gaul to return to Rome, he took with him a German legion of 6,000 men, which afterwards fought on his side against Pompey, on the battle-field of Pharsalia. The Roman agents penetrated into the interior of the country, and enlisted a great many of the free Germans who were tempted by the prospect of good pay and booty. Even the younger sons of the chiefs entered the Roman army, for the sake of a better military education.


No movement of any consequence took place for more than twenty years after Cæsar's last departure from the banks of the Rhine. The Romans, having secured their possession of Gaul, now turned their attention to the subjugation of the Celtic tribes inhabiting the Alps and the lowlands south of the Danube, from the Lake of Constance to Vienna. This work had also been begun by Cæsar: it was continued by the Emperor Augustus, whose step-sons, Tiberius and Drusus, finally overcame the desperate resistance of the native tribes. In the year 15 B. C. the Danube became the boundary between Rome and Germany on the south, as the Rhine already was on the west. The Roman provinces of Rhætia, Noricum and Pannonia were formed out of the conquered territory.

Augustus now sent Drusus, with a large army, to the Rhine, instructing him to undertake a campaign against the independent German tribes. It does not appear that the latter had given any recent occasion for this hostile movement: the Emperor's design was probably to extend the dominions of Rome to the North Sea and the Baltic. Drusus built a large fleet on the Rhine, descended that river nearly to its mouth, cut a canal for his vessels to a lake which is now the Zuyder Zee, and thus entered the North Sea. It was a bold undertaking, but did not succeed. He reached the mouth of the river Ems with his fleet, when the weather became so tempestuous that he was obliged to return.

The next year, 11 B. C., he made an expedition into the land of the Sicambrians, during which his situation was often hazardous; but he succeeded in penetrating rather more than a hundred miles to the eastward of the Rhine, and establishing—not far from where the city of Paderborn now stands—a fortress called Aliso, which became a base for later operations against the German tribes. He next set about building a series of fortresses, fifty in number, along the western[Pg 16] bank of the Rhine. Around the most important of these, towns immediately sprang up, and thus were laid the foundations of the cities of Strasburg, Mayence, Coblenz, Cologne, and many smaller places.

9 B. C.

In the year 9 B. C. Drusus marched again into Germany. He defeated the Chatti in several bloody battles, crossed the passes of the Thuringian Forest, and forced his way through the land of the Cherusci (the Hartz region) to the Elbe. The legend says that he there encountered a German prophetess, who threatened him with coming evil, whereupon he turned about and retraced his way towards the Rhine. He died, however, during the march, and his dejected army had great difficulty in reaching the safe line of their fortresses.

Tiberius succeeded to the command left vacant by the death of his brother Drusus. Less daring, but of a more cautious and scheming nature, he began by taking possession of the land of the Sicambrians and colonizing a part of the tribe on the west bank of the Rhine. He then gradually extended his power, and in the course of two years brought nearly the whole country between the Rhine and Weser under the rule of Rome. His successor, Domitius Ænobarbus, built military roads through Westphalia and the low, marshy plains towards the sea. These roads, which were called "long bridges," were probably made of logs, like the "corduroy" roads of our Western States, but they were of great service during the later Roman campaigns.

After the lapse of ten years, however, the subjugated tribes between the Rhine and the Weser rose in revolt. The struggle lasted for three years more, without being decided; and then Augustus sent Tiberius a second time to Germany. The latter was as successful as at first: he crushed some of the rebellious tribes, accepted the submission of others, and, supported by a fleet which reached the Elbe and ascended that river to meet him, secured, as he supposed, the sway of Rome over nearly the whole of Germania Magna. This was in the fifth year of the Christian Era. Of the German tribes who still remained independent, there were the Semnones, Saxons and Angles, east of the Elbe, and the Burgundians, Vandals and Goths along the shore of the Baltic, together with one powerful tribe in Bohemia. The latter, the Marcomanni, who seem to have left their original home in Baden and Würtemberg on account of the approach of the Romans, now felt that their independence was a second[Pg 17] time seriously threatened. Their first measure of defence, therefore, was to strengthen themselves by alliances with kindred tribes.


The chief of the Marcomanni, named Marbod, was a man of unusual capacity and energy. It seems that he was educated as a Roman, but under what circumstances is not stated. This rendered him a more dangerous enemy, though it also made him an object of suspicion, and perhaps jealousy, to the other German chieftains. Nevertheless, he succeeded in uniting nearly all the independent tribes east of the Elbe under his command, and in organizing a standing army of 70,000 foot and 4,000 horse, which, disciplined like the Roman legions, might be considered a match for an equal number. His success created so much anxiety in Rome, that in the next year after Tiberius returned from his successes in Germany, Augustus determined to send a force of twelve legions against Marbod. Precisely at this time, a great insurrection broke out in Dalmatia and Pannonia, and when it was suppressed, after a struggle of three years, the Romans found it prudent to offer peace to Marbod, and he to accept it.

By this time, the territory between the Rhine and the Weser had been fifteen years, and that between the Weser and the Elbe four years, under Roman government. The tribes inhabiting the first of these two regions had been much weakened, both by the part some of them had taken in the Gallic insurrections, and by the revolt of all against Rome, during the first three or four years of the Christian Era. But those who inhabited the region between the Weser and the Elbe, the chief of whom were the Cherusci, were still powerful, and unsubdued in spirit.

While Augustus was occupied in putting down the insurrection in Dalmatia and Pannonia, with a prospect, as it seemed, of having to fight the Marcomanni afterwards, his representative in Germany was Quinctilius Varus, a man of despotic and relentless character. Tiberius, in spite of his later vices as Emperor, was prudent and conciliatory in his conquests; but Varus soon turned the respect of the Germans for the Roman power into the fiercest hate. He applied, in a more brutal form, the same measures which had been forced upon the Gauls. He overturned, at one blow, all the native forms of law, introduced heavy taxes, which were collected by force, punished with shameful death crimes which the people considered trivial, and decided all[Pg 18] matters in Roman courts and in a language which was not yet understood.

8 B. C.

This violent and reckless policy, which Varus enforced with a hand of iron, produced an effect the reverse of what he anticipated. The German tribes with hardly an exception, determined to make another effort to regain their independence; but they had been taught wisdom by seventy years of conflict with the Roman power. Up to this time, each tribe had acted for itself, without concert with its neighbors. They saw, now, that no single tribe could cope successfully with Rome: it was necessary that all should be united as one people: and they only waited until such a union could be secretly established, before rising to throw off the unendurable yoke which Varus had laid upon them.



(9—21 A. D.)


The Cherusci, who inhabited a part of the land between the Weser and the Elbe, including the Hartz Mountains, were the most powerful of the tribes conquered by Tiberius. They had no permanent class of nobles, as none of the early Germans seem to have had, but certain families were distinguished for their abilities and their character, or the services which they had rendered to their people in war. The head of one of these Cheruscan families was Segimar, one of whose sons was named Hermann. The latter entered the Roman service as a youth, distinguished himself by his military talent, was made a Roman knight, and commanded one of the legions which were employed by Augustus in suppressing the great insurrection of the Dalmatians and Pannonians. It seems probable that he visited Rome at the period of its highest power and splendor: it is certain, at least, that he comprehended the political system by means of which the Empire had become so great.

When Hermann returned to his people, he was a man of twenty-five and already an experienced commander. He is described by the Latin writers as a chief of fine personal presence, great strength, an animated countenance and bright eyes. He was always self-possessed, quick in action, yet never rash or heedless. He found the Cherusci and all the neighboring tribes filled with hate of the Roman rule[Pg 20] and burning to revenge the injuries they had suffered. His first movement was to organize a secret conspiracy among the tribes, which could be called into action as soon as a fortunate opportunity should arrive. Varus was then—A. D. 9—encamped near the Weser, in the land of the Saxons, with an army of 40,000 men, the best of the Roman legions. Hermann was still in the Roman service, and held a command under him. But among the other Germans in the Roman camp was Segestes, a chief of the Cherusci, whose daughter, Thusnelda, Hermann had stolen away from him and married. Thusnelda was afterwards celebrated in the German legends as a high-hearted, patriotic woman, who was devotedly attached to Hermann: but her father, Segestes, became his bitterest enemy.

9 A. D.

In engaging the different tribes to unite, Hermann had great difficulties to overcome. They were not only jealous of each other, remembering ancient quarrels between themselves, but many families in each tribe were disposed to submit to Rome, being either hopeless of succeeding or tempted by the chance of office and wealth under the Roman Government. Hermann's own brother, Flavus, had become, and always remained, a Roman; other members of his family were opposed to his undertaking, and it seems that only his mother and his wife encouraged him with their sympathy. Nevertheless, he formed his plans with as much skill as boldness, while serving in the army of Varus and liable to be betrayed at any moment. In fact he was betrayed by his father-in-law, Segestes, who became acquainted with the fact of a conspiracy and communicated the news to the Roman general. But Varus, haughty and self-confident, laughed at the story.

It was time to act; and, as no opportunity came Hermann created one. He caused messengers to come to Varus, declaring that a dangerous insurrection had broken out in the lands between him and the Rhine. This was in the month of September, and Varus, believing the reports, broke up his camp and set out to suppress the insurrection before the winter. His nearest way led through the wooded, mountainous country along the Weser, which is now called the Teutoburger Forest. According to one account, Hermann was left behind to collect the auxiliary German troops, and then, with them, rejoin his general. It is certain that he remained, and instantly sent his messengers to all the[Pg 21] tribes engaged in the conspiracy, whose warriors came to him with all speed. In a few days he had an army probably equal in numbers to that of Varus. In the meantime the season had changed: violent autumn storms burst over the land, and the Romans slowly advanced through the forests and mountain-passes, in the wind and rain.


Hermann knew the ground and was able to choose the best point of attack. With his army, hastily organized, he burst upon the legions of Varus, who resisted him, the first day, with their accustomed valor. But the attack was renewed the second day, and the endurance of the Roman troops began to give way: they held their ground with difficulty, but exerted themselves to the utmost, for there was now only one mountain ridge to be passed. Beyond it lay the broad plains of Westphalia, with fortresses and military roads, where they had better chances of defence. When the third day dawned, the storm was fiercer than ever. The Roman army crossed the summit of the last ridge and saw the securer plains before them. They commenced descending the long slope, but, just as they reached three steep, wooded ravines which were still to be traversed, the Germans swept down upon them from the summits, like a torrent, with shouts and far-sounding songs of battle.

A complete panic seized the exhausted and disheartened Roman troops, and the fight soon became a slaughter. Varus, wounded, threw himself upon his sword: the wooded passes, below, were occupied in advance by the Germans, and hardly enough escaped to carry the news of the terrible defeat to the Roman frontier on the Rhine. Those who escaped death were sacrificed upon the altars of the gods, and the fiercest revenge was visited upon the Roman judges, lawyers and civil officers, who had trampled upon all the hallowed laws and customs of the people. The news of this great German victory reached Rome in the midst of the rejoicings over the suppression of the insurrection in Dalmatia and Pannonia, and turned the triumph into mourning. The aged Augustus feared the overthrow of his power. He was unable to comprehend such a sudden and terrible disaster: he let his hair and beard grow for months, as a sign of his trouble, and was often heard to cry aloud: "O, Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!"

The location of the battle-field where Hermann defeated Varus has been preserved by tradition. The long southern[Pg 22] slope of the mountain, near Detmold, now bare, but surrounded by forests, is called to this day the Winfield. Around the summit of the mountain there is a ring of huge stones, showing that it was originally consecrated to the worship of the ancient pagan deities. Here a pedestal of granite, in the form of a temple, has been built, and upon it has been placed a colossal statue of Hermann in bronze, 90 feet high, and visible at a distance of fifty miles.

14 A. D.

Hermann's deeds were afterwards celebrated in the songs of his people, as they have been in modern German literature; but, like many other great men, the best results of his victory were cast away by the people whom he had liberated. It was now possible to organize into a nation the tribes which had united to overthrow the Romans, and such seems to have been his intention. He sent the head of Varus to Marbod, Chief of the Marcomanni, whose power he had secured by carrying out his original design; but he failed to secure the friendship, or even the neutrality, of the rival leader. At home his own family—bitterest among them all his father-in-law, Segestes—opposed his plans, and the Cherusci were soon divided into two parties,—that of the people, headed by Hermann, and that of the nobility, headed by Segestes.

When Tiberius, therefore, hastily collected a new army and marched into Germany the following year, he encountered no serious opposition. The union of the tribes had been dissolved, and each avoided an encounter with the Romans. The country was apparently subjugated for the second time. The Emperor Augustus died, A. D. 14: Tiberius succeeded to the purple, and the command in Germany then devolved upon his nephew, Germanicus, the son of Drusus.

The new commander, however, was detained in Gaul by insubordination in the army and signs of a revolt among the people, following the death of Augustus, and he did not reach Germany until six years after the defeat of Varus. His march was sudden and swift, and took the people by surprise, for the apparent indifference of Rome had made them careless. The Marsi were all assembled at one of their religious festivals, unprepared for defence, in a consecrated pine forest, when Germanicus fell upon them and slaughtered the greater number, after which he destroyed the sacred trees. The news of this outrage roused the sluggish spirit of all the[Pg 23] neighboring tribes: they gathered together in such numbers that Germanicus had much difficulty in fighting his way back to the Rhine.


Hermann succeeded in escaping from his father-in-law, by whom he had been captured and imprisoned, and began to form a new union of the tribes. His first design was to release his wife, Thusnelda, from the hands of Segestes, and then destroy the authority of the latter, who was the head of the faction friendly to Rome. Germanicus re-entered Germany the following summer, A. D. 15, with a powerful army, and to him Segestes appealed for help against his own countrymen. The Romans marched at once into the land of the Cherusci. After a few days they reached the scene of the defeat of Varus, and there they halted to bury the thousands of skeletons which lay wasting on the mountainside. Then they met Segestes, who gave up his own daughter, Thusnelda, to Germanicus, as a captive.

The loss of his wife roused Hermann to fury. He went hither and thither among the tribes, stirring the hearts of all with his fiery addresses. Germanicus soon perceived that a storm was gathering, and prepared to meet it. He divided his army into two parts, one of which was commanded by Cæcina, and built a large fleet which transported one-half of his troops by sea and up the Weser. After joining Cæcina, he marched into the Teutoburger Forest. Hermann met him near the scene of his great victory over Varus, and a fierce battle was fought. According to the Romans, neither side obtained any advantage over the other; but Germanicus, with half the army, fell back upon his fleet and returned to the Rhine by way of the North Sea.

Cæcina, with the remnant of his four legions, also retreated across the country, pursued by Hermann. In the dark forests and on the marshy plains they were exposed to constant assaults, and were obliged to fight every step of the way. Finally, in a marshy valley, the site of which cannot be discovered, the Germans suddenly attacked the Romans on all sides. Hermann cried out to his soldiers: "It shall be another day of Varus!" the songs of the women prophesied triumph, and the Romans were filled with forebodings of defeat. They fought desperately, but were forced to yield, and Hermann's words would have been made truth, had not the Germans ceased fighting in order to plunder the camp of their enemies. The latter were thus able to cut their way[Pg 24] out of the valley and hastily fortify themselves for the night on an adjoining plain.

15 A. D.

The German chiefs held a council of war, and decided, against the remonstrances of Hermann, to renew the attack at daybreak. This was precisely what Cæcina expected; he knew what fate awaited them all if he should fail, and arranged his weakened forces to meet the assault. They fought with such desperation that the Germans were defeated, and Cæcina was enabled, by forced marches, to reach the Rhine, whither the rumor of the entire destruction of his army had preceded him. The voyage of Germanicus was also unfortunate: he encountered a violent storm on the coast of Holland, and two of his legions barely escaped destruction. He had nothing to show, as the result of his campaign, except his captive Thusnelda and her son, who walked behind his triumphal chariot, in Rome, three years afterwards, and never again saw their native land; and his ally, the traitor Segestes, who ended his contemptible life somewhere in Gaul, under Roman protection.

Germanicus, nevertheless, determined not to rest until he had completed the subjugation of the country as far as the Elbe. By employing all the means at his command he raised a new army of eight legions, with a great body of cavalry, and a number of auxiliary troops, formed of Gauls, Rhætians, and even of Germans. He collected a fleet of more than a thousand vessels, and transported his army to the mouth of the Ems, where he landed and commenced the campaign. The Chauci, living near the sea, submitted at once, and some of the neighboring tribes were disposed to follow their example; but Hermann, with a large force of the united Germans, waited for the Romans among the mountains of the Weser. Germanicus entered the mountains by a gorge, near where the city of Minden now stands, and the two armies faced each other, separated only by the river. The legends state that Hermann and his brother Flavus, who was still in the service of Germanicus, held an angry conversation from the opposite shores, and the latter became so exasperated that he endeavored to cross on horseback and attack Hermann.

Germanicus first sent his cavalry across the Weser, and then built a bridge, over which his whole army crossed. The Romans and Germans then met in battle, upon a narrow place between the river and some wooded hills, called the[Pg 25] Meadow of the Elves. The fight was long and bloody: Hermann himself, severely wounded, was at one time almost in the hands of the Romans. It is said that his face was so covered with blood that he was only recognized by some of the German soldiers on the Roman side, who purposely allowed him to escape. The superior military skill of Germanicus, and the discipline of his troops, won the day: the Germans retreated, beaten but not yet subdued.


In a short time the latter were so far recruited that they brought on a second battle. On account of his wounds, Hermann was unable to command in person, but his uncle, Ingiomar, who took his place, imitated his boldness and bravery. The fight was even more fierce than the first had been, and the Romans, at one time, were only prevented from giving way by Germanicus placing himself at their head, in the thick of the battle. It appears that both sides held their ground at the close, and their losses were probably equally great, so that neither was in a condition to continue the struggle.

Germanicus erected a monument on the banks of the Weser, claiming that he had conquered Germany to the Elbe; but before the end of the summer of the year 16 he re-embarked with his army, without leaving any tokens of Roman authority behind him. A terrible storm on the North Sea so scattered his fleet that many vessels were driven to the English coast: his own ship was in such danger that he landed among the Chauci and returned across the country to the Rhine. The autumn was far advanced before the scattered remnants of his great army could be collected and reorganized: then, in spite of the lateness of the season, he made a new invasion into the lands of the Chatti, or Hessians, in order to show that he was still powerful.

Germanicus was a man of great ambition and of astonishing energy. As Julius Cæsar had made Gaul Roman, so he determined to make Germany Roman. He began his preparations for another expedition the following summer; but the Emperor Tiberius, jealous of his increasing renown, recalled him to Rome, saying that it was better to let the German tribes exhaust themselves in their own internal discords, than to waste so many of the best legions in subduing them. Germanicus obeyed, returned to Rome, had his grand triumph, and was then sent to the East, where he shortly afterwards died, it was supposed by poison.[Pg 26]

19 A. D.

The words of the shrewd Emperor were true: two rival powers had been developed in Germany through the resistance to Rome, and they soon came into conflict. Marbod, Chief of the Marcomanni and many allied tribes, had maintained his position without war; but Hermann, now the recognized head of the Cherusci and their confederates, who had destroyed Varus and held Germanicus at bay, possessed a popularity, founded on his heroism, which spread far and wide through the German land. Even at that early day, the small chiefs in each tribe (corresponding to the later nobility) were opposed to the broad, patriotic union which Hermann had established, because it weakened their power and increased that of the people. They were also jealous of his great authority and influence, and even his uncle, Ingiomar, who had led so bravely the last battle against Germanicus, went over to the side of Marbod when it became evident that the rivalry of the two chiefs must lead to war.

Our account of these events is obscure and imperfect. On the one side, it seems that Marbod's neutrality was a ground of complaint with Hermann; while Marbod declared that the latter had no right to draw the Semnones and Longobards—at first allied with the Marcomanni—into union with the Cherusci against Rome. In the year 19 the two marched against each other, and a great battle took place. Although neither was victorious, the popularity of Hermann drew so many of Marbod's allies to his side, that the latter fled to Italy and claimed the protection of Tiberius, who assigned to him Ravenna as a residence. He died there in the year 37, at a very advanced age. A Goth, named Catwalda, assisted by Roman influence, became his successor as chief of the Marcomanni.


After the flight of Marbod, Hermann seems to have devoted himself to the creation of a permanent union of the tribes which he had commanded. We may guess, but can not assert, that his object was to establish a national organization, like that of Rome, and in doing this, he must have come into conflict with laws and customs which were considered sacred by the people. But his remaining days were too few for even the beginning of a task which included such an advance in the civilization of the race. We only know that he was waylaid and assassinated by members of his own family in the year 21. He was then thirty-seven years old, and had been for thirteen years a leader of his[Pg 27] people. The best monument to his ability and heroism may be found in the words of a Roman, the historian Tacitus; who says: "He was undoubtedly the liberator of Germany, having dared to grapple with the Roman power, not in its beginnings, like other kings and commanders, but in the maturity of its strength. He was not always victorious in battle, but in war he was never subdued. He still lives in the songs of the Barbarians, unknown to the annals of the Greeks, who only admire that which belongs to themselves—nor celebrated as he deserves by the Romans, who, in praising the olden times, neglect the events of the later years."



(21—300 A. D.)


After the campaigns of Germanicus and the death of Hermann, a long time elapsed during which the relation of Germany to the Roman Empire might be called a truce. No serious attempt was made by the unworthy successors of Augustus to extend their sway beyond the banks of the Rhine and the Danube; and, as Tiberius had predicted, the German tribes were so weakened by their own civil wars that they were unable to cope with such a power as Rome. Even the Cherusci, Hermann's own people, became so diminished in numbers that, before the end of the first century, they ceased to exist as a separate tribe: their fragments were divided and incorporated with their neighbors on either side. Another tribe, the Ampsivarii, was destroyed in a war with the Chauci, and even the power of the fierce Chatti was broken by a great victory of the Hermunduri over them, in a quarrel concerning the possession of a sacred salt-spring.

About the middle of the first century, however, an event is mentioned which shows that the Germans were beginning to appreciate and imitate the superior civilization of Rome. The Chauci, dwelling on the shores of the North Sea, built a fleet and sailed along the coast to the mouth of the Rhine, which they entered in the hope of exciting the Batavi and Frisii to rebellion. A few years afterwards the Chatti, probably[Pg 29] for the sake of plunder, crossed the Rhine and invaded part of Gaul. Both attempts failed entirely; and the only serious movement of the Germans against Rome, during the century, took place while Vitellius and Vespasian were contending for the possession of the imperial throne. A German prophetess, of the name of Velleda, whose influence seems to have extended over all the tribes, promised them victory: they united, organized their forces, crossed the Rhine, and even laid siege to Mayence, the principal Roman city.


The success of Vespasian over his rival left him free to meet this new danger. But in the meantime the Batavi, under their chief, Claudius Civilis, who had been previously fighting on the new Emperor's side, joined the Gauls in a general insurrection. This was so successful that all northern Gaul, from the Atlantic to the Rhine, threw off the Roman yoke. A convention of the chiefs was held at Rheims, in order to found a Gallic kingdom; but instead of adopting measures of defence, they quarrelled about the selection of a ruling family, the future capital of the kingdom, and other matters of small comparative importance.

The approach of Cerealis, the Roman general sent by Vespasian with a powerful army in the year 70, put an end to the Gallic insurrection. Most of the Gallic tribes submitted without resistance: the Treviri, on the Moselle, were defeated in battle, the cities and fortresses on the western bank of the Rhine were retaken, and the Roman frontier was re-established. Nevertheless, the German tribes which had been allied with the Gauls—among them the Batavi—refused to submit, and they were strong enough to fight two bloody battles, in which Cerealis was only saved from defeat by what the Romans considered to be the direct interposition of the gods. The Batavi, although finally subdued in their home in Holland, succeeded in getting possession of the Roman admiral's vessel, by a night attack on his fleet on the Rhine. This trophy they sent by way of the river Lippe, an eastern branch of the Rhine, as a present to the great prophetess, Velleda.

The defeat of the German tribes by Cerealis was not followed by a new Roman invasion of their territory. The Rhine remained the boundary, although the Romans crossed the river at various points and built fortresses upon the eastern bank. They appear, in like manner, to have crossed the[Pg 30] Danube, and they also gradually acquired possession of the south-western corner of Germany, lying between the head-waters of that river and the Rhine. This region (now occupied by Baden and part of Würtemberg) had been deserted by the Marcomanni when they marched to Bohemia, and it does not appear that any other German tribe attempted to take permanent possession of it. Its first occupants, the Helvetians, were now settled in Switzerland.


The enlisting of Germans to serve as soldiers in the Roman army, begun by Julius Cæsar, was continued by the Emperors. The proofs of their heroism, which the Germans had given in resisting Germanicus, made them desirable as troops; and, since they were accustomed to fight with their neighbors at home, they had no scruples in fighting them under the banner of Rome. Thus one German legion after another was formed, taken to Rome, Spain, Greece or the East, and its veterans, if they returned home when disabled by age or wounds, carried with them stories of the civilized world, of cities, palaces and temples, of agriculture and the arts, of a civil and political system far wiser and stronger than their own.

The series of good Emperors, from Vespasian to Marcus Aurelius (A. D. 70 to 181) formed military colonies of their veteran soldiers, whether German, Gallic or Roman, in the region originally inhabited by the Marcomanni. They were governed by Roman laws, and they paid a tithe, or tenth part, of their revenues to the Empire, whence this district was called the Agri Decumates, or Tithe-Lands. As it had no definite boundary towards the north and north-east, the settlements gradually extended to the Main, and at last included a triangular strip of territory extending from that river to the Rhine at Cologne. By this time the Romans had built, in their provinces of Rhætia, Noricum and Pannonia, south of the Danube, the cities of Augusta Vindelicorum, now Augsburg, and Vindobona, now Vienna, with another on the north bank of the Danube, where Ratisbon stands at present.

From the last-named point to the Rhine at Cologne they built a stockade, protected by a deep ditch, to keep off the independent German tribes, even as they had built a wall across the north of England, to keep off the Picts and Scots. Traces of this line of defence are still to be seen. Another and shorter line, connecting the head-waters of the Main[Pg 31] with the Lake of Constance, protected the territory on the east. Their frontier remained thus clearly defined for nearly two hundred years. On their side of the line they built fortresses and cities, which they connected by good highways, they introduced a better system of agriculture, established commercial intercourse, not only between their own provinces but also with the independent tribes, and thus extended the influence of their civilization. For the first time, fruit-trees were planted on German soil: the rich cloths and ornaments of Italy and the East, the arms and armor, the gold and silver, and the wines of the South, soon found a market within the German territory; while the horses and cattle, furs and down, smoked beef and honey of the Germans, the fish of their streams, and the radishes and asparagus raised on the Rhine, were sent to Rome in exchange for those luxuries. Wherever the Romans discovered a healing spring, as at Baden-Baden, Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa, they built splendid baths; where they found ores or marble in the mountains, they established mines or hewed columns for their temples, and the native tribes were thus taught the unsuspected riches of their own land.


For nearly a hundred years after Vespasian's accession to the throne, there was no serious interruption to the peaceful intercourse of the two races. During this time, we must take it for granted that a gradual change must have been growing up in the habits and ideas of the Germans. It is probable that they then began to collect in villages; to use stone as well as wood in building their houses and fortresses; to depend more on agriculture and less on hunting and fishing for their subsistence; and to desire the mechanical skill, the arts of civilization, which the Romans possessed. The extinction of many smaller tribes, also, taught them the necessity of learning to subdue their internal feuds, and assist instead of destroying each other. On the north of them was the sea; on the east the Sarmatians and other Slavonic tribes, much more savage than themselves: in every other direction they were confronted by Rome. The complete subjugation of their Celtic neighbors in Gaul was always before their eyes. In Hermann's day, they were still too ignorant to understand the necessity of his plan of union; but now that tens of thousands of their people had learned the extent and power of the Roman Empire, and the commercial intercourse of a hundred years had shown them their[Pg 32] own deficiencies, they reached the point where a new development in their history became possible.


Such a development came to disturb the reign of the noble Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, in the latter half of the second century. About the year 166, all the German tribes, from the Danube to the Baltic, united in a grand movement against the Roman Empire. The Marcomanni, who still inhabited Bohemia, appear as their leaders, and the Roman writers attach their name to the long and desperate war which ensued. We have no knowledge of the cause of this struggle, the manner in which the union of the Germans was effected, or even the names of their leaders: we only know that their invasion of the Roman territory was several times driven back and several times recommenced; that Marcus Aurelius died in Vienna, in 181, without having seen the end; and that his son and successor, Commodus, bought a peace instead of winning it by the sword. At one time, during the war, the Chatti forced their way through the Tithe-Lands and Switzerland, and crossed the Alps: at another, the Marcomanni and Quadi besieged the city of Aquileia, on the northern shore of the Adriatic.

The ancient boundary between the Roman Empire and Germany was restored, but at a cost which the former could not pay a second time. For a hundred and fifty years longer the Emperors preserved their territory: Rome still ruled, in name, from Spain to the Tigris, from Scotland to the Desert of Sahara, but her power was like a vast, hollow shell. Luxury, vice, taxation and continual war had eaten out the heart of the Empire; Italy had grown weak and was slowly losing its population, and the same causes were gradually ruining Spain, Gaul and Britain. During this period the German tribes, notwithstanding their terrible losses in war, had preserved their vigor by the simplicity, activity and morality of their habits: they had considerably increased in numbers, and from the time of Marcus Aurelius on, they felt themselves secure against any further invasion of their territory.

Then commenced a series of internal changes, concerning which, unfortunately, we have no history. We can only guess that their origin dates from the union of all the principal tribes under the lead of the Marcomanni; but whether they were brought about with or without internal wars; whether wise and far-seeing chiefs or the sentiment of the[Pg 33] people themselves, contributed most to their consummation; finally, when these changes began and when they were completed—are questions which can never be accurately settled.


When the Germans again appear in history, in the third century of our era, we are surprised to find that the names of nearly all the tribes with which we are familiar have disappeared, and new names, of much wider significance, have taken their places. Instead of twenty or thirty small divisions, we now find the race consolidated into four chief nationalities, with two other inferior though independent branches. We also find that the geographical situation of the latter is no longer the same as that of the smaller tribes out of which they grew. Migrations must have taken place, large tracts of territory must have changed hands, many reigning families must have been overthrown, and new ones arisen. In short, the change in the organization of the Germans is so complete that it can hardly have been accomplished by peaceable means. Each of the new nationalities has an important part to play in the history of the following centuries, and we will therefore describe them separately:

1. The Alemanni.—The name of this division (Allemannen,[A] signifying "all men") shows that it was composed of fragments of many tribes. The Alemanni first made their appearance along the Main, and gradually pushed southward over the Tithe-Lands, where the military veterans of Rome had settled, until they occupied the greater part of South-western Germany, and Eastern Switzerland, to the Alps. Their descendants inhabit the same territory, to this day.

[A] Allemagne remains the French name for Germany.

2. The Franks.—It is not known whence this name was derived, nor what is its meaning. The Franks are believed to have been formed out of the Sicambrians in Westphalia, together with a portion of the Chatti and the Batavi in Holland, and other tribes. We first hear of them on the lower Rhine, but they soon extended their territory over a great part of Belgium and Westphalia. Their chiefs were already called kings, and their authority was hereditary.

3. The Saxons.—This was one of the small original tribes, settled in Holstein: the name is derived from their peculiar weapon, a short sword, called sahs. We find them now occupying nearly all the territory between the Hartz Mountains and the North Sea, from the Elbe westward to[Pg 34] the Rhine. The Cherusci, the Chauci, and other tribes named by Tacitus, were evidently incorporated with the Saxons, who exhibit the same characteristics. There appears to have been a natural enmity—no doubt bequeathed from the earlier tribes out of which both grew—between them and the Franks.


4. The Goths.—The traditions of the Goths state that they were settled in Sweden before they were found by the Greek navigators on the southern shore of the Baltic, in 330 B. C. It is probable that only a portion of the tribe migrated, and that the present Scandinavian race is descended from the remainder. As the Baltic Goths increased in numbers, they gradually ascended the Vistula, pressed eastward along the base of the Carpathians and reached the Black Sea, in the course of the second century after Christ. They thus possessed a broad belt of territory, separating the rest of Europe from the wilder Slavonic races who occupied Central Russia. The Vandals and Alans, with the Heruli, Rugii and other smaller tribes, all Germanic, as well as a portion of the Slavonic Sarmatians, were incorporated with them; and it was probably the great extent of territory they controlled which occasioned their separation into Ostrogoths (East-Goths) and Visigoths (West-Goths). They first came in contact with the Romans, beyond the mouth of the Danube, about the beginning of the third century.

5. The Thuringians.—This branch had only a short national existence. It was composed of the Hermunduri, with fragments of other tribes, united under one king, and occupied all of Central Germany, from the Hartz southward to the Danube.

6. The Burgundians.—Leaving their original home in Prussia, between the Oder and the Vistula, the Burgundians crossed the greater part of Germany in a south-western direction, and first settled in a portion of what is now Franconia, between the Thuringians and the Alemanni. Not long afterwards, however, they passed through the latter, and took possession of the country on the west bank of the Rhine, between Strasburg and Mayence.


Caracalla came into collision with the Alemanni in the year 213, and the Emperor Maximin, who was a Goth on his father's side, laid waste their territory, in 236. About the latter period, the Franks began to make predatory incursions into Gaul, and the Goths became troublesome to[Pg 35] the Romans, on the lower Danube. In 251 the Emperor Decius found his death among the marshes of Dacia, while trying to stay the Gothic invasion, and his successor, Gallus, only obtained a temporary peace by agreeing to pay an annual sum of money, thus really making Rome a tributary power. But the Empire had become impoverished, and the payment soon ceased. Thereupon the Goths built fleets, and made voyages of plunder, first to Trebizond and the other towns on the Asiatic shore of the Black Sea; then they passed the Hellespont, took and plundered the great city of Nicomedia, Ephesus with its famous temple, the Grecian isles, and even Corinth, Argos and Athens. In the meantime the Alemanni had resumed the offensive: they came through Rhætiæ, and descended to the Garda lake, in Northern Italy.

The Emperor, Claudius II., turned back this double invasion. He defeated and drove back the Alemanni, and then, in the year 270, won a great victory over the Goths, in the neighborhood of Thessalonica. His successor, Aurelian, followed up the advantage, and in the following year made a treaty with the Goths, by which the Danube became the frontier between them and the Romans. The latter gave up to them the province of Dacia, lying north of the river, and withdrew their colonists and military garrisons to the southern side.

Both the Franks and Saxons profited by these events. They let their mutual hostility rest for awhile, built fleets, and sailed forth in the West on voyages of plunder, like their relatives, the Goths, in the East. The Saxons descended on the coasts of Britain and Gaul; the Franks sailed to Spain, and are said to have even entered the Mediterranean. When Probus became Emperor, in the year 276, he found a great part of Gaul overrun and ravaged by them and by the Alemanni, on the Upper Rhine. He succeeded, after a hard struggle, in driving back the German invaders, restored the line of stockade from the Rhine to the Danube, and built new fortresses along the frontier. On the other hand, he introduced into Germany the cultivation of the vine, which the previous Emperors had not permitted, and thus laid the foundation of the famous vineyards of the Rhine and the Moselle.


Probus endeavored to weaken the power of the Germans, by separating and colonizing them, wherever it was possible.[Pg 36] One of his experiments, however, had a very different result from what he expected. He transported a large number of Frank captives to the shore of the Black Sea; but, instead of quietly settling there, they got possession of some vessels, soon formed a large fleet, sailed into the Mediterranean, plundered the coasts of Asia Minor, Greece and Sicily, where they even captured the city of Syracuse, and at last, after many losses and marvellous adventures, made their way by sea to their homes on the Lower Rhine.

Towards the close of the third century, Constantine, during the reign of his father, Constantius, suppressed an insurrection of the Franks, and even for a time drove them from their islands on the coast of Holland. He afterward crossed the Rhine, but found it expedient not to attempt an expedition into the interior. He appears to have had no war with the Alemanni, but he founded the city of Constance, on the lake of the same name, for the purpose of keeping them in check.

The boundaries between Germany and Rome still remained the Rhine and the Danube, but on the east they were extended to the Black Sea, and in place of the invasions of Cæsar, Drusus and Germanicus, the Empire was obliged to be content when it succeeded in repelling the invasions made upon its own soil. Three hundred years of very slow, but healthy growth on the one side, and of luxury, corruption and despotism on the other, had thus changed the relative position of the two races.





Rome, as the representative of the civilization of the world, and, after the year 313, as the political power which left Christianity free to overthrow the ancient religions, is still the central point of historical interest during the greater part of the fourth century. Until the death of the Emperor Valentinian, in 375, the ancient boundaries of the Empire, though frequently broken down, were continually re-established, and the laws and institutions of the Romans had prevailed so long throughout the great extent of conquered territory that the inhabitants now knew no other.

But beyond the Danube had arisen a new power, the independence of which, after the time of Aurelian, was never disputed by the Roman Emperors. The Goths were the first of the Germanic tribes to adopt a monarchical form of government, and to acquire some degree of civilization. They were numerous and well organized; and Constantine, who was more of a diplomatist than a general, found it better to preserve peace with them for forty years, by presents and payments, than to provoke them to war. His best soldiers were enlisted among them, and it was principally the valor of his Gothic troops which enabled him to defeat the rival emperor, Licinius, in 325. From that time, 40,000 Goths formed the main strength of his army.[Pg 38]


The important part which these people played in the history of Europe renders it necessary that we should now sketch their rise and growth as a nation. First, however, let us turn to Western and Northern Germany, where the development of the new nationalities was longer delayed, and describe the last of their struggles with the power of Rome, during the fourth century.

After the death of Constantine, in 337, the quarrels of his sons and brothers for the Imperial throne gave the Germans a new opportunity to repeat their invasions of Gaul. The Franks were the first to take advantage of it: they got possession of Belgium, which was not afterwards retaken. The Alemanni followed, and planted themselves on the western bank of the Rhine, which they held, although Strasburg and other fortified cities still belonged to the Romans. About the year 350, a Frank or Saxon, of the name of Magnentius, was proclaimed Emperor by a part of the Roman army. He was defeated by the true Emperor, Constantius II., but the victory seems to have exhausted the military resources of the latter, for immediately afterwards another German invasion occurred.

This time, the Franks took and pillaged Cologne, the Alemanni destroyed Strasburg and Mayence, and the Saxons, who had now become a sea-faring people, visited the northwestern coasts of Gaul. Constantius II. gave the command to his nephew, Julian (afterwards, as Emperor, called the Apostate), who first retook Cologne from the Franks, and then turned his forces against the Alemanni. The king of the latter, Chnodomar, had collected a large army, with which he encountered Julian on the banks of the Rhine, near Strasburg. The battle which ensued was fiercely contested; but Julian was completely victorious. Chnodomar was taken prisoner, and only a few of his troops escaped, like those of Ariovistus, 400 years before, by swimming across the Rhine. Although the season was far advanced, Julian followed them, crossed their territory to the Main, rebuilt the destroyed Roman fortresses, and finally accepted an armistice of ten months which they offered to him.

He made use of this time to intimidate the Franks and Saxons. Starting from Lutetia (now Paris) early in the summer of 358, he drove the Franks beyond the Schelde, received their submission, and then marched a second time against the Alemanni. He laid waste their well-settled and[Pg 39] cultivated land between the Rhine, the Main and the Neckar, crossed their territory to the frontiers of the Burgundians (in what is now Franconia, or Northern Bavaria), liberated 20,000 Roman captives, and made the entire Alemannic people tributary to the Empire. His accession to the imperial throne, in 360, delivered the Germans from the most dangerous and dreaded enemy they had known since the time of Germanicus.


Not many years elapsed before the Franks and Alemanni again overran the old boundaries, and the Saxons landed on the shores of England. The Emperor Valentinian employed both diplomacy and force, and succeeded in establishing a temporary peace; but after his death, in the year 375, the Roman Empire, the capital of which had been removed to Constantinople in 330, was never again in a condition to maintain its supremacy in Gaul, or to prevent the Germans from crossing the Rhine.

We now return to the Goths, who already occupied the broad territory included in Poland, Southern Russia, and Roumania. The river Dniester may be taken as the probable boundary between the two kingdoms into which they had separated. The Ostrogoths, under their aged king, Hermanric, extended from that river eastward nearly to the Caspian Sea: on the north they had no fixed boundary, but they must have reached to the latitude of Moscow. The Visigoths stretched westward from the Dniester to the Danube, and northward from Hungary to the Baltic Sea. The Vandals were for some generations allied with the latter, but war having arisen between them, the Emperor Constantine interposed. He succeeded in effecting a separation of the two, and in settling the Vandals in Hungary, where they remained for forty years under the protection of the Roman Empire.

From the time of their first encounter with the Romans, in Dacia, during the third century, the Goths appear to have made rapid advances in their political organization and the arts of civilized life. They were the first of the Germanic nations who accepted Christianity. On one of their piratical expeditions to the shores of Asia Minor, they brought away as captive a Christian boy. They named him Ulfila, and by that name he is still known to the world. He devoted his life to the overthrow of their pagan faith, and succeeded. He translated the Bible into their language, and, it is[Pg 40] supposed, even invented a Gothic alphabet, since it is doubtful whether they already possessed one. A part of Ulfila's translation of the New Testament escaped destruction, and is now preserved in the library at Upsala, in Sweden. It is the only specimen, in existence of the Gothic language at that early day. From it we learn how rich and refined was that language, and how many of the elements of the German and English tongues it contained. The following are the opening words of the Lord's Prayer, as Ulfila wrote them between the years 350 and 370 of our era:

Gothic.    Atta unsara,   thu in himinam,  veihnai        namo thein.
English.  Father our,    thou in  heaven,  be hallowed  name thine.
German.  Vater unser,  du  im  Himmel,  geweiht werde Name dein.

Gothic.    quimai Thiudinassus Theins, vairthai vilja  theins,
English.    come    Kingdom    thine,  be done  will  thine,
German.    komme  Herrschaft  dein,    werde  Wille  dein,

Gothic.    sve in himina, jah  ana airthai.
English.    as in heaven,  also on  earth.
German.    wie im Himmel,  auch auf Erden.


Ulfila was born in 318, became a bishop of the Christian Church, spent his whole life in teaching the Goths, and died in Constantinople, in the year 378. There is no evidence that he, or any other of the Christian missionaries of his time, were persecuted, or even seriously hindered in the good work, by the Goths: the latter seem to have adopted the new faith readily, and the Arian creed which Ulfila taught, although rejected by the Church of Rome, was stubbornly held by their descendants for a period of nearly five hundred years.

Somewhere between 360 and 370, the long peace between the Romans and the Goths was disturbed; but the Emperor Valens and the Gothic king, Athanaric, had a conference on board a vessel on the Danube, and came to an understanding. Athanaric refused to cross the river, on account of a vow made on some former occasion. The Goths, it appears, were by this time learning the art of statesmanship, and they might have continued on good terms with the Romans, but for the sudden appearance on the scene of an entirely new race, coming, as they themselves had come so many centuries before, from the unknown regions of Central Asia.


In 375, the year of Valentinian's death, a race of people[Pg 41] up to that time unknown, and whose name—the Huns—had never before been heard, crossed the Volga and invaded the territory of the Ostrogoths. Later researches render it probable that they came from the steppes of Mongolia, and that they belonged to the Tartar family; but, in the course of their wanderings, before reaching Europe, they had not only lost all the traditions of their former history, but even their religious faith. Their very appearance struck terror into the Goths, who were so much further advanced in civilization. They were short, clumsy figures, with broad and hideously ugly faces, flat noses, oblique eyes and long black hair, and were clothed in skins which they wore until they dropped in rags from their bodies. But they were marvellous horsemen, and very skilful in using the bow and lance. The men were on their horses' backs from morning till night, while the women and children followed their march in rude carts. They came in such immense numbers, and showed so much savage daring and bravery, that several smaller tribes, allied with the Ostrogoths, or subject to them, went over immediately to the Huns.

The kingdom of the Ostrogoths, almost without offering resistance, fell to pieces. The king, Hermanric, now more than a hundred years old, threw himself upon his sword, at their approach: his successor, Vitimer, gave battle, but lost the victory and his life at the same time. The great body of the people retreated westward before the Huns, who, following them, reached the Dnieper. Here Athanaric, king of the Visigoths, was posted with a large army, to dispute their passage; but the Huns succeeded in finding a fording-place which was left unguarded, turned his flank, and defeated him with great slaughter. Nothing now remained but for both branches of the Gothic people, united in misfortune, to retreat to the Danube.

Athanaric took refuge among the mountains of Transylvania, and the Bishop Ulfila was dispatched to Constantinople to ask the assistance of the Emperor Valens, who was entreated to permit that the Goths, meanwhile, might cross the Danube and find a refuge on Roman territory. Valens yielded to the entreaty, but attached very hard conditions to his permission: the Goths were allowed to cross unarmed, after giving up their wives and children as hostages. In their fear of the Huns, they were obliged to accept these conditions, and hundreds of thousands thronged across the[Pg 42] Danube. They soon exhausted the supplies of the region, and then began to suffer famine, of which the Roman officers and traders took advantage, demanding their children as slaves in return for the cats and dogs which they gave to the Goths as food.


This treatment brought about its own revenge. Driven to desperation by hunger and the outrages inflicted upon them, the Goths secretly procured arms, rose, and made themselves masters of the country. The Roman governor marched against them, but their Chief, Fridigern, defeated him and utterly destroyed his army. The news of this event induced large numbers of Gothic soldiers to desert from the imperial army, and join their countrymen. Fridigern, thus strengthened, commenced a war of revenge: he crossed the Balkan, laid waste all Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly, and settled his own people in the most fertile parts of the plundered provinces. The Ostrogoths had crossed the Danube at the first report of his success, and had taken part in his conquests.

Towards the end of the year 377, the Emperor Valens raised a large army and marched against Fridigern. A battle was fought at the foot of the Balkan, and a second, the following year, before the walls of Adrianople. In both the Goths were victorious: in the latter two-thirds of the Roman troops fell, Valens himself, doubtless, among them,—for he was never seen or heard of after that day. His nephew, Gratian, succeeded to the throne, but associated with him Theodosius, a young Spaniard of great ability, as Emperor of the East. While Gratian marched to Gaul, to stay the increasing inroads of the Franks, Theodosius was left to deal with the Goths, who were beginning to cultivate the fields of Thrace, as if they meant to stay there.

He was obliged to confirm them in the possession of the greater part of the country. They were called allies of the Empire, were obliged to furnish a certain number of soldiers, but retained their own kings, and were governed by their own laws. After the death of Fridigern, Theodosius invited Athanaric to visit him. The latter, considering himself now absolved from his vow not to cross the Danube, accepted the invitation, and was received in Constantinople on the footing of an equal by Theodosius. He died a few weeks after his arrival, and the Emperor walked behind his bier, in the funeral procession. For several years the relations between[Pg 43] the two powers continued peaceful and friendly. Both branches of the Goths were settled together, south of the Danube, their relinquished territory north of that river being occupied by the Huns, who were still pressing westward.


In Italy, Valentinian II. succeeded his brother Gratian. His chief minister was a Frank, named Arbogast, who, learning that he was to be dismissed from his place, had the young Valentinian assassinated, and set up a new Emperor, Eugene, in his stead. This act brought him into direct conflict with Theodosius. Arbogast called upon his countrymen, the Franks, who sent a large body of troops to his assistance, while Theodosius strengthened his army with 20,000 Gothic soldiers. Then, for the first time, Frank and Goth—West-German and East-German—faced each other as enemies. The Gothic auxiliaries of Theodosius were commanded by two leaders, Alaric and Stilicho, already distinguished among their people, and destined to play a remarkable part in the history of Europe. The battle between the two armies was fought near Aquileia, in the year 394. The sham Emperor, Eugene, was captured and beheaded, Arbogast threw himself upon his sword, and Theodosius was master of the West.

The Emperor, however, lived but a few months to enjoy his single rule. He died at Milan, in 395, after having divided the government of the Empire between his two sons. Honorius, the elder, was sent to Rome, with the Gothic chieftain, Stilicho, as his minister and guardian; while the boy Arcadius, at Constantinople, was intrusted to the care of a Gaul, named Rufinus. Alaric, perhaps a personal enemy of the latter, perhaps jealous of the elevation of Stilicho to such an important place, refused to submit to the new government. He collected a large body of his countrymen, and set out on a campaign of plunder through Greece. Every ancient city, except Thebes, fell into his hands, and only Athens was allowed to buy her exemption from pillage.

The Gaul, Rufinus, took no steps to arrest this devastation; wherefore, it is said, he was murdered at the instigation of Stilicho, who then sent a fleet against Alaric. This undertaking was not entirely successful, and the government of Constantinople finally purchased peace by making Alaric the Imperial Legate in Illyria. In the year 403, he was sent to Italy, as the representative of the Emperor Arcadius, to overthrow the power of his former fellow-chieftain, Stilicho,[Pg 44] who ruled in the name of Honorius. His approach, with a large army, threw the whole country into terror. Honorius shut himself up within the walls of Ravenna, while Stilicho called the legions from Gaul, and even from Britain, to his support. A great battle was fought near the Po, but without deciding the struggle; and Alaric had already begun to march towards Rome, when a treaty was made by which he and his army were allowed to return to Illyria with all the booty they had gathered in Italy.


Five years afterwards, when Stilicho was busy in endeavoring to keep the Franks and Alemanni out of Gaul, and to drive back the incursions of mixed German and Celtic bands which began to descend from the Alps, Alaric again made his appearance, demanding the payment of certain sums, which he claimed were due to him. Stilicho, having need of his military strength elsewhere, satisfied Alaric's claim by the payment of 4,000 pounds of gold; but the Romans felt themselves bitterly humiliated, and Honorius, listening to the rivals of Stilicho, gave his consent to the assassination of the latter and his whole family including the Emperor's own sister, Serena, whom Stilicho had married.

When the news of this atrocious act reached Alaric, he turned and marched back to Italy. There was now no skilful commander to oppose him: the cowardly Honorius took refuge in Ravenna, and the Goths advanced, without resistance, to the gates of Rome. The walls, built by Aurelian, were too strong to be taken by assault, but all supplies were cut off, and the final surrender of the city became only a question of time. When a deputation of Romans represented to Alaric that the people still numbered half a million, he answered: "The thicker the grass, the better the mowing!" They were finally obliged to yield to his demands, and pay a ransom consisting of 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, many thousands of silk robes, and a large quantity of spices,—a total value of something more than three millions of dollars. In addition to this, 40,000 slaves, mostly of Germanic blood, escaped to his camp and became free.

Alaric only withdrew into Northern Italy, where he soon found a new cause of dispute with the government of Honorius, in Ravenna. He seems to have been a man of great military genius, but little capacity for civil rule; of much energy and ambition, but little judgment. The result of his[Pg 45] quarrel with Honorius was, that he marched again to Rome, proclaimed Attalus, the governor of the city, Emperor, and then demanded entrance for himself and his troops, as an ally. The demand could not be refused: Rome was opened to the Goths, who participated in the festivals which accompanied the coronation of Attalus. It was nothing but a farce, and seems to have been partly intended as such by Alaric, who publicly deposed the new Emperor shortly afterwards, on his march to Ravenna.


There were further negotiations with Honorius, which came to nothing; then Alaric advanced upon Rome the third time, not now as an ally, but as an avowed enemy. The city could make no resistance, and on the 24th of August, 410, the Goths entered it as conquerors. This event, so famous in history, has been greatly misrepresented. Later researches show that, although the citizens were despoiled of their wealth, the buildings and monuments were spared. The people were subjected to violence and outrage for the space of six days, after which Alaric marched out of Rome with his army, leaving the city, in its external appearance, very much as he found it.

He directed his course towards Southern Italy, with the intention, it was generally believed, of conquering Sicily and then crossing into Africa. The plan was defeated by his death, in 411, at Cosenza, a town on the banks of the Busento, in Calabria. His soldiers turned the river from its course, dug a grave in its bed, and there laid the body of Alaric, with all the gems and gold he had gathered. Then the Busento was restored to its channel, and the slaves who had performed the work were slain, in order that Alaric's place of burial might never be known.

His brother-in-law, Ataulf (Adolph), was his successor. He was also the brother-in-law of Honorius, having married the latter's sister, Placidia, after she was taken captive by Alaric. He was therefore strengthened by the conquests of the one and by his family connection with the other. The Visigoths, who had gradually gathered together under Alaric, seem to have had enough of marching to and fro, and they acquiesced in an arrangement made between Ataulf and Honorius, according to which the former led them out of Italy in 412, and established them in Southern Gaul. They took possession of all the region lying between the Loire and the Pyrenees, with Toulouse as their capital.[Pg 46]


Thus, in the space of forty years, the Visigoths left their home on the Black Sea, between the Danube and the Dniester, passed through the whole breadth of the Roman Empire, from Constantinople to the Bay of Biscay, after having traversed both the Grecian and Italian peninsulas, and settled themselves again in what seemed to be a permanent home. During this extraordinary migration, they maintained their independence as a people, they preserved their laws, customs, and their own rulers; and, although frequently at enmity with the Empire, they were never made to yield it allegiance. Under Athanaric, as we have seen, they were united for a time with the Ostrogoths, and it was probably the renown and success of Alaric which brought about a second separation.

Of course the impetus given to this branch of the Germanic race by the invasion of the Huns did not affect it alone. Before the Visigoths reached the shores of the Atlantic, all Central Europe was in movement. Leaving them there for the present, and also leaving the great body of the Ostrogoths in Thrace and Illyria, we will now return to the nations whom we left maintaining their existence on German soil.





The westward movement of the Huns was followed, soon afterwards, by an advance of the Slavonic tribes on the north, who first took possession of the territory on the Baltic relinquished by the Goths, and then gradually pressed onward towards the Elbe. The Huns themselves, temporarily settled in the fertile region north of the Danube, pushed the Vandals westward toward Bohemia, and the latter, in their turn, pressed upon the Marcomanni. Thus, at the opening of the fifth century, all the tribes, from the Baltic to the Alps, along the eastern frontier of Germany, were partly or wholly forced to fall back. This gave rise to a union of many of them, including the Vandals, Alans, Suevi and Burgundians, under a Chief named Radagast. Numbering half a million, they crossed the Alps into Northern Italy, and demanded territory for new homes.

Stilicho, exhausted by his struggle with Alaric, whose retreat from Italy he had just purchased, could only meet this new enemy by summoning his legions from Gaul and Britain. He met Radagast at Fiesole (near Florence), and so crippled the strength of the invasion that Italy was saved. The German tribes recrossed the Alps, and entered Gaul the following year. Here they gave up their temporary[Pg 48] union, and each tribe selected its own territory. The Alans pushed forwards, crossed the Pyrenees, and finally settled in Portugal; the Vandals followed and took possession of all Southern Spain, giving their name to (V-)Andalusia; the Suevi, after fighting, but not conquering, the native Basque tribes of the Pyrenees, selected what is now the province of Galicia; while the Burgundians stretched from the Rhine through western Switzerland, and southward nearly to the mouth of the Rhone. The greater part of Gaul was thus already lost to the Roman power.


The withdrawal of the legions from Britain by Stilicho left the population unprotected. The Britons were then a mixture of Celtic and Roman blood, and had become greatly demoralized during the long decay of the Empire; so they were unable to resist the invasions of the Picts and Scots, and in this emergency they summoned the Saxons and Angles to their aid. Two chiefs of the latter, Hengist and Horsa, accepted the invitation, landed in England in 449, and received lands in Kent. They were followed by such numbers of their countrymen that the allies soon became conquerors, and portioned England among themselves. They brought with them their speech and their ancient pagan religion, and for a time overthrew the rude form of Christianity which had prevailed among the Britons since the days of Constantine. Only Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Wales and Cornwall resisted the Saxon rule, as across the Channel, in Brittany, a remnant of the Celtic Gauls resisted the sway of the Franks. From the year 449 until the landing of William the Conqueror, in 1066, nearly all England and the Lowlands of Scotland were in the hands of the Saxon race.

Ataulf, the king of the Visigoths, was murdered soon after establishing his people in Southern France. Wallia, his successor, crossed the Pyrenees, drove the Vandals out of northern Spain, and made the Ebro river the boundary between them and his Visigoths. Fifteen years afterwards, in 429, the Vandals, under their famous king, Geiserich (incorrectly called Genseric in many histories), were invited by the Roman Governor of Africa to assist him in a revolt against the Empire. They crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in a body, took possession of all the Roman provinces, as far eastward as Tunis, and made Carthage the capital of their new kingdom. The Visigoths immediately occupied[Pg 49] the remainder of Spain, which they held for nearly three hundred years afterwards.


Thus, although the name and state of an Emperor of the West were kept up in Rome until the year 476, the Empire never really existed after the invasion of Alaric. The dominion over Italy, Gaul and Spain, claimed by the Emperors of the East, at Constantinople, was acknowledged in documents, but (except for a short time, under Justinian) was never practically exercised. Rome had been the supreme power of the known world for so many centuries, that a superstitious influence still clung to the very name, and the ambition of the Germanic kings seems to have been, not to destroy the Empire, but to conquer and make it their own.

The rude tribes, which, in the time of Julius Cæsar, were buried among the mountains and forests of the country between the Rhine, the Danube and the Baltic Sea, were now, five hundred years later, scattered over all Europe, and beginning to establish new nations on the foundations laid by Rome. As soon as they cross the old boundaries of Germany, they come into the light of history, and we are able to follow their wars and migrations; but we know scarcely anything, during this period, of the tribes which remained within those boundaries. We can only infer that the Marcomanni settled between the Danube and the Alps, in what is now Bavaria; that, early in the fifth century, the Thuringians established a kingdom including nearly all Central Germany; and that the Slavonic tribes, pressing westward through Prussia, were checked by the valor of the Saxons, along the line of the Elbe, since only scattered bands of them were found beyond that river at a later day.

The first impulse to all these wonderful movements came, as we have seen, from the Huns. These people, as yet unconquered, were so dreaded by the Emperors of the East, that their peace was purchased, like that of the Goths a hundred years before, by large annual payments. For fifty years, they seemed satisfied to rest in their new home, making occasional raids across the Danube, and gradually bringing under their sway the fragments of Germanic tribes already settled in Hungary, or left behind by the Goths. In 428, Attila and his brother Bleda became kings of the Huns, but the latter's death, in 445, left Attila sole ruler. His name was already famous, far and wide, for his strength,[Pg 50] energy and intelligence. His capital was established near Tokay, in Hungary, where he lived in a great castle of wood, surrounded with moats and palisades. He was a man of short stature, with broad head, neck and shoulders, and fierce, restless eyes. He scorned the luxury which was prevalent at the time, wore only plain woollen garments, and ate and drank from wooden dishes and cups. His personal power and influence were so great that the Huns looked upon him as a demigod, while all the neighboring Germanic tribes, including a large portion of the Ostrogoths, enlisted under his banner.


After the Huns had invaded Thrace and compelled the Eastern Empire to pay a double tribute, the Emperor of the West, Valentinian III. (the grandson of Theodosius), sent an embassy to Attila, soliciting his friendship: the Emperor's sister, Honoria, offered him her hand. Both divisions of the Empire thus did him reverence, and he had little to fear from the force which either could bring against him; but the Goths and Vandals, now warlike and victorious races, were more formidable foes. Here, however, he was favored by the hostility between the aged Geiserich, king of the Vandals, and the young Theodoric, king of the Visigoths. The former sent messages to Attila, inciting him to march into Gaul and overthrow Theodoric, who was Geiserich's relative and rival. Soon afterwards, a new Emperor, at Constantinople, refused the additional tribute, and Valentinian III. withheld the hand of his sister Honoria.

Attila, now—towards the close of the year 449—made preparations for a grand war of conquest. He already possessed unbounded influence over the Huns, and supernatural signs of his coming career were soon supplied. A peasant dug up a jewelled sword, which, it was said, had long before been given to a race of kings by the god of war. This was brought to Attila, and thenceforth worn by him. He was called "The Scourge of God," and the people believed that wherever the hoofs of his horse had trodden no grass ever grew again. The fear of his power, or the hope of plunder, drew large numbers of the German tribes to his side, and the army with which he set out for the conquest, first of Gaul and then of Europe, is estimated at from 500,000 to 700,000 warriors. With this, he passed through the heart of Germany, much of which he had already made tributary, and reached the Rhine. Here Gunther, the king of the[Pg 51] Burgundians, opposed him with a force of 10,000 men and was speedily crushed. Even a portion of the Franks, who were then quarrelling among themselves, joined him, and now Gaul divided between Franks, Romans and Visigoths, was open to his advance.


The minister and counsellor of Valentinian III. was Aëtius, the son of a Gothic father and a Roman mother. As soon as Attila's design became known, he hastened to Gaul, collected the troops still in Roman service, and procured the alliance of Theodoric and the Visigoths. The Alans, under their king Sangipan, were also persuaded to unite their forces: the independent Celts in Brittany, and a large portion of the Franks and Burgundians, all of whom were threatened by the invasion of the Huns, hastened to the side of Aëtius, so that the army commanded by himself and Theodoric became nearly if not quite equal in numbers to that of Attila. The latter, by this time, had marched into the heart of Gaul, laying waste the country through which he passed, and meeting no resistance until he reached the walled and fortified city of Orleans. This was in the year 451.

Orleans, besieged and hard pressed, was about to surrender, when Aëtius approached with his army. Attila was obliged to raise the siege at once, and retreat in order to select a better position for the impending battle. He finally halted on the broad plains of the province of Champagne, near the present city of Châlons, where his immense body of armed horsemen would have ample space to move. Aëtius and Theodoric followed and pitched their camp opposite to him, on the other side of a small hill which rose from the plain. That night, Attila ordered his priests to consult their pagan oracles, and ascertain the fate of the morrow's struggle. The answer was: "Death to the enemy's leader, destruction to the Huns!"—but the hope of seeing Aëtius fall prevailed on Attila to risk his own defeat.

The next day witnessed one of the greatest battles of history. Aëtius commanded the right and Theodoric the left wing of their army, placing between them the Alans and other tribes, of whose fidelity they were not quite sure. Attila, however, took the centre with his Huns, and formed his wings of the Germans and Ostrogoths. The battle began at dawn, and raged through the whole day. Both armies endeavored to take and hold the hill between them, and the[Pg 52] hundreds of thousands rolled back and forth as the victory inclined to one side or the other. A brook which ran through the plain was swollen high by the blood of the fallen. At last Theodoric broke Attila's centre, but was slain in the attack. The Visigoths immediately lifted his son, Thorismond, on a shield, proclaimed him king, and renewed the fight. The Huns were driven back to the fortress of wagons where their wives, children and treasures were collected, when a terrible storm of rain and thunder put an end to the battle. Between 200,000 and 300,000 dead lay upon the plain.


All night the lamentations of the Hunnish women filled the air. Attila had an immense funeral pile constructed of saddles, whereon he meant to burn himself and his family, in case Aëtius should renew the fight the next day. But the army of the latter was too exhausted to move, and the Huns were allowed to commence their retreat from Gaul. Enraged at his terrible defeat, Attila destroyed everything in his way, leaving a broad track of blood and ashes from Gaul through the heart of Germany, back to Hungary.

By the following year, 452, Attila had collected another army, and now directed his march towards Italy. This new invasion was so unexpected that the passes of the Alps were left undefended, and the Huns reached the rich and populous city of Aquileia, on the northern shore of the Adriatic, without meeting any opposition. After a siege of three months, they took and razed it to the ground so completely that it was never rebuilt, and from that day to this only a few piles of shapeless stones remain to mark the spot where it stood. The inhabitants who escaped took refuge upon the low marshy islands, separated from the mainland by the lagoons, and there formed the settlement which, two or three hundred years later, became known to the world as Venice.

Attila marched onward to the Po, destroying everything in his way. Here he was met by a deputation, at the head of which was Leo, the Bishop (or Pope) of Rome, sent by Valentinian III. Leo so worked upon the superstitious mind of the savage monarch, that the latter gave up his purpose of taking Rome, and returned to Hungary with his army, which was suffering from disease and want. The next year he died suddenly, in his wooden palace at Tokay. The tradition states that his body was inclosed in three coffins,[Pg 53] of iron, silver and gold, and buried secretly, like that of Alaric, so that no man might know his resting-place. He had a great many wives, and left so many sons behind him, that their quarrels for the succession to the throne divided the Huns into numerous parties, and quite destroyed their power as a people.


The alliance between Aëtius and the Visigoths ceased immediately after the great battle. Valentinian III., suspicious of the fame of Aëtius, recalled him to Rome, the year after Attila's death, and assassinated him with his own hand. The treacherous Emperor was himself slain, shortly afterwards, by Maximus, who succeeded him, and forced his widow, the Empress Eudoxia, to accept him as her husband. Out of revenge, Eudoxia sent a messenger to Geiserich, the old king of the Vandals, at Carthage, summoning him to Rome. The Vandals had already built a large fleet and pillaged the shores of Sicily and other Mediterranean islands. In 455, Geiserich landed at the mouth of the Tiber with a powerful force, and marched upon Rome. The city was not strong enough to offer any resistance: it was taken, and during two weeks surrendered to such devastation and outrage that the word vandalism has ever since been used to express savage and wanton destruction. The churches were plundered of all their vessels and ornaments, the old Palace of the Cæsars was laid waste, priceless works of art destroyed, and those of the inhabitants who escaped with their lives were left almost as beggars.

When "the old king of the sea," as Geiserich was called, returned to Africa, he not only left Rome ruined, but the Western Empire practically overthrown. For seventeen years afterwards, Ricimer, a chief of the Suevi, who had been commander of the Roman auxiliaries in Gaul, was the real ruler of its crumbling fragments. He set up, set aside or slew five or six so-called Emperors, at his own will, and finally died in 472, only four years before the boy, Romulus Augustulus, was compelled to throw off the purple and retire into obscurity as "the last Emperor of Rome."

In 455, the year when Geiserich and his Vandals plundered Rome, the Germanic tribes along the Danube took advantage of the dissensions following Attila's death, and threw off their allegiance to the Huns. They all united under a king named Ardaric, gave battle, and were so successful that the whole tribe of the Huns was forced to retreat[Pg 54] eastward into Southern Russia. From this time they do not appear again in history, although it is probable that the Magyars, who came later into the same region from which they were driven, brought the remnants of the tribe with them.


During the fourth and fifth centuries, the great historic achievements of the German race, as we have now traced them, were performed outside of the German territory. While from Thrace to the Atlantic Ocean, from the Scottish Highlands to Africa, the new nationalities overran the decayed Roman Empire, constantly changing their seats of power, we have no intelligence of what was happening within Germany itself. Both branches of the Goths, the Vandals and a part of the Franks had become Christians, but the Alemanni, Saxons and Thuringians were still heathens, although they had by this time adopted many of the arts of civilized life. They had no educated class, corresponding to the Christian priesthood in the East, Italy and Gaul, and even in Britain; and thus no chronicle of their history has survived.

Either before or immediately after Attila's invasion of Gaul, the Marcomanni crossed the Danube, and took possession of the plains between that river and the Alps. They were called the Boiarii, from their former home of four centuries in Bohemia, and from this name is derived the German Baiern, Bavaria. They kept possession of the new territory, adapted themselves to the forms of Roman civilization which they found there, and soon organized themselves into a small but distinct and tolerably independent nation.

But the period of the Migration of the Races was not yet finished. The shadow of the old Roman Empire still remained, and stirred the ambition of each successive king, so that he was not content with territory sufficient for the needs of his own people, but must also try to conquer his neighbors and extend his rule. The bases of the modern states of Europe were already laid, but not securely enough for the building thereof to be commenced. Two more important movements were yet to be made before this bewildering period of change and struggle came to an end.





After the death of Ricimer, in 472, Italy, weakened by invasion and internal dissension, was an easy prey to the first strong hand which might claim possession. Such a hand was soon found in a Chief named Odoaker, said to have been a native of the island of Rügen, in the Baltic. He commanded a large force, composed of the smaller German tribes from the banks of the Danube, who had thrown off the yoke of the Huns. Many of these troops had served the last half-dozen Roman Emperors whom Ricimer set up or threw down, and they now claimed one-third of the Italian territory for themselves and their families. When this was refused, Odoaker, at their head, took the boy Romulus Augustulus prisoner, banished him, and proclaimed himself king of Italy, in 476, making Ravenna his capital.

The dynasty at Constantinople still called its dominion "The Roman Empire," and claimed authority over all the West. But it had not the means to make its claim acknowledged, and in this emergency the Emperor Zeno turned to Theodoric, the young king of the Ostrogoths, who had been brought up at his court, in Constantinople. He was the successor of three brothers, who, after the dispersion of the Huns, had united some of the smaller German tribes with the Ostrogoths, and restored the former power and influence of the race.[Pg 56]


Theodoric (who must not be confounded with his namesake, the Visigoth king, who fell in conquering Attila) was a man of great natural ability, which had been well developed by his education in Constantinople. He accepted the appointment of General and Governor from the Emperor, yet the preparations he made for the expedition to Italy show that he intended to remain and establish his own kingdom there. It was not a military march, but the migration of a people, which he headed. The Ostrogoths and their allies took with them their wives and children, their herds and household goods: they moved so slowly up the Danube and across the Alps, now halting to rest and recruit, now fighting a passage through some hostile tribe, that several years elapsed before they reached Italy.

Odoaker had reigned fourteen years, with more justice and discretion than was common in those times, and was able to raise a large force, in 489, to meet the advance of Theodoric. After three severe battles had been fought, he was forced to take shelter within the strong walls of Ravenna; but he again sallied forth and attacked the Ostrogoths with such bravery that he came near defeating them. Finally, in 493, after a siege of three years, he capitulated, and was soon afterwards treacherously murdered, by order of Theodoric, at a banquet to which the latter had invited him.

Having the power in his own hands, Theodoric now threw off his assumed subjection to the Eastern Empire, put on the Roman purple, and proclaimed himself king. All Italy, including Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, fell at once into his hands; and, having left a portion of the Ostrogoths behind him, on the Danube, he also claimed all the region between, in order to preserve a communication with them. He was soon so strongly settled in his new realm that he had nothing to fear from the Emperor Zeno and his successors. The latter did not venture to show any direct signs of hostility towards him, but remained quiet; while, on his part, beyond seizing a portion of Pannonia, he refrained from interfering with their rule in the East.

In the West, however, the case was different. Five years before Theodoric's arrival in Italy, the last relic of Roman power disappeared forever from Gaul. A general named Syagrius had succeeded to the command, after the murder of Aëtius, and had formed the central provinces into a[Pg 57] Roman state, which was so completely cut off from all connection with the Empire that it became practically independent. The Franks, who now held all Northern Gaul and Belgium, from the Rhine to the Atlantic, with Paris as their capital, were by this time so strong and well organized, that their king, Chlodwig, boldly challenged Syagrius to battle. The challenge was accepted: a battle was fought near Soissons, in the year 486, the Romans were cut to pieces, and the river Loire became the southern boundary of the Frank kingdom. The territory between that river and the Pyrenees still belonged to the Visigoths.


While Theodoric was engaged in giving peace, order, and a new prosperity to the war-worn and desolated lands of Italy, his Frank rival, Chlodwig, defeated the Alemanni, conquered the Celts of Brittany—then called Armorica—and thus greatly increased his power. We must return to him and the history of his dynasty in a later chapter, and will now only briefly mention those incidents of his reign which brought him into conflict with Theodoric.

In the year 500, Chlodwig defeated the Burgundians and for a time rendered them tributary to him. He then turned to the Visigoths and made the fact of their being Arian Christians a pretext for declaring war against them. Their king was Alaric II., who had married the daughter of Theodoric. A battle was fought in 507: the two kings met, and, fighting hand to hand, Alaric II. was slain by Chlodwig. The latter soon afterwards took and plundered Toulouse, the Visigoth capital, and claimed the territory between the Loire and the Garonne.

Theodoric, whose grandson Amalaric (son of Alaric II.) was now king of the Visigoths, immediately hastened to the relief of the latter. His military strength was probably too great for Chlodwig to resist, for there is no report of any great battle having been fought. Theodoric took possession of Provence, re-established the Loire as the southern boundary of the Franks, and secured the kingdom of his grandson. The capital of the Visigoths, however, was changed to Toledo, in Spain. The Emperor Anastasius, to keep up the pretence of retaining his power in Gaul, appointed Chlodwig Roman Consul, and sent him a royal diadem and purple mantle. So much respect was still attached to the name of the Empire that Chlodwig accepted the title, and was solemnly invested by a Christian Bishop with the[Pg 58] crown and mantle. In the year 511 he died, having founded the kingdom of France.


The power of Theodoric was not again assailed. As the king of the Ostrogoths, he ruled over Italy and the islands, and the lands between the Adriatic and the Danube; as the guardian of the young Amalaric, his sway extended over Southern France and all of Spain. He was peaceful, prudent and wise, and his reign, by contrast with the convulsions which preceded it, was called "a golden age" by his Italian subjects. Although he and his people were Germanic in blood and Arians in faith, while the Italians were Roman and Athanasian, he guarded the interests and subdued the prejudices of both, and the respect which his abilities inspired preserved peace between them. The murder of Odoaker is a lasting stain upon his memory: the execution of the philosopher Boëthius is another, scarcely less dark; but, with the exception of these two acts, his reign was marked by wisdom, justice and tolerance. The surname of "The Great" was given to him by his contemporaries, not so much to distinguish him from the Theodoric of the Visigoths, as on account of his eminent qualities as a ruler. From the year 500 to 526, when he died, he was the most powerful and important monarch of the civilized world.

During Theodoric's life, Ravenna was the capital of Italy: Rome had lost her ancient renown, but her Bishops, who were now called Popes, were the rulers of the Church of the West, and she thus became a religious capital. The ancient enmity of the Arians and Athanasians had only grown stronger by time, and Theodoric, although he became popular with the masses of the people, was always hated by the priests. When he died, a splendid mausoleum was built for his body, at Ravenna, and still remains standing. It is a circular tower, resting on an arched base with ten sides, and surmounted by a dome, which is formed of a single stone, thirty-six feet in diameter and four feet in thickness. The sarcophagus in which he was laid was afterwards broken open, by the order of the Pope of Rome, and his ashes were scattered to the winds, as those of a heretic.

When Theodoric died, the enmities of race and sect, which he had suppressed with a strong hand, broke out afresh. He left behind him a grandson, Athalaric, only ten[Pg 59] years old, to whose mother, Amalasunta, was entrusted the regency during his minority. His other grandson, Amalaric, was king of the Visigoths, and sufficiently occupied in building up his power in Spain. In Italy, the hostility to Amalasunta's regency was chiefly religious; but the Eastern Emperor on the one side, and the Franks on the other, were actuated by political considerations. The former, the last of the great Emperors, Justinian, determined to recover Italy for the Empire: the latter only waited an opportunity to get possession of the whole of Gaul. Amalasunta was persuaded to sign a treaty, by which the territory of Provence was given back to the Burgundians. The latter were immediately assailed by the sons of Chlodwig, and in the year 534 the kingdom of Burgundy, after having stood for 125 years, ceased to exist. Not long afterwards the Visigoths were driven beyond the Pyrenees, and the whole of what is now France and Belgium, with a part of Western Switzerland, was in the possession of the Franks.


While these changes were taking place in the West, Justinian had not been idle in the East. He was fortunate in having two great generals, Belisarius and Narses, who had already restored the lost prestige of the Imperial army. His first movement was to recover Northern Africa from the Vandals, who had now been settled there for a hundred years, and began to consider themselves the inheritors of the Carthaginian power. Belisarius, with a fleet and a powerful army, was sent against them. Here, again, the difference of religious doctrine between the Vandals and the Romans whom they had subjected, made his task easy. The last Vandal king, Gelimer, was defeated and besieged in a fortress called Pappua. After the siege had lasted all winter, Belisarius sent an officer, Pharas, to demand surrender. Gelimer refused, but added: "If you will do me a favor, Pharas, send me a loaf of bread, a sponge and a harp." Pharas, astonished, asked the reason of this request, and Gelimer answered: "I demand bread, because I have seen none since I have been besieged here; a sponge, to cool my eyes which are weary with weeping; and a harp, to sing the story of my misfortunes." Soon afterwards he surrendered, and in 534 all Northern Africa was restored to Justinian. The Vandals disappeared from history, as a race, but some of their descendants, with light hair, blue eyes and fair skins, still live among the valleys of the Atlas Mountains, where[Pg 60] they are called Berbers, and keep themselves distinct from the Arab population.


Amalasunta, in the mean time, had been murdered by a relative whom she had chosen to assist her in the government. This gave Justinian a pretext for interfering, and Belisarius was next sent with his army to Italy. The Ostrogoths chose a new king, Vitiges, and the struggle which followed was long and desperate. Rome and Milan were taken and ravaged: in the latter city 300,000 persons are said to have been slaughtered. Belisarius finally obtained possession of Ravenna, the Gothic capital, took Vitiges prisoner and sent him to Constantinople. The Goths immediately elected another king, Totila, who carried on the struggle for eleven years longer. Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians and even Alemanni, whose alliance was sought by both sides, flocked to Italy in the hope of securing booty, and laid waste the regions which Belisarius and Totila had spared.

When Belisarius was recalled to Constantinople, Narses took his place, and continued the war with the diminishing remnant of the Ostrogoths. Finally, in the year 552, in a great battle among the Apennines, Totila was slain, and the struggle seemed to be at an end. But the Ostrogoths proclaimed the young prince Teias as their king, and marched southward under his leadership, to make a last fight for their existence as a nation. Narses followed, and not far from Cumæ, on a mountain opposite Vesuvius, he cut off their communication with the sea, and forced them to retreat to a higher position, where there was neither water for themselves nor food for their animals. Then they took the bridles off their horses and turned them loose, formed themselves into a solid square of men, with Teias at their head, and for two whole days fought with the valor and the desperation of men who know that their cause is lost, but nevertheless will not yield. Although Teias was slain, they still stood; and on the third morning Narses allowed the survivors, about 1,000 in number, to march away, with the promise that they would leave Italy.

Thus gloriously came to an end, after enduring sixty years, the Gothic power in Italy, and thus, like a meteor, brightest before it is quenched, the Gothic name fades from history. The Visigoths retained their supremacy in Spain until 711, when Roderick, their last king, was slain by the[Pg 61] Saracens, but the Ostrogoths, after this campaign of Narses, are never heard of again as a people. Between Hermann and Charlemagne, there is no leader so great as Theodoric, but his empire died with him. He became the hero of the earliest German songs; his name and character were celebrated among tribes who had forgotten his history, and his tomb is one of the few monuments left to us from those ages of battle, migration and change. The Ostrogoths were scattered and their traces lost. Some, no doubt, remained in Italy, and became mixed with the native population; others joined the people which were nearest to them in blood and habits; and some took refuge among the fastnesses of the Alps. It is supposed that the Tyrolese, for instance, may be among their descendants.


The apparent success of Justinian in bringing Italy again under the sway of the Eastern Empire was also only a flash, before its final extinction. The Ostrogoths were avenged by one of their kindred races. Narses remained in Ravenna as vicegerent of the Empire: his government was stern and harsh, but he restored order to the country, and his authority became so great as to excite the jealousy of Justinian. After the latter's death, in 565, it became evident that a plot was formed at Constantinople to treat Narses as his great cotemporary, Belisarius, had been treated. He determined to resist, and, in order to make his position stronger, summoned the Longobards (Long-Beards) to his aid.

This tribe, in the time of Cæsar, occupied a part of Northern Germany, near the mouth of the Elbe. About the end of the fourth century we find them on the north bank of the Danube, between Bohemia and Hungary. The history of their wanderings during the intervening period is unknown. During the reign of Theodoric they overcame their Germanic neighbors, the Heruli, to whom they had been partially subject: then followed a fierce struggle with the Gepidæ, another Germanic tribe, which terminated in the year 560 with the defeat and destruction of the latter. Their king, Kunimund, fell by the hand of Alboin, king of the Longobards, who had a drinking-cup made of his skull. The Longobards, though victorious, found themselves surrounded by new neighbors, who were much worse than the old. The Avars, who are supposed to have been a branch of the Huns, pressed and harassed them on the East; the Slavonic tribes of the north descended into Bohemia;[Pg 62] and they found themselves alone between races who were savages in comparison with their own.


The invitation of Narses was followed by a movement similar to that of the Ostrogoths under Theodoric. Alboin marched with all his people, their herds and household goods. The passes of the Alps were purposely left undefended at their approach, and in 568, accompanied by the fragments of many other Germanic tribes who gave up their homes on the Danube, they entered Italy and took immediate possession of all the northern provinces. The city of Pavia, which was strongly fortified, held out against them for four years, and then, on account of its strength and gallant resistance, was chosen by Alboin for its capital.

Italy then became the kingdom of the Longobards, and the permanent home of their race, whose name still exists in the province of Lombardy. Only Ravenna, Naples and Genoa were still held by the Eastern Emperors, constituting what was called the Exarchy. Rome was also nominally subject to Constantinople, although the Popes were beginning to assume the government of the city. The young republic of Venice, already organized, was safe on its islands in the Adriatic.

The Migrations of the Races, which were really commenced by the Goths when they moved from the Baltic to the Black Sea, but which first became a part of our history in the year 375, terminated with the settlement of the Longobards in Italy. They therefore occupied two centuries, and form a grand and stirring period of transition between the Roman Empire and the Europe of the Middle Ages. With the exception of the invasion of the Huns, and the slow and rather uneventful encroachment of the Slavonic race, these great movements were carried out by the kindred tribes who inhabited the forests of "Germania Magna," in the time of Cæsar.





Thus far, we have been following the history of the Germanic races, in their conflict with Rome, until their complete and final triumph at the end of six hundred years after they first met Julius Cæsar. Within the limits of Germany itself, there was, as we have seen, no united nationality. Even the consolidation of the smaller tribes under the names of Goths, Franks, Saxons and Alemanni, during the third century, was only the beginning of a new political development which was not continued upon German soil. With the exception of Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Ireland, Wales, the Scottish Highlands, and the Byzantine territory in Turkey, Greece and Italy, all Europe was under Germanic rule at the end of the Migration of the Races, in the year 570.

The Longobards, after the death of Alboin and his successor, Kleph, prospered greatly under the wise rule of Queen Theodolind, daughter of king Garibald of Bavaria, and wife of Kleph's son, Authari. She persuaded them to become Christians; and they then gave up their nomadic habits, scattered themselves over the country, learned agriculture and the mechanic arts, and gradually became amalgamated with the native Romans. Their descendants form a large portion of the population of Northern Italy at this day.[Pg 64]




[Pg 65]The Franks, at this time, were firmly established in Gaul, under the dynasty founded by Chlodwig. They owned nearly all the territory west of the Rhine, part of Western Switzerland and the valley of the Rhone, to the Mediterranean. Only a small strip of territory on the east, between the Pyrenees and the upper waters of the Garonne, still belonged to the Visigoths. The kingdom of Burgundy, after an existence of 125 years, became absorbed in that of the Franks, in 534.

After the death of Theodoric, the connection of the Visigoths with the other German races ceased. They conquered the Suevi, driving them into the mountains of Galicia, subdued the Alans in Portugal, and during a reign of two centuries more impressed their traces indelibly upon the Spanish people. Their history, from this time on, belongs to Spain. Their near relations, the Vandals, as we have already seen, had ceased to exist. Like the Ostrogoths, they were never named again as a separate people.

The Saxons had made themselves such thorough masters of England and the lowlands of Scotland, that the native Celto-Roman population was driven into Wales and Cornwall. The latter had become Christians under the Empire, and they looked with horror upon the paganism of the Saxons. During the early part of the sixth century, they made a bold but brief effort to expel the invaders, under the lead of the half-fabulous king Arthur (of the Round Table), who is supposed to have died about the year 537. The Angles and Saxons, however, not only triumphed, but planted their language, laws and character so firmly upon English soil, that the England of the later centuries grew from the basis they laid, and the name of Anglo-Saxon has become the designation of the English race all over the world.

Along the northern coast of Germany, the Frisii and the Saxons who remained behind, had formed two kingdoms and asserted a fierce independence. The territory of the latter extended to the Hartz Mountains, where it met that of the Thuringians, who still held Central Germany southward to the Danube. Beyond that river, the new nation of the Bavarians was permanently settled, and had already risen to such importance that Theodolind, the daughter of its king, Garibald, was selected for his queen by the Longobard king, Authari.

East of the Elbe, through Prussia, nearly the whole[Pg 66] country was occupied by various Slavonic tribes. One of these, the Czechs, had taken possession of Bohemia, where they soon afterwards established an independent kingdom. Beyond them, the Avars occupied Hungary, now and then making invasions into German territory, or even to the borders of Italy; Denmark and Sweden, owing to their remoteness from the great theatre of action, were scarcely affected by the political changes we have described.


Finally, the Alemanni, though defeated and held back by the Franks, maintained their independence in the south-western part of Germany and in Eastern Switzerland, where their descendants are living at this day. Each of all these new nationalities included remnants of the smaller original tribes, which had lost their independence in the general struggle, and which soon became more or less mixed (except in England) with the former inhabitants of the conquered soil.

The Eastern Empire was now too weak and corrupt to venture another conflict with these stronger Germanic races, whose civilization was no longer very far behind its own. Moreover, within sixty years after the Migration came to an end, a new foe arose in the East. The successors of Mahomet began that struggle which tore Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor from Christian hands, and which only ceased when, in 1453, the crescent floated from the towers of Constantinople.

Nearly all Europe was thus portioned among men of German blood, very few of whom ever again migrated from the soil whereon they were now settled. It was their custom to demand one-third—in some few instances, two thirds—of the conquered territory for their own people. In this manner, Frank and Gaul, Longobard and Roman, Visigoth and Spaniard, found themselves side by side, and reciprocally influenced each other's speech and habits of life. It must not be supposed, however, that the new nations lost their former character, and took on that of the Germanic conquerors. Almost the reverse of this took place. It must be remembered that the Gauls, for instance, far outnumbered the Franks; that each conquest was achieved by a few hundred thousand men, all of them warriors, while each of the original Roman provinces had several millions of inhabitants. There must have been at least ten of the ruled, to one of the ruling race.[Pg 67]


The latter, moreover, were greatly inferior to the former in all the arts of civilization. In the homes, the dress and ornaments, the social intercourse, and all the minor features of life, they found their new neighbors above them, and they were quick to learn the use of unaccustomed comforts or luxuries. All the cities and small towns were Roman in their architecture, in their municipal organization, and in the character of their trade and intercourse; and the conquerors found it easier to accept this old-established order than to change it.

Another circumstance contributed to Latinize the German races outside of Germany. After the invention of a Gothic alphabet by Bishop Ulfila, and his translation of the Bible, we hear no more of a written German language until the eighth century. There was at least none which was accessible to the people, and the Latin continued to be the language of government and religion. The priests were nearly all Romans, and their interest was to prevent the use of written Germanic tongues. Such learning as remained to the world was of course only to be acquired through a knowledge of Latin and Greek.

All the influences which surrounded the conquering races tended, therefore, to eradicate or change their original German characteristics. After a few centuries, their descendants, in almost every instance, lost sight of their origin, and even looked with contempt upon rival people of the same blood. The Franks and Burgundians of the present day speak of themselves as "the Latin race": the blonde and blue-eyed Lombards of Northern Italy, not long since, hated "the Germans" as the Christian of the Middle Ages hated the Jew; and the full-blooded English or American Saxon often considers the German as a foreigner with whom he has nothing in common.

By the year 570, all the races outside of Germany, except the Saxons and Angles in Britain, had accepted Christianity. Within Germany, although the Christian missionaries were at work among the Alemanni, the Bavarians, and along the Rhine, the great body of the people still held to their old pagan worship. The influence of the true faith was no doubt weakened by the bitter enmity which still existed between the Athanasian and Arian sects, although the latter ceased to be powerful after the downfall of the Ostrogoths. But the Christianity which prevailed among the[Pg 68] Franks, Burgundians and Longobards was not pure or intelligent enough to save them from the vices which the Roman Empire left behind it. Many of their kings and nobles were polygamists, and the early history of their dynasties is a chronicle of falsehood, cruelty and murder.


In each of the races, the primitive habit of electing chiefs by the people had long since given way to an hereditary monarchy, but in other respects their political organization remained much the same. The Franks introduced into Gaul the old German division of the land into provinces, hundreds and communities, but the king now claimed the right of appointing a Count for the first, a Centenarius, or centurion, for the second, and an elder, or head-man, for the third. The people still held their public assemblies, and settled their local matters; they were all equal before the law, and the free men paid no taxes. The right of declaring war, making peace, and other questions of national importance, were decided by a general assembly of the people, at which the king presided. The political system was therefore more republican than monarchical, but it gradually lost the former character as the power of the kings increased.

The nobles had no fixed place and no special rights during the migrations of the tribes. Among the Franks they were partly formed out of the civil officers, and soon included both Romans and Gauls among their number. In Germany their hereditary succession was already secured, and they maintained their ascendancy over the common people by keeping pace with the knowledge and the arts of those times, while the latter remained, for the most part, in a state of ignorance.

The cities, inhabited by Romans and Romanized Gauls, retained their old system of government, but paid a tax or tribute. Those portions of the other Germanic races which had become subject to the Franks were also allowed to keep their own peculiar laws and forms of local government, which were now, for the first time, recorded in the Latin language. They were obliged to furnish a certain number of men capable of bearing arms, but it does not appear that they paid any tribute to the Franks.

Slavery still existed, and in the two forms of it which we find among the ancient Germans,—chattels who were bought and sold, and dependents who were bound to give[Pg 69] labor or tribute in return for the protection of a freeman. The Romans in Gaul were placed upon the latter footing by the Franks. The children born of marriages between them and the free took the lower and not the higher position,—that is, they were dependents.


The laws in regard to crime were very rigid and severe, but not bloody. The body of the free man, like his life, was considered inviolate, so there was no corporeal punishment, and death was only inflicted in a few extreme cases. The worst crimes could be atoned for by the sacrifice of money or property. For murder the penalty was two hundred shillings (at that time the value of 100 oxen), two-thirds of which were given to the family of the murdered person, while one-third was divided between the judge and the State. This penalty was increased threefold for the murder of a Count or a soldier in the field, and more than fourfold for that of a Bishop. In some of the codes the payment was fixed even for the murder of a Duke or King. The slaying of a dependent or a Roman only cost half as much as that of a free Frank, while a slave was only valued at thirty-five shillings, or seventeen and a half oxen: the theft of a falcon trained for hunting, or a stallion, cost ten shillings more.

Slander, insult and false-witness were punished in the same way. If any one falsely accused another of murder he was condemned to pay the injured person the penalty fixed for the crime of murder, and the same rule was applied to all minor accusations. The charge of witchcraft, if not proved according to the superstitious ideas of the people, was followed by the penalty of one hundred and eighty shillings. Whoever called another a hare, was fined six shillings; but if he called him a fox, the fine was only three shillings.

As the Germanic races became Christian, the power and privileges of the priesthood were manifested in the changes made in these laws. Not only was it enacted that the theft of property belonging to the Church must be paid back ninefold, but the slaves of the priests were valued at double the amount fixed for the slaves of laymen. The Churches became sacred, and no criminal could be seized at the foot of the altar. Those who neglected to attend worship on the Sabbath three times in succession, were punished by the loss of one-third of their property. If this neglect was repeated a second time, they were made slaves, and could be sold as such by the Church.[Pg 70]


The laws of the still pagan Thuringians and Saxons, in Germany, did not differ materially from those of the Christian Franks. Justice was administered in assemblies of the people, and, in order to secure the largest expression of the public will, a heavy fine was imposed for the failure to attend. The latter feature is still retained, in some of the old Cantons of Switzerland. In Thuringia and Saxony, however, the nobles had become a privileged class, recognized by the laws, and thus was laid the foundation for the feudal system of the Middle Ages.

The transition was now complete. Although the art, taste and refinement of the Roman Empire were lost, its civilizing influence in law and civil organization survived, and slowly subdued the Germanic races which inherited its territory. But many characteristics of their early barbarism still clung to the latter, and a long period elapsed before we can properly call them a civilized people.




  • Chlodwig, the Founder of the Merovingian Dynasty.
  • —His Conversion to Christianity.
  • —His Successors.
  • —Theuderich's Conquest of Thuringia.
  • —Union of the Eastern Franks.
  • —Austria (or Austrasia) and Neustria.
  • —Crimes of the Merovingian Kings.
  • —Clotar and his Sons.
  • —Sigbert's Successes.
  • —His Wife, Brunhilde.
  • —Sigbert's Death.
  • —Quarrel between Brunhilde and Fredegunde.
  • —Clotar II.
  • —Brunhilde and her Grandsons.
  • —Her Defeat and Death.
  • —Clotar II.'s Reign.
  • —King Dagobert.
  • —The Nobles and the Church.
  • —War with the Thuringians.
  • —Picture of the Merovingian Line.
  • —A New Power.

The history of Germany, from the middle of the sixth to the middle of the ninth century, is that of France also. After having conducted them to their new homes, we take leave of the Anglo-Saxons, the Visigoths and the Longobards, and return to the Frank dynasty founded by Chlodwig, about the year 500, when the smaller kings and chieftains of his race accepted him as their ruler. In the histories of France, even those written in English, he is called "Clovis," but we prefer to give him his original Frank name. He was the grandson of a petty king, whose name was Merovich, whence he and his successors are called, in history, the Merovingian dynasty. He appears to have been a born conqueror, neither very just nor very wise in his actions, but brave, determined and ready to use any means, good or bad, in order to attain his end.

Chlodwig extinguished the last remnant of Roman rule in Gaul, in the year 486, as we have related in Chapter VII. He was then only 20 years old, having succeeded to the throne at the age of 15. Shortly afterwards he married the daughter of one of the Burgundian kings. She was a Christian, and endeavored, but for many years without effect, to induce him to give up his pagan faith. Finally, in a war with the Alemanni, in 496, he promised to become a Christian,[Pg 72] provided the God of the Christians would give him victory. The decisive battle was long and bloody, but it ended in the complete rout of the Alemanni, and afterwards all of them who were living to the west of the Rhine became tributary to the Franks.


Chlodwig and 3,000 of his followers were soon afterwards baptized in the cathedral at Rheims, by the bishop Remigius. When the king advanced to the baptismal font, the bishop said to him: "Bow thy head, Sicambrian!—worship what thou hast persecuted, persecute what thou hast worshipped!" Although nearly all the German Christians at this time were Arians, Chlodwig selected the Athanasian faith of Rome, and thereby secured the support of the Roman priesthood in France, which was of great service to him in his ambitious designs. This difference of faith also gave him a pretext to march against the Burgundians in 500, and the Visigoths in 507: both wars were considered holy by the Church.

His conquest of the Visigoths was prevented, as we have seen, by the interposition of Theodoric. He then devoted his remaining years to the complete suppression of all the minor Frank kings, and was so successful that when he died, in 511, all the race, to the west of the Rhine, was united under his single sway. He was succeeded by four sons, of whom the eldest, Theuderich, reigned in Paris; the others chose Metz, Orleans and Soissons for their capitals. Theuderich was a man of so much energy and prudence that he was able to control his brothers, and unite the four governments in such a way that the kingdom was saved from dismemberment.

The mother of Chlodwig was a runaway queen of Thuringia, whose son, Hermanfried, now ruled over that kingdom, after having deposed his two brothers. The relationship gave Theuderich a ground for interfering, and the result was a war between the Franks and the Thuringians. Theuderich collected a large army, marched into Germany in 530, procured the services of 9,000 Saxons as allies, and met the Thuringians on the river Unstrut, not far from where the city of Halle now stands. Hermanfried was taken prisoner, carried to France, and treacherously thrown from a tower, after receiving great professions of friendship from his nephew, Theuderich. His family fled to Italy, and the kingdom of Thuringia, embracing nearly all Central Germany,[Pg 73] was added to that of the Franks. The northern part, however, was given to the Saxons as a reward for their assistance.


Four years afterwards the brothers of Theuderich conquered the kingdom of Burgundy, and annexed it to their territory. About the same time, the Franks living eastward of the Rhine entered into a union with their more powerful brethren. Since both the Alemanni and the Bavarians were already tributary to the latter, the dominion of the united Franks now extended from the Atlantic nearly to the river Elbe, and from the mouth of the Rhine to the Mediterranean, with Friesland and the kingdom of the Saxons between it and the North Sea. To all lying east of the Rhine, the name of Austria (East-kingdom) or Austrasia was given, while Neustria (New-kingdom) was applied to all west of the Rhine. These designations were used in the historical chronicles for some centuries afterwards.

While Theuderich lived, his brothers observed a tolerably peaceful conduct towards one another, but his death was followed by a season of war and murder. History gives us no record of another dynasty so steeped in crime as that of the Merovingians: within the compass of a few years we find a father murdering his son, a brother his brother and a wife her husband. We can only account for the fact that the whole land was not constantly convulsed by civil war, by supposing that the people retained enough of power in their national assemblies, to refuse taking part in the fratricidal quarrels. It is not necessary, therefore, to recount all the details of the bloody family history. Their effect upon the people must have been in the highest degree demoralizing, yet the latter possessed enough of prudence—or perhaps of a clannish spirit, in the midst of a much larger Roman and Gallic population—to hold the Frank kingdom together, while its rulers were doing their best to split it to pieces.

The result of all the quarrelling and murdering was, that in 558 Clotar, the youngest son of Chlodwig, became the sole monarch. After forty-seven years of divided rule, the kingly power was again in a single hand, and there seemed to be a chance for peace and progress. But Clotar died within three years, and, like his father, left four sons to divide his power. The first thing they did was to fight; then, being perhaps rather equally matched, they agreed to portion the kingdom. Charibert reigned in Paris, Guntram in Orleans, Chilperic[Pg 74] in Soissons, and Sigbert in Metz. The boundaries between their territories are uncertain; we only know that all of "Austria," or Germany east of the Rhine, fell to Sigbert's share.


About this time the Avars, coming from Hungary, had invaded Thuringia, and were inciting the people to rebellion against the Franks. Sigbert immediately marched against them, drove them back, and established his authority over the Thuringians. On returning home he found that his brother Chilperic had taken possession of his capital and many smaller towns. Chilperic was forced to retreat, lost his own kingdom in turn, and only received it again through the generosity of Sigbert,—the first and only instance of such a virtue in the Merovingian line of kings. Sigbert seems to have inherited the abilities, without the vices, of his grandfather Chlodwig. When the Avars made a second invasion into Germany, he was not only defeated but taken prisoner by them. Nevertheless, he immediately acquired such influence over their Khan, or chieftain, that he persuaded the latter to set him free, to make a treaty of peace and friendship, and to return with his Avars to Hungary.

In the year 568 Charibert died in Paris, leaving no heirs. A new strife instantly broke out among the three remaining brothers; but it was for a time suspended, owing to the approach of a common danger. The Longobards, now masters of Northern Italy, crossed the Alps and began to overrun Switzerland, which the Franks possessed, through their victories over the Burgundians and the Alemanni. Sigbert and Guntram united their forces, and repelled the invasion with much slaughter.

Then broke out in France a series of family wars, darker and bloodier than any which had gone before. The strife between the sons of Clotar and their children and grandchildren desolated France for forty years, and became all the more terrible because the women of the family entered into it with the men. All these Christian kings, like their father, were polygamists: each had several wives; yet they are described by the priestly chroniclers of their times as men who went about doing good, and whose lives were "acceptable to God"! Sigbert was the only exception: he had but one wife, Brunhilde, the daughter of a king of the Visigoths, a stately, handsome, intelligent woman, but proud and ambitious.[Pg 75]


Either the power and popularity, or the rich marriage-portion, which Sigbert acquired with Brunhilde, induced his brother, Chilperic, to ask the hand of her sister, the Princess Galsunta of Spain. It was granted to him on condition that he would put away all his wives and live with her alone. He accepted the condition, and was married to Galsunta. One of the women sent away was Fredegunde, who soon found means to recover her former influence over Chilperic's mind. It was not long before Galsunta was found dead in her bed, and within a week Fredegunde, the murderess, became queen in her stead. Brunhilde called upon Sigbert to revenge her sister's death, and then began that terrible history of crime and hatred, which was celebrated, centuries afterwards, in the famous Nibelungenlied, or Lay of the Nibelungs.

In the year 575, Sigbert gained a complete victory over Chilperic, and was lifted upon a shield by the warriors of the latter, who hailed him as their king. In that instant he was stabbed in the back, and died upon the field of his triumph. Chilperic resumed his sway, and soon took Brunhilde prisoner, while her young son, Childebert, escaped to Germany. But his own son, Merwig, espoused Brunhilde's cause, secretly released her from prison, and then married her. A war next arose between father and son, in which the former was successful. He cut off Merwig's long hair, and shut him up in a monastery; but, for some unexplained reason, he allowed Brunhilde to go free. In the meantime Fredegunde had borne three sons, who all died soon after their birth. She accused her own step-son of having caused their deaths by witchcraft, and he and his mother, one of Chilperic's former wives, were put to death.

Both Chilperic and his brother Guntram, who reigned at Orleans, were without male heirs. At this juncture, the German chiefs and nobles demanded to have Childebert, the young son of Sigbert and Brunhilde, who had taken refuge among them, recognized as the heir to the Frankish throne. Chilperic consented, on condition that Childebert, with such forces as he could command, would march with him against Guntram, who had despoiled him of a great deal of his territory. The treaty was made, in spite of the opposition of Brunhilde, whose sister's murder was not yet avenged, and the civil wars were renewed. Both sides gained or lost alternately, without any decided result, until[Pg 76] the assassination of Chilperic, by an unknown hand, in 584. A few months before his death, Fredegunde had borne him another son, Clotar, who lived, and was at once presented by his mother as Childebert's rival to the throne.


The struggle between the two widowed queens, Brunhilde and Fredegunde, was for a while delayed by the appearance of a new claimant, Gundobald, who had been a fugitive in Constantinople for many years, and declared that he was Chilperic's brother. He obtained the support of many Austrasian (German) princes, and was for a time so successful that Fredegunde was forced to take refuge with Guntram, at Orleans. The latter also summoned Childebert to his capital, and persuaded him to make a truce with Fredegunde and her adherents, in order that both might act against their common rival. Gundobald and his followers were soon destroyed: Guntram died in 593, and Childebert was at once accepted as his successor. His kingdom included that of Charibert, whose capital was Paris, and that of his father, Sigbert, embracing all Frankish Germany. But the nobles and people, accustomed to conspiracy, treachery and crime, could no longer be depended upon, as formerly. They were beginning to return to their former system of living upon war and pillage, instead of the honest arts of peace.

Fredegunde still held the kingdom of Chilperic for her son Clotar. After strengthening herself by secret intrigues with the Frank nobles, she raised an army, put herself at its head, and marched against Childebert, who was defeated and soon afterwards poisoned, after having reigned only three years. His realm was divided between his two young sons, one receiving Burgundy and the other Germany, under the guardianship of their grandmother Brunhilde. Fredegunde followed up her success, took Paris and Orleans from the heirs of Childebert, and died in 597, leaving her son Clotar, then in his fourteenth year, as king of more than half of France. He was crowned as Clotar II.

Death placed Brunhilde's rival out of the reach of her revenge, but she herself might have secured the whole kingdom of the Franks for her two grandsons, had she not quarrelled with one and stirred up war between them. The first consequence of this new strife was that Alsatia and Eastern Switzerland were separated from Neustria, or France, and attached to Austria, or Germany. Brunhilde, finding that[Pg 77] her cause was desperate, procured the assistance of Clotar II. for herself and her favorite grandson, Theuderich. The fortune of war now turned, and before long the other grandson, Theudebert, was taken prisoner. By his brother's order he was formally deposed from his kingly authority, and then executed: the brains of his infant son were dashed out against a stone.


It was not long before this crime was avenged. A quarrel in regard to the division of the spoils arose between Theuderich and Clotar II. The former died in the beginning of the war which followed, leaving four young sons to the care of their great-grandmother, the queen Brunhilde. Clotar II. immediately marched against her, but, knowing her ability and energy, he obtained a promise from the nobles of Burgundy and Germany who were unfriendly to Brunhilde, that they would come over to his side at the critical moment. The aged queen had called her people to arms, and, like her rival, Fredegunde, put herself at their head; but when the armies met, on the river Aisne in Champagne, the traitors in her own camp joined Clotar II. and the struggle was ended without a battle. Brunhilde, then eighty years old, was taken prisoner, cruelly tortured for three days, and then tied by her gray hair to the tail of a wild horse and dragged to death. The four sons of Theuderich were put to death at the same time, and thus, in the year 613, Clotar II. became king of all the Franks. A priest named Fredegar, who wrote his biography, says of him: "He was a most patient man, learned and pious, and kind and sympathizing towards every one!"

Clotar II. possessed, at least, energy enough to preserve a sway which was based on a long succession of the worst crimes that disgrace humanity. In 622, six years before his death, he made his oldest son, Dagobert, a boy of sixteen, king of the German half of his realm, but was obliged, immediately afterwards, to assist him against the Saxons. He entered their territory, seized the people, massacred all who proved to be taller than his own two-handed sword, and then returned to France without having subdued the spirit or received the allegiance of the bold race. Nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of his reign; he died in 628, leaving his kingdom to his two sons, Dagobert and Charibert. The former easily possessed himself of the lion's share, giving his younger brother only a small strip[Pg 78] of territory along the river Loire. Charibert, however, drove the last remnant of the Visigoths into Spain, and added the country between the Garonne and the Pyrenees to his little kingdom. The name of Aquitaine was given to this region, and Charibert's descendants became its Dukes, subject to the kings of the Franks.


Dagobert had been carefully educated by Pippin of Landen, the Royal Steward of Clotar II., and by Arnulf, the Bishop of Metz. He had no quality of greatness, but he promised to be, at least, a good and just sovereign. He became at once popular with the masses, who began to long for peace, and for the restoration of rights which had been partly lost during the civil wars. The nobles, however, who had drawn the greatest advantage from those wars, during which their support was purchased by one side or the other, grew dissatisfied. They cunningly aroused in Dagobert the love of luxury and the sensual vices which had ruined his ancestors, and thus postponed the reign of law and justice to which the people were looking forward.

In fact, that system of freedom and equality which the Germanic races had so long possessed, was already shaken to its very base. During the long and bloody feuds of the Merovingian kings, many changes had been made in the details of government, all tending to increase the power of the nobles, the civil officers and the dignitaries of the Church. Wealth—the bribes paid for their support—had accumulated in the hands of these classes, while the farmers, mechanics and tradesmen, plundered in turn by both parties, had constantly grown poorer. Although the external signs of civilization had increased, the race had already lost much of its moral character, and some of the best features of its political system.

There are few chronicles which inform us of the affairs of Germany during this period. The Avars, after their treaty of peace with Sigbert, directed their incursions against the Bavarians, but without gaining any permanent advantage. On the other hand, the Slavonic tribes, especially the Bohemians, united under the rule of a renegade Frank, whose name was Samo, and who acquired a part of Thuringia, after defeating the Frank army which was sent against him. The Saxons and Thuringians then took the war into their own hands, and drove back Samo and his Slavonic hordes. By this victory the Saxons released themselves[Pg 79] from the payment of an annual tribute to the Frank kings, and the Thuringians became strong enough to organize themselves again as a people and elect their own Duke. The Franks endeavored to suppress this new organization, but they were defeated by the Duke, Radulf, nearly on the same spot where, just one hundred years before, Theuderich, the son of Chlodwig, had crushed the Thuringian kingdom. From that time, Thuringia was placed on the same footing as Bavaria, tributary to the Franks, but locally independent.


King Dagobert, weak, swayed by whatever influence was nearest, and voluptuous rather than cruel, died in 638, before he had time to do much evil. He was the last of the Merovingian line who exercised any actual power. The dynasty existed for a century longer, but its monarchs were merely puppets in the hands of stronger men. Its history, from the beginning, is well illustrated by a tradition current among the people, concerning the mother of Chlodwig. They relate that soon after her marriage she had a vision, in which she gave birth to a lion (Chlodwig), whose descendants were wolves and bears, and their descendants, in turn, frisky dogs.

Before the death of Dagobert—in fact, during the life of Clotar II.—a new power had grown up within the kingdom of the Franks, which gradually pushed the Merovingian dynasty out of its place. The history of this power, after 638, becomes the history of the realm, and we now turn from the bloody kings to trace its origin, rise and final triumph.




  • The Steward of the Royal Household.
  • —His Government of the Royal Lehen.
  • —His Position and Opportunities.
  • —Pippin of Landen.
  • —His Sway in Germany.
  • —Gradual Transfer of Power.
  • —Grimoald, Steward of France.
  • —Pippin of Heristall.
  • —His Successes.
  • —Coöperation with the Church of Rome.
  • —Quarrels between his Heirs.
  • —Karl defeats his Rivals.
  • —Becomes sole Steward of the Empire.
  • —He favors Christian Missions.
  • —The Labors of Winfried (Bishop Bonifacius).
  • —Invasion of the Saracens.
  • —The Great Battle of Poitiers.
  • —Karl is surnamed Martel, the Hammer.
  • —His Wars and Marches.
  • —His Death and Character.
  • —Pippin the Short.
  • —He subdues the German Dukes.
  • —Assists Pope Zacharias.
  • —Is anointed King.
  • —Death of Bonifacius.
  • —Pippin defeats the Lombards.
  • —Gives the Pope Temporal Power.
  • —His Death.

We have mentioned Pippin of Landen as the Royal Steward of Clotar II. His office gave birth to the new power which grew up beside the Merovingian rule and finally suppressed it. In the chronicles of the time the officer is called the Majordomus of the King,—a word which is best translated by "Steward of the Royal Household"; but in reality, it embraced much more extended and important powers than the title would imply. In their conquests, the Franks—as we have already stated—usually claimed at least one-third of the territory which fell into their hands. A part of this was portioned out among the chief men and the soldiers; a part was set aside as the king's share, and still another part became the common property of the people. The latter, therefore, fell into the habit of electing a Steward to guard and superintend this property in their interest; and, as the kings became involved in their family feuds, the charge of the royal estates was intrusted to the hands of the same steward.

The latter estates soon became, by conquest, so extensive and important, that the king gave the use of many of them[Pg 81] for a term of years, or for life, to private individuals in return for military services. This was called the Lehen (lien, or loan) system, to distinguish it from the Allod (allotment), whereby a part of the conquered lands were divided by lot, and became the free property of those to whom they fell. The Lehen gave rise to a new class, whose fortunes were immediately dependent on the favor of the king, and who consequently, when they appeared at the national assemblies, voted on his side. Such a "loaned" estate was also called feod, whence the term "feudal system," which, gradually modified by time, grew from this basis. The importance of the Royal Steward in the kingdom is thus explained. The office, at first, had probably a mere business character. After Chlodwig's time, the civil wars by which the estates of the king and the people became subject to constant change, gave the steward a political power, which increased with each generation. He stood between the monarch and his subjects, with the best opportunity for acquiring an ascendency over the minds of both. At first, he was only elected for a year, and his reëlection depended on the honesty and ability with which he had discharged his duties. During the convulsions of the dynasty, he, in common with king and nobles, gained what rights the people lost: he began to retain his office for a longer time, then for life, and finally demanded that it should be hereditary in his family.


The Royal Stewards of Burgundy and Germany played an important part in the last struggle between Clotar II. and Brunhilde. When the successful king, in 622, found that the increasing difference of language and habits between the eastern and western portions of his realm required a separation of the government, and made his young son, Dagobert, ruler over the German half, he was compelled to recognize Pippin of Landen as his Steward, and to trust Dagobert entirely to his hands. The dividing line between "Austria" and "Neustria" was drawn along the chain of the Vosges, through the forest of Ardennes, and terminated near the mouth of the Schelde,—almost the same line which divides the German and French languages, at this day.

Pippin was a Frank, born in the Netherlands, a man of energy and intelligence, but of little principle. He had, nevertheless, shrewdness enough to see the necessity of maintaining the unity and peace of the kingdom, and he endeavored, in conjunction with Bishop Arnulf of Metz, to[Pg 82] make a good king of Dagobert. They made him, indeed, amiable and well-meaning, but they could not overcome the instability of his character. After Clotar II.'s death, in 628, Dagobert passed the remaining ten years of his life in France, under the control of others, and the actual government of Germany was exercised by Pippin.


The period of transition between the power of the kings, gradually sinking, and the power of the Stewards, steadily rising, lasted about fifty years. The latter power, however, was not allowed to increase without frequent struggles, partly from the jealousy of the nobility and priesthood, partly from the Resistance of the people to the extinction of their remaining rights. But, after the devastation left behind by the fratricidal wars of the Merovingians, all parties felt the necessity of a strong and well-regulated government, and the long experience of the Stewards gave them the advantage.

Grimoald, the son and successor of Pippin in the stewardship of Germany, made an attempt to usurp the royal power, but failed. This event, and the interference of a Steward of France with the rights of the dynasty, led the Franks, in 670—when the whole kingdom was again united under Childeric II.—to decree that the Stewards should be elected annually by the people, as in the beginning. But when Childeric II., like the most of his predecessors, was murdered, the deposed Steward of France regained his power, forced the people to accept him, and attempted to extend his government over Germany. In spite of a fierce resistance, headed by Pippin of Heristall, the grandson of Pippin of Landen, he partly maintained his authority until the year 681, when he was murdered in turn.

Pippin of Heristall was also the grandson of Arnulf, Bishop of Metz, whose son, Anchises, had married Begga, the daughter of Pippin of Landen. He was thus of Roman blood by his father's, and Frank by his mother's side. As soon as his authority was secured, as Royal Steward of Germany, he invaded France, and a desperate struggle for the stewardship of the whole kingdom ensued. It was ended in 687 by a battle near St. Quentin, in which Pippin was victorious. He used his success with a moderation very rare in those days: he did honor to the Frank king, Theuderich III., who had fallen into his hands, spared the lives[Pg 83] and possessions of all who had fought against him, on their promise not to take up arms against his authority, and even continued many of the chief officials of the Franks in their former places.


From this date the Merovingian monarch became a shadow. Pippin paid him all external signs of allegiance, kept up the ceremonies of his Court, supplied him with ample revenues, and governed the kingdom in his name; but the actual power was concentrated in his own hands. France, Switzerland and the greater part of Germany were subjected to his government, although there were still elements of discontent within the realm, and of trouble outside of its borders. The dependent dukedoms of Aquitaine, Burgundy, Alemannia, Bavaria and Thuringia were restless under the yoke; the Saxons and Frisians on the north were hostile and defiant, and the Slavonic races all along the eastern frontier had not yet given up their invasions.

Pippin, like the French rulers after him, down to the present day, perceived the advantage of having the Church on his side. Moreover, he was the grandson of a Bishop, which circumstance—although it did not prevent him from taking two wives—enabled him better to understand the power of the ecclesiastical system of Rome. In the early part of the seventh century, several Christian missionaries, principally Irish, had begun their labors among the Alemanni and the Bavarians, but the greater part of these people, with all the Thuringians, Saxons and Frisians, were still worshippers of the old pagan gods. Pippin saw that the latter must be taught submission, and accustomed to authority through the Church, and, with his aid, all the southern part of Germany became Christian in a few years. Force was employed, as well as persuasion; but, at that time, the end was considered to sanction any means.

Pippin's rule (we can not call it reign) was characterized by the greatest activity, patience and prudence. From year to year the kingdom of the Franks became better organized and stronger in all its features of government. Brittany, Burgundy and Aquitaine were kept quiet; the northern part of Holland was conquered, and immediately given into charge of a band of Anglo-Saxon monks; and Germany, although restless and dissatisfied, was held more firmly than ever. Pippin of Heristall, while he was simply[Pg 84] called a Royal Steward, exercised a wider power than any monarch of his time.


When he died, in the year 714, the kingdom was for a while convulsed by feuds which threatened to repeat the bloody annals of the Merovingians. His heirs were Theudowald, his grandson by his wife Plektrude, and Karl and Hildebrand, his sons by his wife Alpheid. He chose the former as his successor, and Plektrude, in order to suppress any opposition to this arrangement, imprisoned her step-son Karl. But the Burgundians immediately revolted, elected one of their chiefs, Raginfried, to the office of Royal Steward, and defeated the Franks in a battle in which Theudowald was slain. Karl, having escaped from prison, put himself at the head of affairs, supported by a majority of the German Franks. He was a man of strong personal influence, and inspired his followers with enthusiasm and faith; but his chances seemed very desperate. His step-mother, Plektrude, opposed him: the Burgundians and French Franks, led by Raginfried, were marching against him, and Radbod, Duke of Friesland, invaded the territory which he was bound by his office to defend.

Karl had the choice of three enemies, and he took the one which seemed most dangerous. He attacked Radbod, but was forced to fall back, and this repulse emboldened the Saxons to make a foray into the land of the Hessians, as the old Germanic tribe of the Chatti were now called. Radbod advanced to Cologne, which was held by Plektrude and her followers: at the same time Raginfried approached from the west, and the city was thus besieged by two separate armies, hostile to each other, yet both having the same end in view. Between the two, Karl managed to escape, and retreated to the forest of Ardennes, where he set about reconstructing his shattered army.

Cologne was too strong to be assailed, and Plektrude, who possessed large treasures, soon succeeded in buying off Radbod and Raginfried. The latter, on his return to France, came into collision with Karl, who, though repelled at first, finally drove him in confusion to the walls of Paris. Karl then suddenly wheeled about and marched against Cologne, which fell into his hands: Plektrude, leaving her wealth as his booty, fled to Bavaria. This victory secured to Karl the stewardship over Germany, but a king was wanting, to make the forms of royalty complete. The[Pg 85] direct Merovingian line had run out, and Raginfried had been obliged to take a monk, an offshoot of the family, and place him on the throne, under the name of Chilperic II. Karl, after a little search, discovered another Merovingian, whom he installed in the German half of the kingdom, as Clotar III. That done, he attacked the invading Saxons, defeated and drove them beyond the Weser river.


He was now free to meet the rebellious Franks of France, who in the meantime had strengthened themselves by offering to Duke Eudo of Aquitaine the acknowledgment of his independent sovereignty in return for his support. A decisive battle was fought in the year 719, and Karl was again victorious. The nominal king, Chilperic II., Raginfried and Duke Eudo fled into the south of France. Karl began negotiations with the latter for the delivery of the fugitive king; but just at this time his own puppet, Clotar III., happened to die, and, as there was no other Merovingian left, the pretence upon which his stewardship was based obliged him to recognize Chilperic II. Raginfried resigned his office, and Karl was at last nominal Steward, and actual monarch, of the kingdom of the Franks.

His first movement was to deliver Germany from its invaders, and reëstablish the dependency of its native Dukes. The death of the fierce Radbod enabled him to reconquer West Friesland: the Saxons were then driven back and firmly held within their original boundaries, and finally the Alemanni and Bavarians were compelled to make a formal acknowledgment of the Frank rule. As regards Thuringia, which seems to have remained a Dukedom, the chronicles of the time give us little information. It is probable, however, that the invasions of the Saxons on the north and the Slavonic tribes on the east gave the people of Central Germany no opportunity to resist the authority of the Franks. The work of conversion, encouraged by Pippin of Heristall as a political measure, was still continued by the zeal of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries, and in the beginning of the eighth century it received a powerful impulse from a new apostle, a man of singular ability and courage.

He was a Saxon of England, born in Devonshire in the year 680, and Winfried by name. Educated in a monastery, at a time when the struggle between Christianity and the old Germanic faith was at its height, he resolved to devote his life to missionary labors. He first went to Friesland,[Pg 86] during the reign of Radbod, and spent three years in a vain attempt to convert the people. Then he visited Rome, offered his services to the Pope, and was commissioned to undertake the work of christianizing Central Germany. On reaching the field of his labors, he manifested such zeal and intelligence that he soon became the leader and director of the missionary enterprise. It is related that at Geismar, in the land of the Hessians, he cut down with his own hands an aged oak-tree, sacred to the god Thor. This and other similar acts inspired the people with such awe that they began to believe that their old gods were either dead or helpless, and they submissively accepted the new faith without understanding its character, or following it otherwise than in observing the external forms of worship.


On a second visit to Rome, Winfried was appointed by the Pope Archbishop of Mayence, and ordered to take, thenceforth, the name of Bonifacius (Benefactor), by which he is known in history. He was confirmed in this office by Karl, to whom he had rendered valuable political services by the conversion of the Thuringians, and who had a genuine respect for his lofty and unselfish character. The spot where he built the first Christian church in Central Germany, about twelve miles from Gotha, at the foot of the Thuringian Mountains, is now marked by a colossal candle-stick of granite, surmounted by a golden flame.

After Karl had been for several years actively employed in regulating the affairs of his great realm, and especially, with the aid of Bishop Bonifacius, in establishing an authority in Germany equal to that he possessed in France, he had every prospect of a powerful and peaceful rule. But suddenly a new danger threatened not only the Franks, but all Europe. The Saracens, crossing from Africa, defeated the Visigoths and slew Roderick, their king, in the year 711. Gradually possessing themselves of all Spain, they next collected a tremendous army, and in 731, under the command of Abderrahman, Viceroy of the Caliph of Damascus, set out for the conquest of France. Thus the new Christian faith of Europe, still engaged in quelling the last strength of the ancient paganism, was suddenly called upon to meet the newer faith of Mohammed, which had determined to subdue the world.


Not only France, but the Eastern Empire, Italy and England looked to Karl, in this emergency. The Saracens[Pg 87] crossed the Pyrenees with 350,000 warriors, accompanied by their wives and children, as if they were sure of victory and meant to possess the land. Karl called the military strength of the whole broad kingdom into the field, collected an army nearly equal in numbers, and finally, in October, 732, the two hosts stood face to face, near the city of Poitiers. It was a struggle almost as grand, and as fraught with important consequences to the world, as that of Aëtius and Attila, nearly 300 years before. Six days were spent in preparations, and on the seventh the battle began. The Saracens attacked with that daring and impetuosity which had gained them so many victories; but, as the old chronicle says, "the Franks, with their strong hearts and powerful bodies, stood like a wall, and hewed down the Arabs with iron hands." When night fell, 200,000 dead and wounded lay upon the field. Karl made preparations for resuming the battle on the following morning, but he found no enemy. The Saracens had retired during the night, leaving their camps and stores behind them, and their leader, Abderrahman, among the slain. This was the first great check the cause of Islam received, after a series of victories more wonderful than those of Rome. From that day the people bestowed upon Karl the surname of Martel, the Hammer, and as Charles Martel he is best known in history.

He was not able to follow up his advantage immediately, for the possibility of his defeat by the Saracens had emboldened his enemies at home and abroad, to rise against his authority. The Frisians, under Poppo, their new Duke, made another invasion; the Saxons followed their example; the Burgundians attempted a rebellion, and the sons of Duke Eudo of Aquitaine, imitating the example of their ancestors, the Merovingian kings, began to quarrel about the succession. While Karl Martel (as we must now call him) was engaged in suppressing all these troubles, the Saracens, with the aid of the malcontent Burgundians, occupied all the territory bordering the Mediterranean, on both sides of the Rhone. He was not free to march against them until 737, when he made his appearance with a large army, retook Avignon, Arles and Nismes, and left them in possession only of Narbonne, which was too strongly fortified to be taken by assault.

Karl Martel was recalled to the opposite end of the kingdom by a fresh invasion of the Saxons. When this[Pg 88] had been repelled, and the northern frontier in Germany strengthened against the hostile race, the Burgundian nobles in Provence sought a fresh alliance with the Saracens, and compelled him to return instantly from the Weser to the shores of the Mediterranean. He suppressed the rebellion, but was obliged to leave the Saracens in possession of a part of the coast, between the Rhone and the Pyrenees. During his stay in the south of France, the Pope, Gregory II., entreated him to come to Italy and relieve Rome from the oppression of Luitprand, king of the Longobards. He did not accept the invitation, but it appears that, as mediator, he assisted in concluding a treaty between the Pope and king, which arranged their differences for a time.


Worn out by his life of marches and battles, Karl Martel became prematurely old, and died in 741, at the age of fifty, after a reign of twenty-seven years. He inherited the activity, the ability, and also the easy principles of his father, Pippin of Heristall. But his authority was greatly increased, and he used it to lessen the remnant of their original freedom which the people still retained. The free Germanic Franks were accustomed to meet every year, in the month of March (as on the Champ de Mars, or March-field, at Paris), and discuss all national matters. In Chlodwig's time the royal dependents were added to the free citizens and allowed an equal voice, which threw an additional power into the hands of the monarch. Karl Martel convoked the national assembly, declared war or made peace, without asking the people's consent; while, by adding the priesthood and the nobles, with their dependents, to the number of those entitled to vote, he broke down the ancient power of the state and laid the foundation of a more absolute system.

Shortly before his death, Karl Martel summoned a council of the princes and nobles of his realm, and obtained their consent that his eldest son, Karloman, should succeed him as Royal Steward of Germany, and his second son, Pippin, surnamed the Short, as Royal Steward of France and Burgundy. The Merovingian throne had already been vacant for four years, but the monarch had become so insignificant that this circumstance was scarcely noticed. On his death-bed, however, Karl Martel was persuaded by Swanhilde, one of his wives, to bequeath a part of his dominions to her son, Grifo. This gave rise to great discontent among the people, and furnished the subject Dukes of Bavaria, Alemannia and[Pg 89] Aquitaine with another opportunity for endeavoring to regain their lost independence.


Karloman and Pippin, in order to strengthen their cause, sought for a descendant of the Merovingian line, and, having found him, they proclaimed him king, under the name of Childeric III. This step secured to them the allegiance of the Franks, but the conflict with the refractory Dukedoms lasted several years. Battles were fought on the Loire, on the Lech, in Bavaria, and then again on the Saxon frontier: finally Aquitaine was subdued, Alemannia lost its Duke and became a Frank province, and Bavaria agreed to a truce. In this struggle, Karloman and Pippin received important support from Bonifacius, a part of whose aim it was to bring all the Christian communities to acknowledge the Pope of Rome as the sole head of the Church. They gave him their support in return, and thus the Franks were drawn into closer relations with the ecclesiastical power.

In the year 747, Karloman resigned his power, went to Rome, and was made a monk by Pope Zacharias. Soon afterwards Grifo, the son of Karl Martel and Swanhilde, made a second attempt to conquer his rights, with the aid of the Saxons. Pippin the Short allied himself with the Wends, a Slavonic race settled in Prussia, and ravaged the Saxon land, forcing a part of the inhabitants, at the point of the sword, to be baptized as Christians. Grifo fled to Bavaria, where the Duke, Tassilo, espoused his cause, but Pippin the Short followed close upon his heels with so strong a force that resistance was no longer possible. A treaty was made whereby Grifo was consigned to private life, the hereditary rights of the Bavarian Dukes recognized by the Franks, and the sovereignty of the Franks accepted by the Bavarians.

Pippin the Short had found, through his own experience as well as that of his ancestors, that the pretence of a Merovingian king only worked confusion in the realm of the Franks, since it furnished to the subordinate races and principalities a constant pretext for revolt. When, therefore, Pope Zacharias found himself threatened by Aistulf, the successor of Luitprand as king of the Longobards, and sent an embassy to Pippin the Short appealing for his assistance, the latter returned to him this question: "Does the kingdom belong to him who exercises the power, without the name, or to him who bears the name, without possessing the power?" The answer was what he expected: a general assembly was called[Pg 90] together in 752, Pippin was anointed King by the Archbishop Bonifacius, then lifted on a shield according to the ancient custom and accepted by the nobles and people. The shadowy Merovingian king, Childeric III., was shorn of his long hair, the sign of royalty, and sent into a monastery, where he disappeared from the world. Pippin now possessed sole and unlimited sway over the kingdom of the Franks, and named himself "King by the Grace of God,"—an example which has been followed by most monarchs, down to our day. On the other hand, the decision of Zacharias was a great step gained by the Papal power, which thenceforth began to exalt its prerogatives over those of the rulers of nations.


Pippin's first duty, as king, was to repel a new invasion of the Saxons. His power was so much increased by his title that he was able, at once, to lead against them such a force that they were compelled to pay a tribute of 300 horses annually, and to allow Christian missionaries to reside among them. The latter condition was undoubtedly the suggestion of Bonifacius, who determined to carry the cross to the North Sea, and complete the conversion of Germany. He himself undertook a mission to Friesland, where he had failed as a young monk, and there, in 755, at the age of seventy-five, he was slain by the fierce pagans. He died like a martyr; refusing to defend himself, and was enrolled among the number of Saints.

In the year 754, Pope Stephen II., the successor of Zacharias, appeared in France as a personal supplicant for the aid of King Pippin. Aistulf, the Longobard king, who had driven the Byzantines out of the Exarchy of Ravenna, was marching against Rome, which still nominally belonged to the Eastern Empire. To make his entreaty more acceptable, the Pope bestowed on Pippin the title of "Patrician of Rome," and solemnly crowned both him and his young sons, Karl and Karloman, in the chapel of St. Denis, near Paris. At the same time he issued a ban of excommunication against all persons who should support a monarch belonging to any other than the reigning dynasty.

Pippin first endeavored to negotiate with Aistulf, but, failing therein, he marched into Italy, defeated the Longobards in several battles, and besieged the king in Pavia, his capital. Aistulf was compelled to promise that he would give up the Exarchy and leave the Pope in peace; but no[Pg 91] sooner had Pippin returned to France than he violated all his promises. On the renewed appeals of the Pope, Pippin came to Italy a second time, again defeated the Longobards, and forced Aistulf not only to fulfil his former promises, but also to pay the expenses of the second war. He remained in Italy until the conditions were fulfilled, and his son Karl (Charlemagne), then fourteen years old, spent some time in Rome.


The Byzantine Emperor demanded that the cities of the Exarchy should be given back to him, but Pippin transferred them to the Pope, who already exercised a temporal power in Rome. They were held by the latter, for some time afterwards, in the name of the Eastern Empire. The worldly sovereignty of the Popes grew gradually from this basis, but was not yet recognized, or even claimed. Pippin, nevertheless, greatly strengthened the influence of the Church by gifts of land, by increasing the privileges of the priesthood, and by allowing the ecclesiastical synods, in many cases, to interfere in matters of civil government.

The only other events of his reign were another expedition against the unsubdued Saxons, and the expulsion of the Saracens from the territory they held between Narbonne and the Pyrenees. He died in 768, King instead of Royal Steward, leaving to his sons, Karl and Karloman, a greater, stronger and better organized dominion than Europe had seen since the downfall of the Roman Empire.




  • The Partition made by Pippin the Short.
  • —Death of Karloman.
  • —Appearance and Character of Charlemagne.
  • —His Place in History.
  • —The Carolingian Dynasty.
  • —His Work as a Statesman.
  • —Conquest of Lombardy.
  • —Visit to Rome.
  • —First Saxon Campaign.
  • —The Chief, Wittekind.
  • —Assembly at Paderborn.
  • —Expedition to Spain.
  • —Defeat at Roncesvalles.
  • —Revolt of the Saxons.
  • —Second Visit to Rome.
  • —Execution of Saxon Nobles, and Third War.
  • —Subjection of Bavaria.
  • —Victory over the Avars.
  • —Final Submission of the Saxons.
  • —Visit of Pope Leo III.
  • —Charlemagne crowned Roman Emperor.
  • —The Plan of Temporal and Spiritual Empire.
  • —Intercourse with Haroun Alraschid.
  • —Trouble with the Saracens.
  • —Extent of Charlemagne's Empire.
  • —His Encouragement of Learning and the Arts.
  • —The Scholars at his Court.
  • —Changes in the System of Government.
  • —Loss of Popular Freedom.
  • —Charlemagne's Habits.
  • —The Norsemen.
  • —His Son, Ludwig, crowned Emperor.
  • —Charlemagne's Death.

When King Pippin the Short felt that his end was near, he called an assembly of Dukes, nobles and priests, which was held at St. Denis, for the purpose of installing his sons, Karl and Karloman, as his successors. As he had observed how rapidly the French and German halves of his empire were separating themselves from each other, in language, habits and national character, he determined to change the former boundary between "Austria" and "Neustria," which ran nearly north and south, and to substitute an arbitrary line running east and west. This division was accepted by the assembly, but its unpractical character was manifested as soon as Karl and Karloman began to reign. There was nothing but trouble for three years, at the end of which time the latter died, leaving Karl, in 771, sole monarch of the Frank Empire.

This great man, who, looking backwards, saw not his equal in history until he beheld Julius Cæsar, now began his splendid single reign of forty-three years. We must henceforth call him Charlemagne, the French form of the Latin[Pg 93] Carolus Magnus, Karl the Great, since by that name he is known in all English history. He was at this time twenty-nine years old, and in the pride of perfect strength and manly beauty. He was nearly seven feet high, admirably proportioned, and so developed by toil, the chase and warlike exercises that few men of his time equalled him in muscular strength. His face was noble and commanding, his hair blonde or light brown, and his eyes a clear, sparkling blue. He performed the severest duties of his office with a quiet dignity which heightened the impression of his intellectual power; he was terrible and inflexible in crushing all who attempted to interfere with his work; but at the chase, the banquet, or in the circle of his family and friends, no one was more frank, joyous and kindly than he.


His dynasty is called in history, after him, the Carolingian, although Pippin of Landen was its founder. The name of Charlemagne is extended backwards over the Royal Stewards, his ancestors, and after him over a century of successors who gradually faded out like the Merovingian line. He stands alone, midway between the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, as the one supreme historical landmark. The task of his life was to extend, secure, regulate and develop the power of a great empire, much of which was still in a state of semi-barbarism. He was no imitator of the Roman Emperors: his genius, as a statesman, lay in his ability to understand that new forms of government, and a new development of civilization, had become necessary. Like all strong and far-seeing rulers, he was despotic, and often fiercely cruel. Those who interfered with his plans—even the members of his own family—were relentlessly sacrificed. On the other hand, although he strengthened the power of the nobility, he never neglected the protection of the people; half his days were devoted to war, yet he encouraged learning, literature and the arts; and while he crushed the independence of the races he gave them a higher civilization in its stead.

Charlemagne first marched against the turbulent Saxons, but before they were reduced to order he was called to Italy by the appeal of Pope Adrian for help against the Longobards. The king of the latter, Desiderius, was the father of Hermingarde, Charlemagne's second wife, whom he had repudiated and sent home soon after his accession to the throne. Karloman's widow had also claimed the protection[Pg 94] of Desiderius, and she, with her sons, was living at the latter's court. But these ties had no weight with Charlemagne; he collected a large army at Geneva, crossed the Alps by the pass of St. Bernard, conquered all Northern Italy, and besieged Desiderius in Pavia. He then marched to Rome, where Pope Adrian received him as a liberator. A procession of the clergy and people went forth to welcome him, chanting, "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!" He took part in the ceremonies of Easter, 774, which were celebrated with great pomp in the Cathedral of St. Peter.


In May Pavia fell into Charlemagne's hands. Desiderius was sent into a monastery, the widow and children of Karloman disappeared, and the kingdom of the Longobards, embracing all Northern and Central Italy, was annexed to the empire of the Franks. The people were allowed to retain both their laws and their dukes, or local rulers, but, in spite of these privileges, they soon rose in revolt against their conqueror. Charlemagne had returned to finish his work with the Saxons, when in 776 this revolt called him back to Italy. The movement was temporarily suppressed, and he hastened to Germany to resume his interrupted task.

The Saxons were the only remaining German people who resisted both the Frank rule and the introduction of Christianity. They held all of what is now Westphalia, Hannover and Brunswick, to the river Elbe, and were still strong, in spite of their constant and wasting wars. During his first campaign, in 772, Charlemagne had overrun Westphalia, taken possession of the fortified camp of the Saxons, and destroyed the "Irmin-pillar," which seems to have been a monument erected to commemorate the defeat of Varus by Hermann. The people submitted, and promised allegiance; but the following year, aroused by the appeals of their duke or chieftain, Wittekind, they rebelled in a body. The Frisians joined them, the priests and missionaries were slaughtered or expelled, and all the former Saxon territory, nearly to the Rhine, was retaken by Wittekind.

Charlemagne collected a large army and renewed the war in 775. He pressed forward as far as the river Weser, when, carelessly dividing his forces, one half of them were cut to pieces, and he was obliged to retreat. His second expedition to Italy, at this time, was made with all possible haste, and a new army was ready on his return. Westphalia was now[Pg 95] wasted with fire and sword, and the people generally submitted, although they were compelled to be baptized as Christians. In May, 777, Charlemagne held an assembly of the people at Paderborn: nearly all the Saxon nobles attended, and swore fealty to him, while many of them submitted to the rite of baptism.


At this assembly suddenly appeared a deputation of Saracen princes from Spain, who sought Charlemagne's help against the tyranny of the Caliph of Cordova. He was induced by religious or ambitious motives to consent, neglecting for the time the great work he had undertaken in his own Empire. In the summer of 778 he crossed the Pyrenees, took the cities of Pampeluna and Saragossa, and delivered all Spain north of the Ebro river from the hands of the Saracen Caliph. This territory was attached to the Empire as the Spanish Mark, or province: it was inhabited both by Saracens and Franks, who dwelt side by side and became more or less united in language, habits and manners.

On his return to France, Charlemagne was attacked by a large force of the native Basques, in the pass of Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees. His warriors, taken by surprise in the narrow ravine and crushed by rocks rolled down upon them from above, could make little resistance, and the rear column, with all the plunder gathered in Spain, fell into the enemy's hands. Here was slain the famous paladin, Roland, the Count of Brittany, who became the theme of poets down to the time of Ariosto. Charlemagne was so infuriated by his defeat that he hanged the Duke of Aquitaine, on the charge of treachery, because his territory included a part of the lands of the Basques.

Upon the heels of this disaster came the news that the Saxons had again arisen under the lead of Wittekind, destroyed their churches, murdered the priests, and carried fire and sword to the very walls of Cologne and Coblentz. Charlemagne sent his best troops, by forced marches, in advance of his coming, but he was not able to take the field until the following spring. During 779 and a part of 780, after much labor and many battles, he seemed to have subdued the stubborn race, the most of whom accepted Christian baptism for the third time. Charlemagne thereupon went to Italy once more, in order to restore order among the Longobards, whose local chiefs were becoming restless in his absence. His two young sons, Pippin and Ludwig, were[Pg 96] crowned by Pope Adrian as kings of Longobardia, or Lombardy (which then embraced the greater part of Northern and Central Italy), and Aquitaine.


After his return to Germany, he convoked a parliament, or popular assembly, at Paderborn, in 782, partly in order to give the Saxons a stronger impression of the power of the Empire. The people seemed quiet, and he was deceived by their bearing; for, after he had left them to return to the Rhine, they rose again, headed by Wittekind, who had been for some years a fugitive in Denmark. Three of Charlemagne's chief officials, who immediately hastened to the scene of trouble with such troops as they could collect, met Wittekind in the Teutoburger Forest, not far from the field where Varus and his legions were destroyed. A similar fate awaited them: the Frank army was so completely cut to pieces that but few escaped to tell the tale.

Charlemagne marched immediately into the Saxon land: the rebels dispersed at his approach and Wittekind again became a fugitive. The Saxon nobles humbly renewed their submission, and tried to throw the whole responsibility of the rebellion upon Wittekind. Charlemagne was not satisfied: he had been mortified in his pride as a monarch, and for once he cast aside his usual moderation and prudence. He demanded that 4,500 Saxons, no doubt the most prominent among the people, should be given up to him, and then ordered them all to be beheaded on the same day. This deed of blood, instead of intimidating the Saxons, provoked them to fury. They arose as one man, and in 783 defeated Charlemagne near Detmold. He retreated to Paderborn, received reinforcements, and was enabled to venture a second battle, in which he was victorious. He remained for two years longer in Thuringia and Saxony, during which time he undertook a winter campaign, for which the people were not prepared. By the summer of 785, the Saxons, finding their homes destroyed and themselves rapidly diminishing in numbers, yielded to the mercy of the conqueror. Wittekind, who, the legend says, had stolen in disguise into Charlemagne's camp, was so impressed by the bearing of the king and the pomp of the religious services, that he also submitted and received baptism. One account states that Charlemagne named him Duke of the Saxons and was thenceforth his friend; another, that he sank into obscurity.[Pg 97]


Charlemagne was now free to make another journey to Italy, where he suppressed some fresh troubles among the Lombards (as we must henceforth style the Longobards), and forced Aragis, the Duke of Benevento, to render his submission. Then, for the first time, he turned his attention to the Bavarians, whose Duke, Tassilo, had preserved an armed neutrality during the previous wars, but was suspected of secretly conspiring with the Lombards, Byzantines, and even the Avars, for help to enable him to throw off the Frank yoke. At a general diet of the whole empire, held in Worms in 787, Tassilo did not appear, and Charlemagne made this a pretext for invading Bavaria.

Three armies, in Italy, Suabia and Thuringia, were set in motion at the same time, and resistance appeared so hopeless that Tassilo surrendered at once. Charlemagne pardoned him at first, under stipulations of stricter dependence, but he was convicted of conspiracy at a diet held the following year, when he and his sons were found guilty and sent into a monastery. His dynasty came to an end, and Bavaria was portioned out among a number of Frank Counts, the people, nevertheless, being allowed to retain their own political institutions.

The incorporation of Bavaria with the Frank empire brought a new task to Charlemagne. The Avars, who had gradually extended their rule across the Alps, nearly to the Adriatic, were strong and dangerous neighbors. In 791 he entered their territory and laid it waste, as far as the river Raab; then, having lost all his horses on the march, he was obliged to return. At home, a new trouble awaited him. His son, Pippin, whom he had installed as king of Lombardy, was discovered to be at the head of a conspiracy to usurp his own throne. Pippin was terribly flogged, and then sent into a monastery for the rest of his days; his fellow-conspirators were executed.

When Charlemagne applied his system of military conscription to the Saxons, to recruit his army before renewing the war with the Avars, they rose once more in rebellion, slew his agents, burned the churches, and drove out the priests, who had made themselves hated by their despotism and by claiming a tenth part of the produce of the land. Charlemagne was thus obliged to subdue them and to fight the Avars, at the same time. The double war lasted until 796, when the residence of the Avar Khan, with the intrenched[Pg 98] "ring" or fort, containing all the treasures amassed by the tribe during the raids of two hundred years, was captured. All the country, as far eastward as the rivers Theiss and Raab, was wasted and almost depopulated. The remnant of the Avars acknowledged themselves Frank subjects, but for greater security, Charlemagne established Bavarian colonies in the fertile land along the Danube. The latter formed a province, called the East-Mark, which became the foundation upon which Austria (the East-kingdom) afterwards rose.


The Saxons were subjected—or seemed to be—about the same time. Many of the people retreated into Holstein, which was then called North-Albingia; but Charlemagne allied himself with a branch of the Slavonic Wends, defeated them there, and took possession of their territory. He built fortresses at Halle, Magdeburg, and Büchen, near Hamburg, colonized 10,000 Saxons among the Franks, and replaced them by an equal number of the latter. Then he established Christianity for the fifth time, by ordering that all who failed to present themselves for baptism should be put to death. The indomitable spirit of the people still led to occasional outbreaks, but these became weaker and weaker, and finally ceased as the new faith struck deeper root.

In the year 799, Pope Leo III. suddenly appeared in Charlemagne's camp at Paderborn, a fugitive from a conspiracy of the Roman nobles, by which his life was threatened. He was received with all possible honors, and after some time spent in secret councils, was sent back to Rome with a strong escort. In the autumn of the following year, Charlemagne followed him. A civil and ecclesiastical assembly was held at Rome, and pronounced the Pope free from the charges made against him; then (no doubt according to previous agreement) on Christmas-Day, 800, Leo III. crowned Charlemagne as Roman Emperor, in the Cathedral of St. Peter's. The people greeted him with cries of "Life and victory to Carolo Augusto, crowned by God, the great, the peace-bringing Emperor of the Romans!"

If, by this step, the Pope seemed to forget the aspirations of the Church for temporal power, on the other hand he rendered himself forever independent of his nominal subjection to the Byzantine Emperors. For Charlemagne, the new dignity gave his rule its full and final authority. The people, in whose traditions the grandeur of the old[Pg 99] Roman Empire were still kept alive, now beheld it renewed in their ruler and themselves. Charlemagne stood at the head of an Empire which was to include all Christendom, and to imitate, in its civil organization, the spiritual rule of the Church. On the one side were kingdoms, duchies, countships and the communities of the people, all subject to him; on the other side, bishoprics, monasteries and their dependencies, churches and individual souls, subject to the Pope. The latter acknowledged the Emperor as his temporal sovereign: the Emperor acknowledged the Pope as his spiritual sovereign. The idea was grand, and at that time did not seem impossible to fulfil; but the further course of history shows how hostile the two principles may become, when they both grasp at the same power.


The Greek Emperors at Constantinople were not strong enough to protest against this bestowal of a dignity which they claimed for themselves. A long series of negotiations followed, the result of which was that the Emperor Nicephorus, in 812, acknowledged Charlemagne's title. The latter, immediately after his coronation in Rome, drew up a new oath of allegiance, which he required to be taken by the whole male population of the Empire. About this time, he entered into friendly relations with the famous Caliph, Haroun Alraschid of Bagdad. They sent embassies, bearing magnificent presents, to each other's courts, and at Charlemagne's request, Haroun took the holy places in Palestine under his special protection, and allowed the Christians to visit them.

With the Saracens in Spain, however, the Emperor had constant trouble. They made repeated incursions across the Ebro, into the Spanish Mark, and ravaged the shores of Majorca, Minorca and Corsica, which belonged to the Frank Empire. Moreover, the extension of his frontier on the east brought Charlemagne into collision with the Slavonic tribes in the territory now belonging to Prussia beyond the Elbe, Saxony and Bohemia. He easily defeated them, but could not check their plundering and roving propensities. In the year 808, Holstein as far as the Elbe was invaded by the Danish king, Gottfried, who, after returning home with much booty, commenced the construction of that line of defence along the Eider river, called the Dannewerk, which exists to this day.

Charlemagne had before this conquered and annexed[Pg 100] Friesland. His Empire thus included all France, Switzerland and Germany, stretching eastward along the Danube to Presburg, with Spain to the Ebro, and Italy to the Garigliano river, the later boundary between Rome and Naples. There were no wars serious enough to call him into the field during the latter years of his reign, and he devoted his time to the encouragement of learning and the arts. He established schools, fostered new branches of industry, and sought to build up the higher civilization which follows peace and order. He was very fond of the German language, and by his orders a complete collection was made of the songs and poetical legends of the people. Forsaking Paris, which had been the Frank capital for nearly three centuries, he removed his Court to Aix-la-Chapelle and Ingelheim, near the Rhine, founded the city of Frankfort on the Main, and converted, before he died, all that war-wasted region into a peaceful and populous country.


No ruler before Charlemagne, and none for at least four centuries after him, did so much to increase and perpetuate the learning of his time. During his meals, some one always read aloud to him out of old chronicles or theological works. He spoke Latin fluently, and had a good knowledge of Greek. In order to become a good writer, he carried his tablets about with him, and even slept with them under his pillow. The men whom he assembled at his Court were the most intelligent of that age. His chaplain and chief counsellor was Alcuin, an English monk, and a man of great learning. His secretary, Einhard (or Eginhard) wrote a history of the Emperor's life and times. Among his other friends were Paul Diaconus, a learned Lombard, and the chronicler, Bishop Turpin. These men formed, with Charlemagne, a literary society, which held regular meetings to discuss matters of science, politics and literature.

Under Charlemagne the political institutions of the Merovingian kings, as well as those which existed among the German races, were materially changed. As far as possible, he set aside the Dukes, each of whom, up to that time, was the head of a tribe or division of the people, and broke up their half-independent states into districts, governed by Counts. These districts were divided into "hundreds," as in the old Germanic times, each in charge of a noble, who every week acted as judge in smaller civil or criminal cases. The Counts, in conjunction with from[Pg 101] seven to twelve magistrates, held monthly courts wherein cases which concerned life, freedom or landed property were decided. They were also obliged to furnish a certain number of soldiers when called upon. The same obligation rested upon the archbishops, bishops, and abbots of the monasteries, all of whom, together with the Counts, were called Vassals of the Empire.


The free men, in case of war, were compelled to serve as horsemen or foot-soldiers, according to their wealth, either three or five of the very poorest furnishing one well-equipped man. The soldiers were not only not paid, but each was obliged to bear his own expenses; so the burden fell very heavily upon this class of the people. In order to escape it, large numbers of the poorer freemen voluntarily became dependents of the nobility or clergy, who in return equipped and supported them. The national assemblies were still annually held, but the people, in becoming dependents, gradually lost their ancient authority, and their votes ceased to control the course of events. The only part they played in the assemblies was to bring tribute to the Emperor, to whom they paid no taxes, and whose court was kept up partly from their offerings and partly from the revenues of the "domains" or crown-lands. Thus, while Charlemagne introduced throughout his whole empire a unity of government and an order unknown before, while he anticipated Prussia in making all his people liable, at any time, to military service, on the other hand he was slowly and unconsciously changing the free Germans into a race of lords and serfs.

It is not likely, either, that the people themselves saw the tendency of his government. Their respect and love for him increased, as the comparative peace of the Empire allowed him to turn to interests which more immediately concerned their lives. In his ordinary habits he was as simple as they. His daughters spun and wove the flax for his plain linen garments; personally he looked after his orchards and vegetable gardens, set the schools an example by learning to improve his own reading and writing, treated high and low with equal frankness and heartiness, and, even in his old age, surpassed all around him in feats of strength or endurance. There seemed to be no serfdom in bowing to a man so magnificently endowed by nature and so favored by fortune.

One event came to embitter his last days. The Scandinavian Goths, now known as Norsemen, were beginning to[Pg 102] build their "sea-dragons" and sally forth on voyages of plunder and conquest. They laid waste the shores of Holland and Northern France, and the legend says that Charlemagne burst into tears of rage and shame, on perceiving his inability to subdue them or prevent their incursions. One of his last acts was to order the construction of a fleet at Boulogne, but when it was ready the Norse Vikings suddenly appeared in the Mediterranean and ravaged the southern coast of France. Charlemagne began too late to make the Germans either a naval or a commercial people: his attempt to unite the Main and Danube by a canal also failed, but the very design shows his wise foresight and his energy.


Towards the end of the year 813, feeling his death approaching, he called an Imperial Diet together at Aix-la-Chapelle, to recognize his son Ludwig as his successor. After this was done, he conducted Ludwig to the Cathedral, made him vow to be just and God-fearing in his rule, and then bade him take the Imperial crown from the altar and set it upon his head. On the 28th of January, 814, Charlemagne died, and was buried in the Cathedral, where his ashes still repose.




  • Character of Ludwig the Pious.
  • —His Subjection to the Priests.
  • —Injury to German Literature.
  • —Division of the Empire.
  • —Treatment of his Nephew, Bernard.
  • —Ludwig's Remorse.
  • —The Empress Judith and her Son.
  • —Revolt of Ludwig's Sons.
  • —His Abdication and Death.
  • —Compact of Karl the Bald and Ludwig the German.
  • —The French and German Languages.
  • —The Low-German.
  • —Lothar's Resistance.
  • —The Partition of Verdun.
  • —Germany and France separated.
  • —The Norsemen.
  • —Internal Troubles.
  • —Ludwig the German's Sons.
  • —His Death.
  • —Division of Germany.
  • —Karl the Fat.
  • —His Cowardice.
  • —The Empire restored.
  • —Karl's Death.
  • —Duke Arnulf made King.
  • —He defeats the Norsemen and Bohemians.
  • —His Favors to the Church.
  • —The "Isidorian Decretals."
  • —Arnulf Crowned Emperor.
  • —His Death.
  • —Ludwig the Child.
  • —Invasions of the Magyars.
  • —End of the Carolingian line in Germany.

The last act of Charlemagne's life in ordering the manner of his son's coronation,—which was imitated, a thousand years afterwards, by Napoleon, who, in the presence of the Pope, Pius VII., himself set the crown upon his own head—showed that he designed keeping the Imperial power independent of that of the Church. But his son, Ludwig, was already a submissive and willing dependent of Rome. During his reign as king of Aquitaine he had covered the land with monasteries: he was the pupil of monks, and his own inclination was for a monastic life. But at Charlemagne's death he was the only legitimate heir to the throne. Being therefore obliged to wear the Imperial purple, he exercised his sovereignty chiefly in the interest of the Church. His first act was to send to the Pope the treasures amassed by his father; his next, to surround himself with prelates and priests, who soon learned to control his policy. He was called "Ludwig the Pious," but in those days, when so many worldly qualities were necessary to the ruler of the Empire, the title was hardly one of praise. He appears to have been of a kindly nature, and many of his acts show that he meant[Pg 104] to be just; the weakness of his character, however, too often made his good intentions of no avail.


It was a great misfortune for Germany that Ludwig's piety took the form of hostility to all learning except of a theological nature. So far as he was able, he undid the great work of education commenced by Charlemagne. The schools were given entirely into the hands of the priests, and the character of the instruction was changed. He inflicted an irreparable loss on all after ages by destroying the collection of songs, ballads and legends of the German people, which Charlemagne had taken such pains to gather and preserve. It is not believed that a single copy escaped destruction, although some scholars suppose that a fragment of the "Song of Hildebrand," written in the eighth century, may have formed part of the collection. In the year 816, Ludwig was visited in Rheims by the Pope, Stephen IV., who again crowned him Emperor in the Cathedral, and thus restored the spiritual authority which Charlemagne had tried to set aside. Ludwig's attempts to release the estates belonging to the Bishops, monasteries and priesthood from the payment of taxes, and the obligation to furnish soldiers in case of war, created so much dissatisfaction among the nobles and people, that, at a diet held the following year, he was summoned to divide the government of the Empire among his three sons. He resisted at first, but was finally forced to consent: his eldest son, Lothar, was crowned as Co-Emperor of the Franks, Ludwig as king of Bavaria, and Pippin, his third son, as king of Aquitaine.

In this division no notice was taken of Bernard, king of Lombardy, also a grandson of Charlemagne. The latter at once entered into a conspiracy with certain Frank nobles, to have his rights recognized; but, while preparing for war, he was induced, under promises of his personal safety, to visit the Emperor's court. There, after having revealed the names of his fellow-conspirators, he was treacherously arrested, and his eyes put out; in consequence of which treatment he died. The Empress, Irmingarde, died soon afterwards, and Ludwig was so overcome both by grief for her loss and remorse for having caused the death of his nephew, that he was with great difficulty restrained from abdicating and retiring into a monastery. It was not in the interest of the priesthood to lose so powerful a friend, and they finally persuaded him to marry again.[Pg 105]


His second wife was Judith, daughter of Welf, a Bavarian count, to whom he was united in 819. Although this gave him another son, Karl, afterwards known as Karl (Charles) the Bald, he appears to have found very little peace of mind. At a diet held in 822, at Attigny, in France, he appeared publicly in the sackcloth and ashes of a repentant sinner, and made open confession of his misdeeds. This act showed his sincerity as a man, but in those days it must have greatly diminished the reverence which the people felt for him as their Emperor. The next year his son Lothar, who, after Bernard's death, became also King of Lombardy, visited Rome and was recrowned by the Pope. For a while, Lothar made himself very popular by seeking out and correcting abuses in the administration of the laws.

During the first fifteen years of Ludwig's reign, the boundaries of the Empire were constantly disturbed by invasions of the Danes, the Slavonic tribes in Prussia, and the Saracens in Spain, while the Basques and Bretons became turbulent within the realm. All these revolts or invasions were suppressed; the eastern frontier was not only held but extended, and the military power of the Frank Empire was everywhere recognized and feared. The Saxons and Frisians, who had been treated with great mildness by Ludwig, gave no further trouble; in fact, the whole population of the Empire became peaceable and orderly in proportion as the higher civilization encouraged by Charlemagne was developed among them.

The remainder of Ludwig's reign might have been untroubled, but for a family difficulty. The Empress Judith demanded that her son, Karl, should also have a kingdom, like his three step-brothers. An Imperial Diet was therefore called together at Worms, in 829, and, in spite of fierce opposition, a new kingdom was formed out of parts of Burgundy, Switzerland and Suabia. The three sons, Lothar, Pippin and Ludwig, acquiesced at first; but when a Spanish count, Bernard, was appointed regent during Karl's minority, the two former began secretly to conspire against their father. They took him captive in France, and endeavored, but in vain, to force him to retire into a monastery. The sympathies of the people were with him, and by their help he was able, the following year, to regain his authority, and force his sons to submit.


Ludwig, however, manifested his preference for his last[Pg 106] son, Karl, so openly that in 833 his three other sons united against him, and a war ensued which lasted nearly five years. Finally, when the two armies stood face to face, on a plain near Colmar, in Alsatia, and a bloody battle between father and sons seemed imminent, the Pope, Gregory IV., suddenly made his appearance. He offered his services as a mediator, went to and fro, and at last treacherously carried all the Emperor's chief supporters over to the camp of the sons. Ludwig, then sixty years old and broken in strength and spirit, was forced to surrender. The people gave the name of "The Field of Lies" to the scene of this event.

The old Emperor was compelled by his sons to give up his sword, to appear as a penitent in Church, and to undergo such other degradations, that the sympathies of the people were again aroused in his favor. They rallied to his support from all sides: his authority was restored, Lothar, the leader of the rebellion, fled to Italy, Pippin had died shortly before, and Ludwig proffered his submission. The old man now had a prospect of quiet; but the machinations of the Empress Judith on behalf of her son, Karl, disturbed his last years. His son Ludwig was marching against him for the second time, when he died, in 840, on an island in the Rhine, near Ingelheim.

The death of Ludwig the Pious was the signal for a succession of fratricidal wars. His youngest son, Karl the Bald, first united his interests with those of his eldest step-brother, Lothar, but he soon went over to Ludwig's side, while Lothar allied himself with the sons of Pippin, in Aquitaine. A terrific battle was fought near Auxerre, in France, in the summer of 841. Lothar was defeated, and Ludwig and Karl then determined to divide the Empire between them. The following winter they came together, with their nobles and armies, near Strasburg, and vowed to keep faith with each other thenceforth. The language of France and Germany, even among the descendants of the original Franks, was no longer the same, and the oath which was drawn up for the occasion was pronounced by Karl in German to the army of Ludwig, and by Ludwig in French to the army of Karl. The text of it has been preserved, and it is a very interesting illustration of the two languages, as they were spoken a thousand years ago. We will quote the opening phrases:[Pg 107]

EMPIRE of CHARLEMAGNE, (with the Treaty of Verdun, A. D. 843.)

EMPIRE of CHARLEMAGNE, (with the Treaty of Verdun, A. D. 843.)

[Pg 108]
Ludwig (French).  Pro Deo amur     et     (pro)     Christian   poblo
Karl (German).    In Godes minna ind (in thes) Christianes folches
English.                In God's love and (that of the) Christian   folk

Ludwig. et nostro comun salvament,—        dist          di    in avant,
Karl.  ind unser bedhero gehaltnissi,—fon thesemo dage framordes,
English.  and our mutual preservation,—from  this    day  forth,

Ludwig.—   in quant          Deus    savir  et podir me     dunat,    &c.
Karl.  —   so fram     so mir God gewiczi     ind   mahd furgibit, &c.
English. —as long as to me God knowledge and might gives,     &c.


It is very easy to see, from this slight specimen, how much the language of the Franks had been modified by the Gallic-Latin, and how much of the original tongue (taking the Gothic Bible of Ulfila as an evidence of its character) has been retained in German and English. About the same time there was written in the Low-German, or Saxon dialect, a Gospel narrative in verse, called the Heliand ("Saviour"), many lines of which are almost identical with early English; as the following:

Slogun  cald isarn
They drove cold iron

hardo mit  hamuron
hard  with hammers

thuru     is     hendi   enti   thuru  is  fuoti;
through his hands and through his feet;

is   blod   ran   an   ertha.
his blood ran on earth.

This separation of the languages is a sign of the difference in national character which now split asunder the great empire of Charlemagne. Lothar, after the solemn alliance between Karl the Bald and Ludwig, resorted to desperate measures. He offered to give the Saxons their old laws and even to allow them to return to their pagan faith, if they would support his claims; he invited the Norsemen to Belgium and Northern France; and, by retreating towards Italy when his brothers approached him in force, and then returning when an opportunity favored, he disturbed and wasted the best portions of the Empire. Finally the Bishops intervened, and after a long time spent in negotiations, the three rival brothers met in 843, and agreed to the famous "Partition of Verdun" (so called from Verdun, near Metz, where it was signed), by which the realm of Charlemagne was divided among them.[Pg 109]


Lothar, as the eldest, received Italy, together with a long, narrow strip of territory extending to the North Sea, including part of Burgundy, Switzerland, Eastern Belgium and Holland. All west of this, embracing the greater part of France, was given to Karl the Bald; all east, with a strip of territory west of the Rhine, from Basle to Mayence, "for the sake of its wine," as the document stated, became the kingdom of Ludwig, who was thenceforth called "The German." The last-named also received Eastern Switzerland and Bavaria, to the Alps. This division was almost as arbitrary and unnatural as that which Pippin the Short attempted to make. Neither Karl's nor Ludwig's shares included all the French or German territory; while Lothar's was a long, narrow slice cut out of both, and attached to Italy, where a new race and language were already developed out of the mixture of Romans, Goths and Lombards. In fact, it became necessary to invent a name for the northern part of Lothar's dominions, and that portion between Burgundy and Holland was called, after him, Lotharingia. As Lothringen in German, and Lorraine in French, the name still remains in existence.

Each of the three monarchs received unrestricted sway over his realm. They agreed, however, upon a common line of policy in the interest of the dynasty, and admitted the right of inheritance to each other's sovereignty, in the absence of direct heirs. The Treaty of Verdun, therefore, marks the beginning of Germany and France as distinct nationalities; and now, after following the Germanic races over the greater part of Europe for so many centuries, we come back to recommence their history on the soil where we first found them. In fact, the word Deutsch, "German," signifying of the people, now first came into general use, to designate the language and the races—Franks, Alemanni, Bavarians, Thuringians, Saxons, etc.—under Ludwig's rule. There was, as yet, no political unity among these races; they were reciprocally jealous, and often hostile; but, by contrast with the inhabitants of France and Italy, they felt their blood-relationship as never before, and a national spirit grew up, of a narrower but more natural character than that which Charlemagne endeavored to establish.

Internal struggles awaited both the Roman Emperor, Lothar, and the Frank king, Karl the Bald. The former was obliged to suppress revolts in Provence and Italy; the[Pg 110] latter in Brittany and Aquitaine, while the Spanish Mark, beyond the Pyrenees, passed out of his hands. Ludwig the German inherited a long peace at home, but a succession of wars with the Wends and Bohemians along his eastern frontier. The Norsemen came down upon his coasts, destroyed Hamburg, and sailed up the Elbe with 600 vessels, burning and plundering wherever they went. The necessity of keeping an army almost constantly in the field gave the clergy and nobility an opportunity of exacting better terms for their support; the independent dukedoms, suppressed by Charlemagne, were gradually re-established, and thus Ludwig diminished his own power while protecting his territory from invasion.


The Emperor, Lothar, soon discovered that he had made a bad bargain. His long and narrow empire was most difficult to govern, and in 855, weary with his annoyances and his endless marches to and fro, he abdicated and retired into a monastery, where he died within a week. The empire was divided between his three sons: Ludwig received Italy and was crowned by the Pope; to Karl was given the territory between the Rhone, the Alps and the Mediterranean, and to Lothar II. the portion extending from the Rhone to the North Sea. When the last of these died, in 869, Ludwig the German and Karl the Bald divided his territory, the line running between Verdun and Metz, then along the Vosges, and terminating at the Rhine near Basle,—almost precisely the same boundary as that which France has been forced to accept in 1871.

But the conditions of the oath taken by the two kings in 842 were not observed by either. Karl the Bald was a tyrannical and unpopular sovereign, and when he failed in preventing the Norsemen from ravaging all Western France, the nobles determined to set him aside and invite Ludwig to take his place. The latter consented, marched into France with a large army, and was hailed as king; but when his army returned home, and he trusted to the promised support of the Frank nobles, he found that Karl had repurchased their allegiance, and there was no course left to him but to retreat across the Rhine. The trouble was settled by a meeting of the two kings, which took place at Coblentz, in 860.

Ludwig the German had also, like his father, serious trouble with his sons, Karlmann and Ludwig. He had[Pg 111] made the former Duke of Carinthia, but ere long discovered that he had entered into a conspiracy with Rastitz, king of the Moravian Slavonians. Karlmann was summoned to Regensburg (Ratisbon), which was then Ludwig's capital, and was finally obliged to lead an army against his secret ally, Rastitz, who was conquered. A new war with Zwentebold, king of Bohemia, who was assisted by the Sorbs, Wends, and other Slavonic tribes along the Elbe, broke out soon afterwards. Karlmann led his father's forces against the enemy, and after a struggle of four years forced Bohemia, in 873, to become tributary to Germany.


In 875, the Emperor, Ludwig II. (Lothar's son), who ruled in Italy, died without heirs. Karl the Bald and Ludwig the German immediately called their troops into the field and commenced the march to Italy, in order to divide the inheritance or fight for its sole possession. Ludwig sent his sons, but their uncle, Karl the Bald, was before them. He was acknowledged by the Lombard nobles at Pavia, and crowned in Rome by the Pope, before it could be prevented. Ludwig determined upon an instant invasion of France, but in the midst of the preparations he died at Frankfort, in 876. He was seventy-one years old; as a child he had sat on the knees of Charlemagne; as an independent king of Germany, he had reigned thirty-six years, and with him the intelligence, prudence and power which had distinguished the Carolingian line came to an end.

Again the kingdom was divided among three sons, Karlmann, Ludwig the Younger, and Karl the Fat; and again there were civil wars. Karl the Bald made haste to invade Germany before the brothers were in a condition to oppose him; but he was met by Ludwig the Younger and terribly defeated, near Andernach on the Rhine. The next year he died, leaving one son, Ludwig the Stammerer, to succeed him.

The brothers, in accordance with a treaty made before their father's death, thus divided Germany: Karlmann took Bavaria, Carinthia, the provinces on the Danube, and the half-sovereignty over Bohemia and Moravia; Ludwig the Younger became king over all Northern and Central Germany, leaving Suabia (formerly Alemannia) for Karl the Fat. Karlmann's first act was to take possession of Italy, which acknowledged his rule. He was soon afterwards struck with apoplexy, and died in 880. Karl the Fat had already[Pg 112] crossed the Alps; he forced the Lombard nobles to accept him, and was crowned Emperor at Rome, as Karl III., in 881. Meanwhile the Germans had recognized Ludwig the Younger as Karlmann's heir, and had given to Arnulf, the latter's illegitimate son, the Duchy of Carinthia.


Ludwig the Younger died, childless, in 882, and thus Germany and Italy became one empire under Karl the Fat. By this time Friesland and Holland were suffering from the invasions of the Norsemen, who had built a strong camp on the banks of the Meuse, and were beginning to threaten Germany. Karl marched against them, but, after a siege of some weeks, he shamefully purchased a truce by giving them territory in Holland, and large sums in gold and silver, and by marrying a princess of the Carolingian blood to Gottfried, their chieftain. They then sailed down the Meuse, with 200 vessels laden with plunder.

All classes of the Germans were filled with rage and shame, at this disgrace. The Dukes and Princes who were building up their local governments profited by the state of affairs, to strengthen their power. Karl was called to Italy to defend the Pope against the Saracens, and when he returned to Germany in 884, he found a Count Hugo almost independent in Lorraine, the Norsemen in possession of the Rhine nearly as far as Cologne, and Arnulf of Carinthia engaged in a fierce war with Zwentebold, king of Bohemia. Karl turned his forces against the last of these, subdued him, and then, with the help of the Frisians, expelled the Norsemen. The two grand-sons of Karl the Bald, Ludwig and Karlmann, died about this time, and the only remaining one, Charles (afterwards called the Silly), was still a young child. The Frank nobles therefore offered the throne to Karl the Fat, who accepted it and thus restored, for a short time, the Empire of Charlemagne.

Once more he proved himself shamefully unworthy of the power confided to his hands. He suffered Paris to sustain a nine months' siege by the Norsemen, before he marched to its assistance, and then, instead of meeting the foemen in open field, he paid them a heavy ransom for the city and allowed them to spend the following winter in Burgundy, and plunder the land at their will. The result was a general conspiracy against his rule, in Germany as well as in France. At the head of it was Bishop Luitward, Karl's chancellor and confidential friend, who, being[Pg 113] detected, fled to Arnulf in Carinthia, and instigated the latter to rise in rebellion. Arnulf was everywhere victorious: Karl the Fat, deserted by his army and the dependent German nobles, was forced, in 887, to resign the throne and retire to an estate in Suabia, where he died the following year.


Duke Arnulf, the grandson of Ludwig the German, though not legitimately born, now became king of Germany. Being accepted at Ratisbon and afterwards at Frankfort by the representatives of the people, he was able to keep them united under his rule, while the rest of the former Frank Empire began to fall to pieces. As early as 879, a new kingdom, called Burgundy, or Arelat, from its capital Arles, was formed between the Rhone and the Alps; Berengar, the Lombard Duke of Friuli, in Italy, usurped the inheritance of the Carolingian line there; Count Rudolf, a great-grandson of Ludwig the Pious, established the kingdom of Upper Burgundy, embracing a part of Eastern France, with Western Switzerland; and Count Odo of Paris, who gallantly defended the city against the Norsemen, was chosen king of France by a large party of the nobles.

King Arnulf, who seems to have possessed as much wisdom as bravery, did not interfere with the pretensions of these new rulers, so long as they forbore to trespass on his German territory, and he thereby secured the friendship of all. He devoted himself to the liberation of Germany from the repeated invasions of the Danes and Norsemen on the north, and the Bohemians on the east. The former had entrenched themselves strongly among the marshes near Louvain, where Arnulf's best troops, which were cavalry, could not reach them. He set an example to his army by dismounting and advancing on foot to the attack: the Germans followed with such impetuosity that the Norse camp was taken, and nearly all its defenders slaughtered. From that day Germany was free from Northern invasion.

Arnulf next marched against his old enemy, Zwentebold (in some histories the name is written Sviatopulk) of Bohemia. This king and his people had recently been converted to Christianity by the missionary Methodius, but it had made no change in their predatory habits. They were the more easily conquered by Arnulf, because the Magyars, a branch of the Finnish race who had pressed into Hungary from the east, attacked them at the same time. The Magyars were called "Hungarians" by the Germans of that day—as[Pg 114] they are at present—because they had taken possession of the territory which had been occupied by the Huns, more than four centuries before; but they were a distinct race, resembling the Huns only in their fierceness and daring. They were believed to be cannibals, who drank the blood and devoured the hearts of their slain enemies; and the panic they created throughout Germany was as great as that which went before Attila and his barbarian hordes.


After the subjection of the Bohemians, Arnulf was summoned to Italy, in the year 894, where he assisted Berengar, king of Lombardy, to maintain his power against a rival. He then marched against Rudolf, king of Upper Burgundy, who had been conspiring against him, and ravaged his land. By this time, it appears, his personal ambition was excited by his successes: he determined to become Emperor, and as a means of securing the favor of the Pope, he granted the most extraordinary privileges to the Church in Germany. He ordered that all civil officers should execute the orders of the clerical tribunals; that excommunication should affect the civil rights of those on whom it fell; that matters of dispute between clergy and laymen should be decided by the Bishops, without calling witnesses,—with other decrees of the same character, which practically set the Church above the civil authorities.

The Popes, by this time, had embraced the idea of becoming temporal sovereigns, and the dissensions among the rulers of the Carolingian line already enabled them to secure a power, of which the former Bishops of Rome had never dreamed. In the early part of the ninth century, the so-called "Isidorian Decretals" (because they bore the name of Bishop Isidor, of Seville) came to light. They were forged documents, purporting to be decrees of the ancient Councils of the Church, which claimed for the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) the office of Vicar of Christ and Vicegerent of God upon earth, with supreme power not only over all Bishops, priests and individual souls, but also over all civil authorities. The policy of the Papal chair was determined by these documents, and several centuries elapsed before their fictitious character was discovered.

Arnulf, after these concessions to the Church, went to Italy in 895. He found the Pope, Formosus, in the power of a Lombard prince, whom the former had been compelled against his will, to crown as Emperor. Arnulf took Rome by[Pg 115] force of arms, liberated the Pope, and in return was crowned Roman Emperor. He fell dangerously ill immediately afterwards, and it was believed that he had been poisoned. Formosus, who died the following year, was declared "accurst" by his successor, Stephen VII., and his body was dug up and cast into the Tiber, after it had lain nine months in the grave.


Arnulf returned to Germany as Emperor, but weak and broken in body and mind. He never recovered from the effects of the poison, but lingered for three years longer, seeing his Empire becoming more and more weak and disorderly. He died in 899, leaving one son, Ludwig, only seven years old. This son, known in history as "Ludwig the Child," was the last of the Carolingian line in Germany. In France, the same line, now represented by Charles the Silly, was also approaching its end.

At a Diet held at Forchheim (near Nuremberg), Ludwig the Child was accepted as king of Germany, and solemnly crowned. On account of his tender years, he was placed in charge of Archbishop Hatto of Mayence, who was appointed, with Duke Otto of Saxony, to govern temporarily in his stead. An insurrection in Lorraine was suppressed; but now a more formidable danger approached from the East. The Hungarians invaded Northern Italy in 899, and ravaged part of Bavaria on their return to the Danube. Like the Huns, they destroyed everything in their way, leaving a wilderness behind their march.

The Bavarians, with little assistance from the rest of Germany, fought the Hungarians until 907, when their Duke, Luitpold, was slain in battle, and his son Arnulf purchased peace by a heavy tribute. Then the Hungarians invaded Thuringia, whose Duke, Burkhard, also fell fighting against them, after which they plundered a part of Saxony. Finally, in 910, the whole strength of Germany was called into the field; Ludwig, eighteen years old, took command, met the Hungarians on the banks of the Inn, and was utterly defeated. He fled from the field, and was forced, thenceforth, to pay tribute to Hungary. He died in 911, and Germany was left without a hereditary ruler.




  • Growth of Small Principalities in Germany.
  • —Changes in the Lehen, or Royal Estates.
  • —Diet at Forchheim.
  • —The Frank Duke, Konrad, chosen King.
  • —Events of his Reign.
  • —The Saxon, Henry the Fowler, succeeds him.
  • —Henry's Policy towards Bavaria, Lorraine and France.
  • —His Truce with the Hungarians.
  • —His Military Preparations.
  • —Defeat of the Hungarians.
  • —Henry's Achievements.
  • —His Death.
  • —Coronation of Otto.
  • —His first War.
  • —Revolt of Duke Eberhard and Prince Henry.
  • —War with Louis IV. of France.
  • —Otto's Victories.
  • —Henry pardoned.
  • —Conquest of Jutland.
  • —Otto's Empire.
  • —His March to Italy.
  • —Marriage with Adelheid of Burgundy.
  • —Revolt of Ludolf and Konrad.
  • —The Hungarian Army destroyed.
  • —The Pope calls for Otto's Aid.
  • —Otto crowned Roman Emperor.
  • —Quarrel with the Pope.
  • —Third Visit to Italy.
  • —His Son married to an Eastern Princess.
  • —His Triumph and Death.

When Ludwig the Child died, the state of affairs in Germany had greatly changed. The direct dependence of the nobility and clergy upon the Emperor, established by the political system of Charlemagne, was almost at an end; the country was covered with petty sovereignties, which stood between the chief ruler and the people. The estates which were formerly given to the bishops, abbots, nobles, and others who had rendered special service to the Empire, were called Lehen, or "liens" of the monarch (as explained in Chapter X.); they were granted for a term of years, or for life, and afterwards reverted to the royal hands. In return for such grants, the endowed lords were obliged to secure the loyalty of their retainers, the people dwelling upon their lands, and, in case of war, to follow the Emperor's banner with their proportion of fighting men.

So long as the wars were with external foes, with opportunities for both glory and plunder, the service was willingly performed; but when they came as a consequence of family quarrels, and every portion of the empire was liable to be wasted in its turn, the Emperor's "vassals," both[Pg 117] spiritual and temporal, began to grow restive. Their military service subjected them to the chance of losing their Lehen, and they therefore demanded to have absolute possession of the lands. The next and natural step was to have the possession, and the privileges connected with it, made hereditary in their families; and these claims were very generally secured, throughout Germany, during the reign of Karl the Fat. Only in Saxony and Friesland, and among the Alps, were the common people proprietors of the soil.


The nobles, or large land-owners, for their common defence against the exercise of the Imperial power, united under the rule of Counts or Dukes, by whom the former division of the population into separate tribes or nations was continued. The Emperors, also, found this division convenient, but they always claimed the right to set aside the smaller rulers, or to change the boundaries of their states for reasons of policy.

Charles the Silly, of the Carolingian line, reigned in France in 911, and was therefore, according to the family compact, the heir to Ludwig the Child. Moreover, the Pope, Stephen IV., had threatened with the curse of the Church all those who should give allegiance to an Emperor who was not of Carolingian blood. Nevertheless, the German princes and nobles were now independent enough to defy both tradition and Papal authority. They held a Diet at Forchheim, and decided to elect their own king. They would have chosen Otto, Duke of the Saxons,—a man of great valor, prudence and nobility of character—but he felt himself to be too old for the duties of the royal office, and he asked the Diet to confer it on Konrad, Duke of the Franks. The latter was then almost unanimously chosen, and immediately crowned by Archbishop Hatto of Mayence.

Konrad was a brave, gay, generous monarch, who soon rose into high favor with the people. His difficulty lay in the jealousy of other princes, who tried to strengthen themselves by restricting his authority. He first lost the greater part of Lorraine, and then, on attempting to divide Thuringia and Saxony, which were united under Henry, the son of Duke Otto, his army was literally cut to pieces. A Saxon song of victory, written at the time, says, "The lower world was too small to receive the throngs of the enemies slain."


Arnulf of Bavaria and the Counts Berthold and Erchanger of Suabia defeated the Hungarians in a great battle[Pg 118] near the river Inn, in 913, and felt themselves strong enough to defy Konrad. He succeeded in defeating and deposing them; but Arnulf fled to the Hungarians and incited them to a new invasion of Germany. They came in two bodies, one of which marched through Bavaria and Suabia to the Rhine, the other through Thuringia and Saxony to Bremen, plundering, burning and slaying on their way. The condition of the Empire became so desperate that Konrad appealed for assistance to the Pope, who ordered an Episcopal Synod to be held in 917, but not much was done by the Bishops except to insist upon the payment of tithes to the Church. Then Konrad, wounded in repelling a new invasion of the Hungarians, looked forward to death as a release from his trouble. Feeling his end approaching, he summoned his brother Eberhard, gave him the royal crown and sceptre, and bade him carry them to Duke Henry of Saxony, the enemy of his throne, declaring that the latter was the only man with power and intelligence enough to rule Germany.

Henry was already popular as the son of Otto, and it was probably quite as much their respect for his character as for Konrad's last request, which led many of the German nobles to accompany Eberhard and join him in offering the crown. They found Henry in a pleasant valley near the Hartz, engaged in catching finches, and he was thenceforth generally called "Henry the Fowler" by the people. He at once accepted the trust confided to his hands: a Diet of the Franks and Saxons was held at Fritzlar the next year, 919, and he was there lifted upon the shield and hailed as King. But when Archbishop Hatto proposed to anoint him king with the usual religious ceremonies, he declined, asserting that he did not consider himself worthy to be more than a king of the people. Both he and his wife Mathilde were descendants of Wittekind, the foe and almost the conqueror of Charlemagne.

Neither Suabia nor Bavaria were represented at the Diet of Fritzlar. This meant resistance to Henry's authority, and he accordingly marched at once into Southern Germany. Burkhard, Duke of Suabia, gave in his submission without delay; but Arnulf of Bavaria made preparations for resistance. The two armies came together near Ratisbon: all was ready for battle, when king Henry summoned Arnulf to meet him alone, between their camps. At this[Pg 119] interview he spoke with so much wisdom and persuasion that Arnulf finally yielded, and Henry's rights were established without the shedding of blood.


In the meantime Lorraine, under its Duke, Giselbert, had revolted, and Charles the Silly, by unexpectedly crossing the frontier, gained possession of Alsatia, as far as the Rhine. Henry marched against him, but, as in the case of Arnulf, asked for a personal interview before engaging in battle. The two kings met on an island in the Rhine, near Bonn: the French army was encamped on the western, and the German army on the eastern bank of the river, awaiting the result. Charles the Silly was soon brought to terms by his shrewd, intelligent rival: on the 7th of November, 921, a treaty was signed by which the former boundary between France and Germany was reaffirmed. Soon afterwards, Giselbert of Lorraine was sent as a prisoner to Henry, but the latter, pleased with his character, set him free, gave him his daughter in marriage, and thus secured his allegiance to the German throne.

In this manner, within five or six years after he was chosen king, Henry had accomplished his difficult task. Chiefly by peaceful means, by a combination of energy, patience and forbearance, he had subdued the elements of disorder in Germany, and united both princes and people under his rule. He was now called upon to encounter the Hungarians, who, in 924, again invaded both Northern and Southern Germany. The walled and fortified cities, such as Ratisbon, Augsburg and Constance, were safe from their attacks, but in the open field they were so powerful that Henry found himself unable to cope with them. His troops only dared to engage in skirmishes with the smaller roving bands, in one of which, by great good fortune, they captured one of the Hungarian chiefs, or princes. A large amount of treasure was offered for his ransom, but Henry refused it, and asked for a truce of nine years, instead. The Hungarians finally agreed to this, on condition that an annual tribute should be paid to them during the time.

This was the bravest and wisest act of king Henry's life. He took upon himself the disgrace of the tribute, and then at once set about organizing his people and developing their strength. The truce of nine years was not too long for the work upon which he entered. He began by forcing the people to observe a stricter military discipline, by[Pg 120] teaching his Saxon foot-soldiers to fight on horseback, and by strengthening the defences along his eastern frontier. Hamburg, Magdeburg and Halle were at this time the most eastern German towns, and beyond or between them, especially towards the south, there were no strong points which could resist invasion. Henry carefully surveyed the ground and began the erection of a series of fortified enclosures. Every ninth man of the district was called upon to serve as garrison-soldier, while the remaining eight cultivated the land. One-third of the harvests was stored in these fortresses, wherein, also, the people were required to hold their markets and their festivals. Thus Quedlinburg, Merseburg, Meissen and other towns soon arose within the fortified limits. From these achievements Henry is often called in German History, "the Founder of Cities."


Having somewhat accustomed the people to this new form of military service, and constantly exercised the nobles and their men-at-arms in sham fights and tournaments (which he is said to have first instituted), Henry now tested them in actual war. The Slavonic tribes east of the Elbe had become the natural and hereditary enemies of the Germans, and an attack upon them hardly required a pretext. The present province of Brandenburg, the basis of the Prussian kingdom, was conquered by Henry in 928; and then, after a successful invasion of Bohemia, he gradually extended his annexation to the Oder. The most of the Slavonic population were slaughtered without mercy, and the Saxons and Thuringians, spreading eastward, took possession of their vacant lands. Finally, in 932, Henry conquered Lusatia (now Eastern Saxony); Bohemia was already tributary, and his whole eastern frontier was thereby advanced from the Baltic at Stettin to the Danube at Vienna.


By this time the nine years of truce with the Hungarians were at an end, and when the ambassadors of the latter came to the German Court to receive their tribute, they were sent back with empty hands. A tradition states that Henry ordered an old, mangy dog to be given to them, instead of the usual gold and silver. A declaration of war followed, as he had anticipated; but the Hungarians seem to have surprised him by the rapidity of their movements. Contrary to their previous custom, they undertook a winter campaign, overrunning Thuringia and Saxony in such immense numbers that the king did not immediately venture[Pg 121] to oppose them. He waited until their forces were divided in the search for plunder, then fell upon a part and defeated them. Shortly afterwards he moved against their main army, and on the 15th of March, 933, after a bloody battle (which is believed to have been fought in the vicinity of Merseburg), was again conqueror. The Hungarians fled, leaving their camp, treasures and accumulated plunder in Henry's hands. They were never again dangerous to Northern Germany.

After this came a war with the Danish king, Gorm, who had crossed the Eider and taken Holstein. Henry brought it to an end, and added Schleswig to his dominion rather by diplomacy than by arms. After his long and indefatigable exertions, the Empire enjoyed peace; its boundaries were extended and secured; all the minor rulers submitted to his sway, and his influence over the people was unbounded. But he was not destined to enjoy the fruits of his achievements. A stroke of apoplexy warned him to set his house in order; so, in the spring of 936, he called together a Diet at Erfurt, which accepted his second son, Otto, as his successor. Although he left two other sons, no proposition was made to divide Germany among them. The civil wars of the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties, during nearly 400 years, compelled the adoption of a different system of succession; and the reigning Dukes and Counts were now so strong that they bowed reluctantly even to the authority of a single monarch.

Henry died on the 20th of July, 936, not sixty years old. His son and successor, Otto, was twenty-four,—a stern, proud man, but brave, firm, generous and intelligent. He was married to Editha, the daughter of Athelstan, the Saxon king of England. A few weeks after his father's death, he was crowned with great splendor in the cathedral of Charlemagne, at Aix-la-Chapelle. All the Dukes and Bishops of the realm were present, and the new Emperor was received with universal acclamation. At the banquet which followed, the Dukes of Lorraine, Franconia, Suabia, and Bavaria, served as Chamberlain, Steward, Cupbearer and Marshal. It was the first national event of a spontaneous character, which took place in Germany, and now, for the first time, a German Empire seemed to be a reality.

The history of Otto's reign fulfilled, at least to the people of his day, the promise of his coronation. Like his[Pg 122] father, his inheritance was to include wars with internal and external foes; he met and carried them to an end, with an energy equal to that of Henry I., but without the same prudence and patience. He made Germany the first power of the civilized world, yet he failed to unite the discordant elements of which it was composed, and therefore was not able to lay the foundation of a distinct nation, such as was even then slowly growing up in France.


He was first called upon to repel invasions of the Bohemians and the Wends, in Prussia. He entrusted the subjection of the latter to a Saxon Count, Hermann Billung, and marched himself against the former. Both wars lasted for some time, but they were finally successful. The Hungarians, also, whose new inroad reached even to the banks of the Loire, were twice defeated, and so discouraged that they never afterwards attempted to invade either Thuringia or Saxony.

Worse troubles, however, were brewing within the realm. Eberhard, Duke of the Franks (the same who had carried his brother Konrad's crown to Otto's father), had taken into his own hands the punishment of a Saxon noble, instead of referring the case to the king. The latter compelled Eberhard to pay a fine of a hundred pounds of silver, and ordered that the Frank freemen who assisted him should carry dogs in their arms to the royal castle,—a form of punishment which was then considered very disgraceful. After the order had been carried into effect, Otto received the culprits kindly and gave them rich presents; but they went home brooding revenge.

Eberhard allied himself with Thankmar, Otto's own half-brother by a mother from whom Henry I. had been divorced before marrying Mathilde. Giselbert, Duke of Lorraine, Otto's brother-in-law, joined the conspiracy, and even many of the Saxon nobles, who were offended because the command of the army sent against the Wends had been given to Count Hermann, followed his example. Otto's position was very critical, and if there had been more harmony of action among the conspirators, he might have lost his throne. In the struggle which ensued, Thankmar was slain and Duke Eberhard forced to surrender. But the latter was not yet subdued. During the rebellion he had taken Otto's younger brother, Henry, prisoner; he secured the latter's confidence, tempted him with the prospect of being chosen king in case[Pg 123] Otto was overthrown, and then sent him as his intercessor to the conqueror.


Thus, while Otto supposed the movement had been crushed, Eberhard, Giselbert of Lorraine and Henry, who had meantime joined the latter, were secretly preparing a new rebellion. As soon as Otto discovered the fact, he collected an army and hastened to the Rhine. He had crossed the river with only a small part of his troops, the remainder being still encamped upon the eastern bank, when Giselbert and Henry suddenly appeared with a great force. Otto at first gave himself up for lost, but determined at least to fall gallantly, he and his followers fought with such desperation that they won a signal victory. Giselbert retreated to Lorraine, whither Otto was prevented from following him by new troubles among the Saxons and the subject Wends between the Elbe and Oder.

The rebellious princes now sought the help of the king of France, Louis IV. (called d'Outre-mer, or "from beyond sea," because he had been an exile in England). He marched into Alsatia with a French army, while Duke Eberhard and the Archbishop of Mayence added their forces to those of Giselbert and Henry. All the territory west of the Rhine fell into their hands, and the danger seemed so great that many of the smaller German princes began to waver in their fidelity to Otto. He, however, hastened to Alsatia, defeated the French, and laid siege to the fortress of Breisach (half-way between Strasburg and Basel), although Giselbert was then advancing into Westphalia. A small band who remained true to him met the latter and forced him back upon the Rhine; and there, in a battle fought near Andernach, Eberhard was slain and Giselbert drowned in attempting to fly.

This was the turning-point in Otto's fortunes. The French retreated, all the supports of the rebellion fell away from it, and in a short time the king's authority was restored throughout the whole of Germany. These events occurred during the year 939. The following year Otto marched to Paris, which, however, was too strongly fortified to be taken. An irregular war between the two kingdoms lasted for some time longer, and was finally terminated by a personal interview between Otto and Louis IV., at which the ancient boundaries were reaffirmed, Lorraine remaining German.


Henry, pardoned for the second time, was unable to[Pg 124] maintain himself as Duke of Lorraine, to which position Otto had appointed him. Enraged at being set aside, he united with the Archbishop of Mayence in a conspiracy against his brother's life. It was arranged that the murder should be committed during the Easter services, in Quedlinburg. The plot was discovered, the accomplices tried and executed, and Henry thrown into prison. During the celebration of the Christmas mass, in the cathedral at Frankfort, the same year, he suddenly appeared before Otto, and, throwing himself upon his knees before him, prayed for pardon. Otto was magnanimous enough to grant it, and afterwards to forget as well as forgive. He bestowed new favors upon Henry, who never again became unfaithful.

During this time the Saxon Counts, Gero and Hermann, had held the Wends and other Slavonic tribes at bay, and gradually filled the conquered territory beyond the Elbe with fortified posts, around which German colonists rapidly clustered. Following the example of Charlemagne, the people were forcibly converted to Christianity, and new churches and monasteries were founded. The Bohemians were made tributary, the Hungarians repelled, and in driving back an invasion of the king of Denmark, Harold Blue-tooth, Otto marched to the extremity of the peninsula of Jutland, and there hurled his spear into the sea, as a sign that he had taken possession of the land.

He now ruled a wider, and apparently a more united realm, than his father. The power of the independent Dukes was so weakened, that they felt themselves subjected to his favor; he was everywhere respected and feared, although he never became popular with the masses of the people. He lacked the easy, familiar ways with them which distinguished his father and Charlemagne; his manner was cold and haughty, and he surrounded himself with pomp and ceremony. He married his eldest son, Ludolf, to the daughter of the Duke of Suabia, whom the former soon succeeded in his rule; he gave Lorraine to his son-in-law, Konrad, and Bavaria to his brother Henry, while he retained the Franks, Thuringians and Saxons under his own personal rule. Germany might have grown into a united nation, if the good qualities of his line could have been transmitted without its inordinate ambition.

While thus laying, as he supposed, the permanent basis of his power, Otto was called upon by the king of France, who,[Pg 125] having married the widow of Giselbert of Lorraine, was now his brother-in-law, for help against Duke Hugo, a powerful pretender to the French throne. In 946 he marched at the head of an army of 32,000 men, to assist king Louis; but, although he reached Normandy, he did not succeed in his object, and several years elapsed before Hugo was brought to submission.


In the year 951, Otto's attention was directed to Italy, which, since the fall of the Carolingian Empire, had been ravaged in turn by Saracens, Greeks, Normans and even Hungarians. The Papal power had become almost a shadow, and the title of Roman Emperor was practically extinct. Berengar of Friuli, a rough, brutal prince, called himself king of Italy, and demanded for his son the hand of Adelheid, the widow of his predecessor. On her refusal to accept Berengar's offer, she was imprisoned and treated with great indignity, but finally she succeeded in sending a messenger to Germany, imploring Otto's intervention. His wife, Editha of England, was dead: he saw, in Adelheid's appeal, an opportunity to acquire an ascendency in Italy, and resolved to claim her hand for himself.

Accompanied by his brother Henry of Bavaria, his son Ludolf of Suabia, and his son-in-law Konrad of Lorraine, with their troops, Otto crossed the Alps, defeated Berengar, took possession of Verona, Pavia, Milan and other cities of Northern Italy, and assumed the title of king of Lombardy. He then applied for Adelheid's hand, which was not refused, and the two were married with great pomp at Pavia. Ludolf, incensed at his father for having taken a second wife, returned immediately to Germany, and there stirred up such disorder that Otto relinquished his intention of visiting Rome, and followed him. After much negotiation, Berengar was allowed to remain king of Lombardy, on condition of giving up all the Adriatic shore, from near Venice to Istria, which was then annexed to Bavaria.


Duke Henry, therefore, profited most by the Italian campaign, and this excited the jealousy of Ludolf and Konrad, who began to conspire both against him, and against Otto's authority. The trouble increased until it became an open rebellion, which convulsed Germany for nearly four years. If Otto had been personally popular, it might have been soon suppressed; but the petty princes and the people inclined to one side or the other, according to the prospects of[Pg 126] success, and the Empire, finally, seemed on the point of falling to pieces. In this crisis, there came what appeared to be a new misfortune, but which, most unexpectedly, put an end to the wasting strife. The Hungarians again broke into Germany, and Ludolf and Konrad granted them permission to pass through their territory to reach and ravage their father's lands. This alliance with an hereditary and barbarous enemy turned the whole people to Otto's side; the long rebellion came rapidly to an end, and all troubles were settled by a Diet held at the close of 954.

The next year the Hungarians came again in greater numbers than ever, and, crossing Bavaria, laid siege to Augsburg. But Otto now marched against them with all the military strength of Germany, and on the 10th of August, 955, met them in battle. Konrad of Lorraine led the attack and decided the fate of the day, but, in the moment of victory, having lifted his visor to breathe more freely, a Hungarian arrow pierced his neck and he fell dead. Nearly all the enemy were slaughtered or drowned in the river Lech. Only a few scattered fugitives returned to Hungary to tell the tale, and from that day no new invasion was ever undertaken against Germany. On the contrary, the Bavarians pressed eastward and spread themselves along the Danube and among the Styrian Alps, while the Bohemians took possession of Moravia, so that the boundary lines between the three races then became very nearly what they are at the present day.

Soon afterwards, Otto lost his brother Henry of Bavaria, and, two years later, his son Ludolf, who died in Italy, while endeavoring to make himself king of the Lombards. A new disturbance in Saxony was suppressed, and with it there was an end of civil war in Germany, during Otto's reign. We have already stated that he was proud and ambitious: the crown of a "Roman Emperor," which still seemed the highest title on earth, had probably always hovered before his mind, and now the opportunity of attaining it came. The Pope, John XII., a boy of seventeen, who found himself in danger of being driven from Rome by Berengar, the Lombard, sent a pressing call for help to Otto, who entered upon his second journey to Italy in 961.


He first called a Diet together at Worms, and procured the acceptance of his son Otto, then only 6 years old, as his successor. The child was solemnly crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle;[Pg 127] the Archbishop Bruno of Cologne was appointed his guardian and vicegerent of the realm during Otto's absence, and the latter was left free to carry out his designs beyond the Alps. He was received with rejoicing by the Lombards, and the iron crown of the kingdom was placed on his head by the Archbishop of Milan. He then advanced to Rome and was crowned Emperor in St. Peter's by the boy-pope, on the 2d of February, 962. Nearly a generation had elapsed since the title had been held or claimed by any one, and its renewal at this time was the source of centuries of loss and suffering to Germany. It was a sham and a delusion,—a will-o'-the wisp which led rulers and people aside from the true path of civilization, and left them floundering in quagmires of war.

Otto had hardly returned to Lombardy before the Pope, who began to see that he had crowned his own master, conspired against him. The Pope called on the Byzantine Emperor for aid, incited the Hungarians, and even entered into correspondence with the Saracens in Corsica. All Italy became so turbulent that three years elapsed before the Emperor Otto succeeded in restoring order. He took Rome by force of arms, deposed the Pope and set up another of his own appointment, banished Berengar, and compelled the universal recognition of his own sovereignty. Then, with the remnants of an army which had almost been destroyed by war and pestilence, he returned to Germany in 965.

A grand festival was held at Cologne, to celebrate his new honors and victories. His mother, the aged queen Mathilde, Lothar, reigning king of France, and all the Dukes and Princes of Germany, were present, and the people came in multitudes from far and wide. The internal peace of the Empire had not been disturbed during Otto's absence, and his journey of inspection was a series of peaceful and splendid pageants. An insurrection having broken out among the Lombards the following year, he sent Duke Burkhard of Suabia to suppress it in his name; but it soon became evident that his own presence was necessary. He thereupon took a last farewell of his old mother, and returned to Italy in the autumn of 966.

Lombardy was soon brought to order, and the rebellious nobles banished to Germany. As Otto approached Rome, the people restored the Pope he had appointed, whom they had in the meantime deposed: they were also compelled to[Pg 128] give up the leaders of the revolt, who were tried and executed. Otto claimed the right of appointing the Civil Governor of Rome, who should rule in his name. He gave back to the Pope the territory which the latter had received from Pippin the Short, two hundred years before, but nearly all of which had been taken from the Church by the Lombards. In return, the Pope agreed to govern this territory as a part, or province, of the Empire, and to crown Otto's son as Emperor, in advance of his accession to the throne.


These new successes seem to have quite turned Otto's mind from the duty he owed to the German people; henceforth he only strove to increase the power and splendor of his house. His next step was to demand the hand of the Princess Theophania, a daughter of one of the Byzantine Emperors, for his son Otto. The Eastern Court neither consented nor refused; ambassadors were sent back and forth until the Emperor became weary of the delay. Following the suggestion of his offended pride, he undertook a campaign against Southern Italy, parts of which still acknowledged the Byzantine rule. The war lasted for several years, without any positive result; but the hand of Theophania was finally promised to young Otto, and she reached Rome in the beginning of the year 972. Her beauty, grace and intelligence at once won the hearts of Otto's followers, who had been up to that time opposed to the marriage. Although her betrothed husband was only seventeen, and she was a year younger, the nuptials were celebrated in April, and the Emperor then immediately returned to Germany with his Court and army.


All that Otto could show, to balance his six years' neglect of his own land and people, was the title of "the Great," which the Italians bestowed upon him, and a Princess of Constantinople, who spoke Greek and looked upon the Germans as barbarians, for his daughter-in-law. His return was celebrated by a grand festival held at Quedlinburg, at Easter, 973. All the Dukes and reigning Counts of the Empire were present, the kings of Bohemia and Poland, ambassadors from Constantinople, from the Caliph of Cordova, in Spain, from Bulgaria, Russia, Denmark and Hungary. Even Charlemagne never enjoyed such a triumph; but in the midst of the festivities, Otto's first friend and supporter, Hermann Billung, whom he had made Duke of Saxony, suddenly died. The Emperor became impressed with the idea[Pg 129] that his own end was near: he retired to Memleben in Thuringia, where his father died, and on the 6th of May was stricken with apoplexy, at the age of sixty-one. He died, seated in his chair and surrounded by his princely guests, and was buried in Magdeburg, by the side of his first wife, Editha of England.

Otto completed the work which Henry commenced, and left Germany the first power in Europe. Had his mind been as clear and impartial, his plans as broad and intelligent, as Charlemagne's, he might have laid the basis of a permanent Empire; but, in an evil hour, he called the phantom of the sceptre of the world from the grave of Roman power, and, believing that he held it, turned the ages that were to follow him into the path of war, disunion and misery.




  • Otto II., "The Red."
  • —Conquest of Bavaria.
  • —Invasion of Lothar of France.
  • —Otto's March to Paris.
  • —His Journey to Italy.
  • —His Defeat by the Saracens, and Escape.
  • —Diet at Verona.
  • —Otto's Death.
  • —Theophania as Regent.
  • —Alienation of France.
  • —Otto III.
  • —His Dealings with the Popes.
  • —Negotiations with the Poles.
  • —His Fantastic Actions.
  • —His Death in Rome.
  • —Youthful Popes.
  • —Henry of Bavaria chosen by the Germans.
  • —His character.
  • —War with Poland.
  • —March to Italy, and Coronation.
  • —Other Wars.
  • —Henry repels the Byzantines.
  • —His Death.
  • —The Character of his Reign.
  • —His Piety.

Otto II., already crowned as king and Emperor, began his reign as one authorized "by the grace of God." Although only eighteen years old, and both physically and intellectually immature, his succession was immediately acknowledged by the rulers of the smaller German States. He was short and slender, and of such a ruddy complexion that the people gave him the name of "Otto the Red." He had been carefully educated, and possessed excellent qualities of heart and mind, but he had not been tried by adversity, like his father and grandfather, and failed to inherit either the patience or the energy of either. At first his mother, the widowed Empress Adelheid, conducted the government of the Empire, and with such prudence that all were satisfied. Soon, however, the Empress Theophania became jealous of her mother-in-law's influence, and the latter was compelled to retire to her former home in Burgundy.

The first internal trouble came from Henry II., Duke of Bavaria, the son of Otto the Great's rebellious brother, and cousin of Otto II. He was ambitious to convert Bavaria into an independent kingdom: in fact he had himself crowned king at Ratisbon, but in 976 he was defeated, taken prisoner and banished to Holland by the Emperor. Bavaria was united to Suabia, and the Eastern provinces on[Pg 131] the Danube were erected into a separate principality, which was the beginning of Austria as a new German power.


At the same time Otto II. was forced to carry on new wars with Bohemia and Denmark, in both of which he maintained the frontiers established by his father. But Lothar, king of France, used the opportunity to get possession of Lorraine and even to take Aix-la-Chapelle, Charlemagne's capital, in the summer of 978. The German people were so enraged at this treacherous invasion that Otto II. had no difficulty in raising an army of 60,000 men, with which he marched to Paris in the autumn of the same year. The city was so well fortified and defended that he found it prudent to raise the siege as winter approached; but first, on the heights of Montmartre, his army chanted a Te Deum as a warning to the enemy within the walls. The strife was prolonged until 980, when it was settled by a personal interview of the Emperor and the king of France, at which Lorraine was restored to Germany.

In 981 Otto II. went to Italy. His mother, Adelheid, came to Pavia to meet him, and a complete reconciliation took place between them. Then he advanced to Rome, quieted the dissensions in the government of the city, and received as his guests Konrad, king of Burgundy, and Hugh Capet, destined to be the ancestor of a long line of French kings. At this time both the Byzantine Greeks and the Saracens were ravaging Southern Italy, and it was Otto II.'s duty, as Roman Emperor, to drive them from the land. The two bitterly hostile races became allies, in order to resist him, and the war was carried on fiercely until the summer of 982 without any result; then, on the 13th of July, on the coast of Calabria, the Imperial army was literally cut to pieces by the Saracens. The Emperor escaped capture by riding into the Mediterranean and swimming to a ship which lay near. When he was taken on board he found it to be a Greek vessel; but whether he was recognized or not (for the accounts vary), he prevailed upon the captain to set him ashore at Rossano, where the Empress Theophania was awaiting his return from battle.

This was a severe blow, but it aroused the national spirit of Germany. Otto II., having returned to Northern Italy, summoned a general Diet of the Empire to meet at Verona in the summer of 983. All the subject Dukes and Princes attended, even the kings of Burgundy and Bohemia. Here,[Pg 132] for the first time, the Lombard Italians appeared on equal footing with the Saxons, Franks and Bavarians, acknowledged the authority of the Empire, and elected Otto II.'s son, another Otto, only three years old, as his successor. Preparations were made for a grand war against the Saracens and the Eastern Empire, but before they were completed Otto II. died, at the age of twenty-eight, in Rome. He was buried in St. Peter's.


The news of his death reached Aix-la-Chapelle at the very time when his infant son was crowned king as Otto III., in accordance with the decree of the Diet of Verona. A dispute now arose as to the guardianship of the child, between the widowed Empress Theophania and Henry II. of Bavaria, who at once returned from his exile in Holland. The latter aimed at usurping the Imperial throne, but he was incautious enough to betray his design too soon, and met with such opposition that he was lucky in being allowed to retain his former place as Duke of Bavaria. The Empress Theophania reigned in Germany in her son's name, while Adelheid, widow of Otto the Great, reigned in Italy. The former, however, had the assistance of Willigis, Archbishop of Mayence, a man of great wisdom and integrity. He was the son of a poor Saxon wheelwright, and chose for his coat-of-arms as an Archbishop, a wheel, with the words: "Willigis, forget not thine origin." When Theophania died, in 991, her place was taken by Otto III.'s grandmother, Adelheid, who chose the Dukes of Saxony, Suabia, Bavaria and Tuscany as her councillors.

During this time the Wends in Prussia again arose, and after a long and wasting war, in which the German settlements beyond the Elbe received little help from the Imperial government, the latter were either conquered or driven back. The relations between Germany and France were also actually those of war, although there were no open hostilities. The struggle for the throne of France, between Duke Charles, the last of the Carolingian line, and Hugh Capet, which ended in the triumph of the latter, broke the last link of blood and tradition connecting the two countries. They had been jealous relatives hitherto; now they became strangers, and it is not long until History records them as enemies.


When Otto III. was sixteen years old, in 996, he took the Imperial government in his own hands. His education had[Pg 133] been more Greek than German; he was ashamed of his Saxon blood, and named himself, in his edicts, "a Greek by birth and a Roman by right of rule." He was a strange, unsteady, fantastic character, whose only leading idea was to surround himself with the absurd ceremonies of the Byzantine Court, and to make Rome the capital of his Empire. His reign was a farce, compared with that of his grandfather, the great Otto, and yet it was the natural consequence of the latter's perverted ambition.

Otto III.'s first act was to march to Rome, in order to be crowned as Emperor by the Pope, John XV., in exchange for assisting him against Crescentius, a Roman noble who had usurped the civil government. But the Pope died before his arrival, and Otto thereupon appointed his own cousin, Bruno, a young man of twenty-four, who took the Papal chair as Gregory V. The new-made Pope, of course, crowned him as Roman Emperor, a few days afterward. The people, in those days, were accustomed to submit to any authority, spiritual or political, which was strong enough to support its own claims, but this bargain was a little too plain and barefaced; and Otto had hardly returned to Germany, before the Roman, Crescentius, drove away Gregory V. and set up a new Pope, of his own appointment.

The Wends, in Prussia, were giving trouble, and the Scandinavians and Danes ravaged all the northern coast of Germany; but the boy emperor, without giving a thought to his immediate duty, hastened back to Italy in 997, took Crescentius prisoner and beheaded him, barbarously mutilated the rival Pope, and reinstated Gregory V. When the latter died, in 999, Otto made his own teacher, Gerbert of Rheims, Pope, under the name of Sylvester II. In spite of the reverence of the common people for the Papal office, they always believed Pope Sylvester to be a magician, and in league with the Devil. He was the most learned man of his day, and in his knowledge of natural science was far in advance of his time; but such accomplishments were then very rare in Italy, and unheard of in a Pope. Otto III. remained three years longer in Italy, dividing his time between pompous festivals and visits to religious anchorites.

In the year 1000 he was recalled to Germany. His father's sister, Mathilde, who had governed the country as well as she was able, during his absence, was dead, and there were difficulties, not of a political nature (for to such he[Pg 134] paid no attention), but in the organization of the Church, which he was anxious to settle. The Poles were converted to Christianity by this time, and their spiritual head was the Archbishop of Magdeburg; but now they demanded a separate and national diocese. This Otto granted to their Duke, or king, Boleslaw, with such other independent rights, that the authority of the German Empire soon ceased to be acknowledged by the Poles. He made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Adalbert of Prague, who was slain by the Prussian pagans, then visited Aix-la-Chapelle, where, following a half-delirious fancy, he descended into the vault where lay the body of Charlemagne, in the hope of hearing a voice, or receiving a sign, which might direct him how to restore the Roman Empire.


The new Pope, Sylvester II., after Otto III.'s departure from Rome, found himself in as difficult a position as his predecessor, Gregory V. He was also obliged to call the Emperor to his aid, and the latter returned to Italy in 1001. He established his Court in a palace on Mount Aventine, in Rome, and maintained his authority for a little while, in spite of a fierce popular revolt. Then, becoming restless, yet not knowing what to do, he wandered up and down Italy, paid a mysterious visit to Venice by night, and finally returned to Rome, to find the gates barred against him. He began a siege, but before anything was accomplished, he died in 1002, as was generally believed, of poison. The nobles and the imperial guards who accompanied him took charge of his body, cut their way through a population in rebellion against his rule, and carried him over the Alps to Germany, where he was buried in Aix-la-Chapelle.

The next year Pope Sylvester II. died, and Rome fell into the hands of the Counts of Tusculum, who tried to make the Papacy a hereditary dignity in their family. One of them, a boy of seventeen, became Pope as John XVI., and during the following thirty years four other boys held the office of Head of the Christian Church, crowned Emperors, and blessed or excommunicated at their will. This was the end of the grand political and spiritual Empire which Charlemagne had planned, two centuries before—a fantastic, visionary youth as Emperor, and a weak, ignorant boy as Pope! The effect was the rapid demoralization of princes and people, and nothing but the genuine Christianity still existing among the latter, from whom the ranks of the[Pg 135] priests were recruited, saved the greater part of Europe from a relapse into barbarism.


At Otto III.'s death there were three claimants to the throne, belonging to the Saxon dynasty; but his nearest relative, Henry, third Duke of Bavaria, and great-grandson of king Henry I. the Fowler, was finally elected. Suabia, Saxony and Lorraine did not immediately acquiesce in the choice, but they soon found it expedient to submit. Henry's authority was thus established within Germany, but on its frontiers and in Italy, which was now considered a genuine part of "the Roman Empire," the usual troubles awaited him. He was a man of weak constitution, and only average intellect, but well-meaning, conscientious, and probably as just as it was possible for him to be under the circumstances. His life, as Emperor, was "a battle and a march," but its heaviest burdens were inherited from his predecessors. He was obliged to correct twenty years of misrule, or rather no rule, and he courageously gave the remainder of his life to the task.

The Polish Duke, Boleslaw, sought to unite Bohemia and all the Slavonic territory eastward of the Elbe, under his own sway. This brought him into direct collision with the claims of Germany, and the question was not settled until after three long and bloody wars. Finally, in 1018, a treaty was made between Henry II. and Boleslaw, by which Bohemia remained tributary to the German Empire, and the province of Meissen (in the present kingdom of Saxony) became an appanage of Poland. By this time the Wends had secured possession of Northern Prussia, between the Elbe and the Oder, thrown off the German rule, and returned to their ancient pagan faith.

In Italy, Arduin of Ivrea succeeded in inciting the Lombards to revolt, and proclaimed himself king of an independent Italian nation. Henry II. crossed the Alps in 1006, and took Pavia, the inhabitants of which city rose against him. In the struggle which followed, it was burned to the ground. After his return to Germany Arduin recovered his influence and power, became practically king, and pressed the Pope, Benedict VIII., so hard, that the latter went personally to Henry II. (as Leo III. had gone to Charlemagne) and implored his assistance. In the autumn of 1013, Henry went with the Pope to Italy, entered Pavia without resistance, restored the Papal authority in Rome, and[Pg 136] was crowned Emperor in February, 1014. He returned immediately afterwards to Germany; and Italy, after Arduin's death, the following year, remained comparatively quiet.


Even before the wars with Poland came to an end, in 1018, other troubles broke out in the west. There were disturbances along the frontier in Flanders, rebellions in Luxemburg and Lorraine, and finally a quarrel with Burgundy, the king of which, Rudolf III., was Henry II.'s uncle, and had chosen him as his heir. This inheritance gave Germany the eastern part of France, nearly to the Mediterranean, and the greater portion of Switzerland. But the Burgundian nobles refused to be thus transferred, and did not give their consent until after Henry's armies had twice invaded their country.

Finally, in 1020, when there was temporary peace throughout the Empire, the Cathedral at Bamberg, which the Emperor had taken great pride in building, was consecrated with splendid ceremonies. The pope came across the Alps to be present, and he employed the opportunity to persuade Henry to return to Italy, and free the southern part of the peninsula from the Byzantine Greeks, who had advanced as far as Capua and threatened Rome. The Emperor consented: in 1021 he marched into Southern Italy with a large army, expelled the Greeks from the greater portion of their conquered territory, and then, having lost his best troops by pestilence, returned home. He there continued to travel to and fro, settling difficulties and observing the condition of the people. After long struggles, the power of the Empire seemed to be again secured; but when he began to strengthen it by the arts of peace, his own strength was exhausted. He died near Göttingen, in the summer of 1024, and was buried in the Cathedral of Bamberg. With him expired the dynasty of the Saxon Emperors, less pitifully, however, than either the Merovingian or Carolingian line.

When Otto the Great, towards the close of his reign, neglected Germany and occupied himself with establishing his dominion in Italy, he prepared the way for the rapid decline of the Imperial power at home, in the hands of his successors. The reigning Dukes, Counts, and even the petty feudal lords, no longer watched and held subordinate, soon became practically independent: except in Friesland, Saxony and the Alps, the people had no voice in political matters;[Pg 137] and thus the growth of a general national sentiment, such as had been fostered by Charlemagne and Henry I., was again destroyed. In proportion as the smaller States were governed as if they were separate lands, their populations became separated in feeling and interest. Henry II. tried to be an Emperor of Germany: he visited Italy rather on account of what he believed to be the duties of his office than from natural inclination to reign there; but he was not able to restore the same authority at home, as Otto the Great had exercised.


Henry II. was a pious man, and favored the Roman Church in all practicable ways. He made numerous and rich grants of land to churches and monasteries, but always with the reservation of his own rights, as sovereign. After his death he was made a Saint, by order of the Pope, but he failed to live, either as Saint or Emperor, in the traditions of the people.




  • Konrad II. elected Emperor.
  • —Movements against him.
  • —Journey to Italy.
  • —Revolt of Ernest of Suabia.
  • —Burgundy attached to the Empire.
  • —Siege of Milan.
  • —Konrad's Death.
  • —Henry III. succeeds.
  • —Temporary Peace.
  • —Corruptions in the Church.
  • —The "Truce of God."
  • —Henry III.'s Coronation in Rome.
  • —Rival Popes.
  • —New Troubles in Germany.
  • —Second Visit to Italy.
  • —Return and Death.
  • —Henry IV.'s Childhood.
  • —His Capture.
  • —Archbishops Hanno and Adalbert.
  • —Henry IV. begins to reign.
  • —Revolt and Slaughter of the Saxons.
  • —Pope Gregory VII.
  • —His Character and Policy.
  • —Henry IV. excommunicated.
  • —Movement against him.
  • —He goes to Italy.
  • —His Humiliation at Canossa.
  • —War with Rudolf of Suabia.
  • —Henry IV. besieges Rome.
  • —Death of Gregory VII.
  • —Rebellions of Henry IV.'s Sons.
  • —His Capture, Abdication and Death.
  • —The First Crusade.

On the 4th of September, 1024, the German nobles, clergy and people came together on the banks of the Rhine, near Mayence, to elect a new Emperor. There were fifty or sixty thousand persons in all, forming two great camps: on the western bank of the river were the Lorrainese and the Rhine-Franks, on the eastern bank the Saxons, Suabians, Bavarians and German-Franks. There were two prominent candidates for the throne, but neither of them belonged to the established reigning houses, the members of which seemed to be so jealous of one another that they mutually destroyed their own chances. The two who were brought forward were cousins, both named Konrad, and both great-grandsons of Duke Konrad, Otto the Great's son-in-law, who fell so gallantly in the great battle with the Hungarians, in 955.

For five days the claims of the two were canvassed by the electors. The elder Konrad had married Gisela, the widow of Duke Ernest of Suabia, which gave him a somewhat higher place among the princes; and therefore after the cousins had agreed that either would accept the other's election as valid and final, the votes turned to his side. The[Pg 139][Pg 140] people, who were present merely as spectators (for they had now no longer any part in the election), hailed the new monarch with shouts of joy, and he was immediately crowned king of Germany in the Cathedral of Mayence.

GERMANY under the Saxon and Frank Emperors. Twelfth Century

GERMANY under the Saxon and Frank Emperors. Twelfth Century


Konrad—who was Konrad II. in the list of German Emperors—had no subjects of his own to support him, like his Saxon predecessors: his authority rested upon his own experience, ability and knowledge of statesmanship. But his queen, Gisela, was a woman of unusual intelligence and energy, and she faithfully assisted him in his duties. He was a man of stately and commanding appearance, and seemed so well fitted for his new dignity that when he made the usual journey through Germany, neither Dukes nor people hesitated to give him their allegiance. Even the nobles of Lorraine, who were dissatisfied with his election, found it prudent to yield without serious opposition.

The death of Henry II., nevertheless, was the signal for three threatening movements against the Empire. In Italy the Lombards rose, and, in their hatred of what they now considered to be a foreign rule (quite forgetting their own German origin), they razed to the ground the Imperial palace at Pavia: in Burgundy, king Rudolf declared that he would resist Konrad's claim to the sovereignty of the country, which, being himself childless, he had promised to Henry II.; and in Poland, Boleslaw, who now called himself king, declared that his former treaties with Germany were no longer binding upon him. But Konrad II. was favored by fortune. The Polish king died, and the power which he had built up—for his kingdom, like that of the Goths, reached from the Baltic to the Danube, from the Elbe to Central Russia—was again shattered by the quarrels of his sons. In Burgundy, Duke Rudolf was without heirs, and finally found himself compelled to recognize the German sovereign as his successor. With Canute, who was then king of Denmark and England, Konrad II. made a treaty of peace and friendship, restoring Schleswig to the Danish crown, and re-adopting the river Eider as the boundary.

In the spring of 1026, Konrad went to Italy. Pavia shut her gates against him, but those of Milan were opened, and the Lombard Bishops and nobles came to offer him homage. He was crowned with the iron crown, and during the course of the year, all the cities in Northern Italy—even Pavia, which promised to rebuild the Imperial palace—acknowledged[Pg 141] his sway. In March, 1027, he went to Rome and was crowned Emperor by the Pope, John XIX., one of the young Counts of Tusculum, who had succeeded to the Papacy as a boy of twelve! King Canute and Rudolf of Burgundy were present at the ceremony, and Konrad betrothed his son Henry to the Danish princess Gunhilde, daughter of the former.


After the coronation, the Emperor paid a rapid visit to Southern Italy, where the Normans had secured a foothold ten years before, and, by defending the country against the Greeks and Saracens, were rapidly making themselves its rulers. He found it easier to accept them as vassals than to drive them out, but in so doing he added a new and turbulent element to those which already distracted Italy. However, there was now external quiet, at least, and he went back to Germany.

Here his step-son, Ernest II. of Suabia, who claimed the crown of Burgundy, had already risen in rebellion against him. He was not supported even by his own people, and the Emperor imprisoned him in a strong fortress until the Empress Gisela, by her prayers, procured his liberation. Konrad offered to give him back his Dukedom, provided he would capture and deliver up his intimate friend, Count Werner of Kyburg, who was supposed to exercise an evil influence over him. Ernest refused, sought his friend, and the two after living for some time as outlaws in the Black Forest, at last fell in a conflict with the Imperial troops. The sympathies of the people were turned to the young Duke by his hard fate and tragic death, and during the Middle Ages the narrative poem of "Ernest of Suabia" was sung everywhere throughout Germany.

Konrad II. next undertook a campaign against Poland, which was wholly unsuccessful: he was driven back to the Elbe with great losses. Before he could renew the war, he was called upon to assist Count Albert of Austria (as the Bavarian "East-Mark" along the Danube must henceforth be called) in a war against Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. The result was a treaty of peace, which left him free to march once more against Poland and reconquer the provinces which Henry II. had granted to Boleslaw. The remaining task of his reign, the attachment of Burgundy to the German Empire, was also accomplished without any great difficulty. King Rudolf, before his death in 1032,[Pg 142] sent his crown and sceptre to Konrad II., in fulfilment of a promise made when they met at Rome, six years before. Although Count Odo of Champagne, Rudolf's nearest relative, disputed the succession, and all southern Burgundy espoused his cause, he was unable to resist the Emperor. The latter was crowned King of Burgundy at Payerne, in Switzerland, and two years later received the homage of nearly all the clergy and nobles of the country in Lyons.


At that time Burgundy comprised the whole valley of the Rhone, from its cradle in the Alps to the Mediterranean, the half of Switzerland, the cities of Dijon and Besançon and the territory surrounding them. All this now became, and for some centuries remained, a part of the German Empire. Its relation to the latter, however, resembled that of the Lombard Kingdom in Italy: its subjection was acknowledged, it was obliged to furnish troops in special emergencies, but it preserved its own institutions and laws, and repelled any closer political union. The continual intercourse of its people with those of France slowly obliterated the original differences between them, and increased the hostility of the Burgundians to the German sway. But the rulers of that day were not wise enough to see very far in advance, and the sovereignty of Burgundy was temporarily a gain to the German power.

Early in 1037 Konrad was called again to Italy by complaints of the despotic rule of the local governors, especially of the Archbishop Heribert of Milan. This prelate resisted his authority, incited the people of Milan to support his pretensions, and became, in a short time, the leader of a serious revolt. The Emperor deposed him, prevailed upon the Pope, Benedict IX., to place him under the ban of the Church, and besieged Milan with all his forces; but in vain. The Bishop defied both Emperor and Pope; the city was too strongly fortified to be taken, and out of this resistance grew the idea of independence which was afterwards developed in the Italian Republics, until the latter weakened, wasted, and finally destroyed the authority of the German (or "Roman") Emperors in Italy. Konrad was obliged to return home without having conquered Archbishop Heribert and the Milanese.

In the spring of 1039 he died suddenly at Utrecht, aged sixty, and was buried in the Cathedral at Speyer, which he had begun to build. He was a very shrewd and intelligent ruler, who planned better than he was able to perform. He[Pg 143] certainly greatly increased the Imperial power during his life, by recognizing the hereditary rights of the smaller princes, and replacing the chief reigning Dukes, whenever circumstances rendered it possible, by members of his own family. As the selection of the bishops and archbishops remained in his hands, the clergy were of course his immediate dependents. It was their interest, as well as that of the common people among whom knowledge and the arts were beginning to take root, that peace should be preserved between the different German States, and this could only be done by making the Emperor's authority paramount. Nevertheless, Konrad II. was never popular: a historian of the times says "no one sighed when his sudden death was announced."

1039. HENRY III.

His son, Henry III., already crowned King of Germany as a boy, now mounted the throne. He was twenty-three years old, distinguished for bodily as well as mental qualities, and was apparently far more competent to rule than many of his predecessors had been. Germany was quiet, and he encountered no opposition. The first five years of his reign brought him wars with Bohemia and Hungary, but in both, in spite of some reverses at the beginning, he was successful. Bohemia was reduced to obedience; a part of the Hungarian territory was annexed to Austria, and the king, Peter, as well as Duke Casimir of Poland, acknowledged themselves dependents of the German Empire. The Czar of Muscovy (as Russia was then called) offered Henry, after the death of Queen Gunhilde, a princess of his family as a wife; but he declined, and selected, instead, Agnes of Poitiers, sister of the Duke of Aquitaine.

But, although the condition of Germany, and, indeed, of the greater part of Europe, was now more settled and peaceful than it had been for a long time, the consequences of the previous wars and disturbances were very severely felt. The land had been visited both by pestilence and famine, and there was much suffering; there was also notorious corruption in the Church and in civil government; the demoralization of the Popes, followed by that of the Romans, and then of the Italians, had spread like an infection over all Christendom. When things seemed to be at their worst, a change for the better was instituted in a most unexpected quarter and in a very singular manner.


In the monastery of Cluny, in Burgundy, the monks, under the leadership of their Abbot, Odilo, determined to[Pg 144] introduce a sterner, a more pious and Christian spirit into the life of the age. They began to preach what they called the treuga Dei, the "truce" or "peace of God," according to which, from every Wednesday evening until the next Monday morning, all feuds or fights were forbidden throughout the land. Several hundred monasteries in France and Burgundy joined the "Congregation of Cluny"; the Church accepted the idea of the "peace of God," and the worldly rulers were called upon to enforce it. Henry III. saw in this new movement an agent which might be used to his own advantage no less than for the general good, and he favored it as far as lay in his power. He summoned a Diet of the German princes, urged the measure upon them in an eloquent speech, and set the example by proclaiming a full and free pardon to all who had been his enemies. The change was too sudden to be acceptable to many of the princes, but they obeyed as far as convenient, and the German people, almost for the first time in their history, enjoyed a general peace and security.

The "Congregation of Cluny" preached also against the universal simony, by which all clerical dignities were bought and sold. Priests, abbots, bishops, and even in some cases, Popes, were accustomed to buy their appointment, and the power of the Church was thus often exercised by the most unworthy hands. Henry III. saw the necessity of a reform; he sought out the most pious, pure and intelligent priests, and made them abbots and bishops, refusing all payments or presents. He then undertook to raise the Papal power out of the deplorable condition into which it had fallen. There were then three rival Popes in Rome, each of whom officially excommunicated and cursed the others and their followers.

In the summer of 1046, Henry III. crossed the Alps with a magnificent retinue. The quarrels between the nobles and the people, in the cities of Lombardy, were compromised at his approach, and he found order and submission everywhere. He called a Synod, which was held at Sutri, an old Etruscan town, 30 miles north of Rome, and there, with the consent of the Bishops, deposed all three of the Popes, appointing the Bishop of Bamberg to the vacant office. The latter took the Papal chair under the name of Clement II., and the very same day crowned Henry III. as Roman Emperor. To the Roman people this seemed no less[Pg 145] a bargain than the case of Otto III., and they grew more than ever impatient of the rule of both Emperor and Pope. Their republican instincts, although repressed by a fierce and powerful nobility, were kept alive by the examples of Venice and Milan, and they dreamed as ardently of a free Rome in the twelfth century as in the nineteenth.


Up to this time the Roman clergy and people had taken part, so far as the mere forms were concerned, in the election of the Popes. They were now compelled (of course very unwillingly) to give up this ancient right, and allow the Emperor to choose the candidate, who was then sure to be elected by Bishops of Imperial appointment. In fact, during the nine remaining years of Henry III.'s reign, he selected three other Popes, Clement II. and his first two successors having all died suddenly, probably from poison, after very short reigns. But this was the end of absolute German authority and Roman submission: within thirty years the Christian world beheld a spectacle of a totally opposite character.

Henry III. visited Southern Italy, confirmed the Normans in their rule, as his father had done, and then returned to Germany. He had reached the climax of his power, and the very means he had taken to secure it now involved him in troubles which gradually weakened his influence in Germany. He was generous, but improvident and reckless: he bestowed principalities on personal friends, regardless of hereditary claims or the wishes of the people, and gave away large sums of money, which were raised by imposing hard terms upon the tenants of the crown-lands. A new war with Hungary, and the combined revolt of Godfrey of Lorraine, Baldwin of Flanders and Dietrich of Holland against him, diminished his military resources; and even his success, at the end of four weary years, did not add to his renown. Leo IX., the third Pope of his appointment, was called upon to assist him by hurling the ban of the Church against the rebellious princes. He also called to his assistance Danish and English fleets which assailed Holland and Flanders, while he subdued Godfrey of Lorraine. The latter soon afterwards married the widowed Countess Beatrix of Tuscany, and thus became ruler of nearly all Italy between the Po and the Tiber.

By the year 1051, all the German States except Saxony were governed by relatives or personal friends of the Emperor.[Pg 146] In order to counteract the power of Bernhard, Duke of the Saxons, of whom he was jealous, he made another friend, Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, with authority over priests and churches in Northern Germany, Denmark, Scandinavia and even Iceland. He also built a stately palace at Goslar, at the foot of the Hartz Mountains, and made it as often as possible his residence, in order to watch the Saxons. Both these measures, however, increased his unpopularity with the German people.


Leo IX., in 1054, marched against the Normans who were threatening the southern border of the Roman territory, but was defeated and taken prisoner. The victors treated him with all possible reverence, and he soon saw the policy of making friends of such a bold and warlike people. A treaty of peace was concluded, wherein the Normans acknowledged themselves dependents of the Papal power: no notice was taken of the fact that they had already acknowledged that of the German-Roman Emperors. This event, and the increasing authority of his old enemy, Godfrey, in Tuscany, led Henry III. to visit Italy again in 1055. Although he held the Diet of Lombardy and a grand review on the Roncalian plains near Piacenza, he accomplished nothing by his journey: he did not even visit Rome. Leo IX. died the same year, and Henry appointed a new Pope, Victor II., who, like his predecessor, became an instrument in the hands of Hildebrand of Savona, a monk of Cluny, who was even then, although few suspected it, the real head and ruler of the Christian world.

The Emperor discovered that a plot had been formed to assassinate him on his way to Germany. This danger over, he had an interview with king Henri of France, which became so violent that he challenged the latter to single combat. Henri avoided the issue by marching away during the following night. The Emperor retired to his palace at Goslar, in October, 1056, where he received a visit from Pope Victor II. He was broken in health and hopes, and the news of a defeat of his army by the Slavonians in Prussia is supposed to have hastened his end. He died during the month, not yet forty years old, leaving a boy of six as his successor.

1062. HENRY IV.

The child, Henry IV., had already been crowned King of Germany, and his mother, the Empress Agnes, was chosen[Pg 147] regent during his minority. The Bishop of Augsburg was her adviser, and her first acts were those of prudence and reconciliation. Peace was concluded with Godfrey of Lorraine and Baldwin of Flanders, minor troubles in the States were quieted, and the Empire enjoyed the promise of peace. But the Empress, who was a woman of a weak, yielding nature, was soon led to make appointments which created fresh troubles. The reigning princes used the opportunity to make themselves more independent, and their mutual jealousy and hostility increased in proportion as they became stronger. The nobles and people of Rome renewed their attempt to have a share in the choice of a Pope; and, although the appointment was finally left to the Empress, the Pope of her selection, Nicholas II., instead of being subservient to the interests of the German Empire, allied himself with the Normans and with the republican party in the cities of Lombardy.

At home, the troubles of the Empress Agnes increased year by year. A conspiracy to murder the young Henry IV. was fortunately discovered; then a second, at the head of which was the Archbishop Hanno of Cologne, was formed to take him from his mother's care and give him into stronger hands. In 1062, when Henry IV. was twelve years old, Hanno visited the Empress at Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine. After a splendid banquet, he invited the young king to look at his vessel, which lay near the palace; but no sooner had the latter stepped upon the deck, than the conspirators seized their oars and pushed into the stream. Henry boldly sprang into the water; Count Ekbert of Brunswick sprang after him, and both, after nearly drowning in their struggle, were taken on board. The Empress stood on the shore, crying for help, and her people sought to intercept the vessel, but in vain: the plot was successful. A meeting of reigning princes, soon afterwards, appointed Archbishop Hanno guardian of the young king.

He was a hard, stern master, and Henry IV. became his enemy for life. Within a year, Hanno was obliged to yield his place to Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, who was as much too indulgent as the former had been too rigid. The jealousy of the other priests and princes was now turned against Adalbert, and his position became so difficult that in 1065, when Henry IV. was only fifteen years old, he presented him to an Imperial Diet, held at Worms, and there invested[Pg 148] him with the sword, the token of manhood. Thenceforth Henry reigned in his own name, although Adalbert's guardianship was not given up until a year later. Then he was driven away by a union of the other Bishops and the reigning princes, and his rival, Hanno, was forced, as chief counsellor, upon the angry and unwilling king.


The next year Henry was married to the Italian princess, Bertha, to whom his father had betrothed him as a child. Before three years had elapsed, he demanded to be divorced from her; but, although the Archbishop of Mayence and the Imperial Diet were persuaded to consent, the Pope, Alexander II., following the advice of his Chancellor, Hildebrand of Savona, refused his sanction. Henry finally decided to take back his wife, whose beauty, patience and forgiving nature compelled him to love her at last. About the same time, his father's enemy and his own, Godfrey of Lorraine and Tuscany, died; another enemy, Otto, Duke of Bavaria, fell into his hands, and was deposed; and there only remained Magnus, Duke of the Saxons, who seemed hostile to his authority. The events of Henry's youth and the character of his education made him impatient and mistrustful: he inherited the pride and arbitrary will of his father and grandfather, without their prudence: he surrounded himself with wild and reckless princes of his own age, whose counsels too often influenced his policy.

No Frank Emperor could be popular with the fierce, independent Saxons; but when it was rumored that Henry IV. had sought an alliance with the Danish king, Swen, against them,—when he called upon them, at the same time, to march against Poland,—their suspicions were aroused, and the whole population rose in opposition. To the number of 60,000, headed by Otto, the deposed Duke of Bavaria (who was a Saxon noble), they marched to the Harzburg, the Imperial castle near Goslar. Henry rejected their conditions: the castle was besieged, and he escaped with difficulty, accompanied only by a few followers. He endeavored to persuade the other German princes to support him, but they refused. They even entered into a conspiracy to dethrone him; the Bishops favored the plan, and his cause seemed nearly hopeless.

In this emergency the cities along the Rhine, which were very weary of priestly rule, and now saw a chance to strengthen themselves by assisting the Emperor, openly befriended[Pg 149] him. They were able, however, to give him but little military support, and in February, 1074, he was compelled to conclude a treaty with the Saxons, which granted them almost everything they demanded, even to the demolition of the fortresses he had built on their territory. But, in the flush of victory, they also tore down the Imperial palace at Goslar, the Church, and the sepulchre wherein Henry III. was buried. This placed them in the wrong, and Henry IV. marched into Saxony with an immense army which he had called together for the purpose of invading Hungary. The Saxons armed themselves to resist, but they were attacked when unprepared, defeated after a terrible battle, and their land laid waste with fire and sword. Thus were again verified, a thousand years later, the words of Tiberius—that it was not necessary to attempt the conquest of the Germans, for, if let alone, they would destroy themselves.


The power of Henry IV. seemed now to be assured; but the lowest humiliation which ever befell a monarch was in store for him. The monk of Cluny, Hildebrand of Savona, who had inspired the policy of four Popes during twenty-four years, became Pope himself in 1073, under the name of Gregory VII. He was a man of iron will and inexhaustible energy, wise and far-seeing beyond any of his contemporaries, and unquestionably sincere in his aims. He remodelled the Papal office, gave it a new character and importance, and left his own indelible mark on the Church of Rome from that day to this. For the first five hundred years after Christ the Pope had been merely the Bishop of Rome; for the second five hundred years he had been the nominal head of the Church, but subordinate to the political rulers, and dependent upon them. Gregory VII. determined to make the office a spiritual power, above all other powers, with sole and final authority over the bishops, priests and other servants of the Church. It was to be a religious Empire, existing by Divine right, independent of the fate of nations or the will of kings.

He relied mainly upon two measures to accomplish this change,—the suppression of simony and the celibacy of the priesthood. He determined that the priests should belong wholly to the Church; that the human ties of wife and children should be denied to them. This measure had been proposed before, but never carried into effect, on account of the opposition of the married Bishops and priests; but the[Pg 150] increase of the monastic orders and their greater influence at this time favored Gregory's design. Even after celibacy was proclaimed as a law of the Church, in 1074, it encountered the most violent opposition, and the law was not universally obeyed by the priests until two or three centuries later.


In 1075, Gregory promulgated a law against simony, in which he not only prohibited the sale of all offices of the Church, but claimed that the Bishops could only receive the ring and crozier, the symbols of their authority, from the hands of the Pope. The same year, he sent messengers to Henry IV. calling upon him to enforce this law in Germany, under penalty of excommunication. The surprise and anger of the King may easily be imagined: it was a language which no Pope had ever before dared to use toward the Imperial power. Indeed, when we consider that Gregory at this time was quarrelling with the Normans, the Lombard cities and the king of France, and that a party in Rome was becoming hostile to his rule, the act seems almost that of a madman.

Henry IV. called a Synod, which met at Worms. The Bishops, at his request, unanimously declared that Gregory VII. was deposed from the Papacy, and a message was sent to the people at Rome, ordering them to drive him from the city. But, just at that time, Gregory had put down a conspiracy of the nobles to assassinate him, by calling the people to his aid, and he was temporarily popular with the latter. He answered Henry IV. with the ban of excommunication,—which would have been harmless enough, but for the deep-seated discontent of the Germans with the king's rule. The Saxons, whom he had treated with the greatest harshness and indignity since their subjection, immediately found a pretext to throw off their allegiance: the other German States showed a cold and mistrustful temper, and their princes failed to come together when Henry called a National Diet. In the meantime the ambassadors of Gregory were busy, and the petty courts were filled with secret intrigues for dethroning the king and electing a new one.


In October, 1076, finally, a Convention of princes was held on the Rhine, near Mayence. Henry was not allowed to be present, but he sent messengers, offering to yield to their demands if they would only guard the dignity of the crown. The princes rejected all his offers, and[Pg 151] finally adjourned to meet in Augsburg early in 1077, when the Pope was asked to be present. As soon as Henry IV. learned that Gregory had accepted the invitation, he was seized with a panic as unkingly as his former violence. Accompanied only by a small retinue, he hastened to Burgundy, crossed Mont Cenis in the dead of winter, encountering many sufferings and dangers on the way, and entered Italy with the single intention of meeting Pope Gregory and persuading him to remove the ban of the Church.

At the news of his arrival in Lombardy, the Bishops and nobles from all the cities flocked to his support, and demanded only that he should lead them against the Pope. The movement was so threatening that Gregory himself, already on his way to Germany, halted, and retired for a time to the Castle of Canossa (in the Apennines, not far from Parma), which belonged to his devoted friend, the Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Victory was assured to Henry, if he had but grasped it; but he seems to have possessed no courage except when inspired by hate. He neglected the offered help, went to Canossa, and, presenting himself before the gate barefoot and clad only in a shirt of sackcloth, he asked to be admitted and pardoned as a repentant sinner. Gregory, so unexpectedly triumphant, prolonged for three whole days the satisfaction which he enjoyed in the king's humiliation: for three days the latter waited at the gate in snow and rain, before he was received. Then, after promising to obey the Pope, he received the kiss of peace, and the two took communion together in the castle-chapel! This was the first great victory of the Papal power: Gregory VII. paid dearly for it, but it was an event which could not be erased from History. It has fed the pride and supported the claims of the Roman Church, from that day to this.

Gregory had dared to excommunicate Henry, because of the political conspirators against the latter; but he had not considered that his pardon would change those conspirators into enemies. The indignant Lombards turned their backs on Henry, the Bishops rejected the Pope's offer to release them from the ban, and the strife became more fierce and relentless than ever. In the meantime the German princes, encouraged by the Pope, proclaimed Rudolf of Suabia King in Henry's place. The latter, now at last supported by the Lombards, hastened back to Germany. A terrible war ensued, which lasted for more than two years, and was[Pg 152] characterized by the most shocking barbarities on both sides. Gregory a second time excommunicated the king, but without the slightest political effect. The war terminated in 1080 by the death of Rudolf in battle, and Henry's authority became gradually established throughout the land.


His first movement, now, was against the Pope. He crossed the Alps with a large army, was crowned King of Lombardy, and then marched towards Rome. Gregory's only friend was the Countess Matilda of Tuscany, who resisted Henry's advance until the cities of Pisa and Lucca espoused his cause. Then he laid siege to Rome, and a long war began, during which the ancient city suffered more than it had endured for centuries. The end of the struggle was a devastation worse than that inflicted by Geiserich. When Henry finally gained possession of the city, and the Pope was besieged in the castle of St. Angelo, the latter released Robert Guiscard, chief of the Normans in Southern Italy, from the ban of excommunication which he had pronounced against him, and called him to his aid. A Norman army, numbering 36,000 men, mostly Saracens, approached Rome, and Henry was compelled to retreat. The Pope was released, but his allies burned all the city between the Lateran and the Coliseum, slaughtered thousands of the inhabitants, carried away thousands as slaves, and left a desert of blood and ruin behind them. Gregory VII. did not dare to remain in Rome after their departure: he accompanied them to Salerno, and there died in exile, in 1085.

Henry IV. immediately appointed a new Pope, Clement III., by whom he was crowned Emperor in St. Peter's. After Gregory's death, the Normans and the French selected another Pope, Urban II., and until both died, fifteen years afterwards, they and their partisans never ceased fighting. The Emperor Henry, however, who returned to Germany immediately alter his coronation, took little part in this quarrel. The last twenty years of his reign were full of trouble and misfortune. His eldest son, Konrad, who had lived mostly in Lombardy, was in 1092 persuaded to claim the crown of Italy, was acknowledged by the hostile Pope, and allied himself with his father's enemies. For a time he was very successful, but the movement gradually failed, and he ended his days in prison, in 1101.


Henry's hopes were now turned to his younger son, Henry, who was of a cold, calculating, treacherous disposition.[Pg 153] The political and religious foes of the Emperor were still actively scheming for his overthrow, and they succeeded in making the young Henry their instrument, as they had made his brother Konrad. During the long struggles of his reign, the Emperor's strongest and most faithful supporter had been Frederick of Hohenstaufen, a Suabian count, to whom he had given his daughter in marriage, and whom he finally made Duke of Suabia. The latter died in 1104, and most of the German princes, with the young Henry at their head, arose in rebellion. For nearly a year, the country was again desolated by a furious civil war; but the cities along the Rhine, which were rapidly increasing in wealth and population, took the Emperor's side, as before, and enabled him to keep the field against his son. At last, in December, 1105, their armies lay face to face, near the river Moselle, and an interview took place between the two. Father and son embraced each other; tears were shed, repentance offered and pardon given; then both set out together for Mayence, where it was agreed that a National Diet should settle all difficulties.

On the way, however, the treacherous son persuaded his father to rest in the Castle of Böckelheim, there instantly shut the gates upon him and held him prisoner until he compelled him to abdicate. But, after the act, the Emperor succeeded in making his escape: the people rallied to his support, and he was still unconquered when death came to end his many troubles, in Liege, in August, 1106. He was perhaps the most signally unfortunate of all the German Emperors. The errors of his education, the follies and passions of his youth, the one fatal weakness of his manhood, were gradually corrected by experience; but he could not undo their consequences. After he had become comparatively wise and energetic, the internal dissensions of Germany, and the conflict between the Roman Church and the Imperial power, had grown too strong to be suppressed by his hand. When he might have done right, he lacked either the knowledge or the will; when he finally tried to do right, he had lost the power.


During the latter years of his reign occurred a great historical event, the consequences of which were most important to Europe, though not immediately so to Germany. Peter the Hermit preached a Crusade to the Holy Land for the purpose of conquering Jerusalem from the Saracens.[Pg 154] The "Congregation of Cluny" had prepared the way for this movement: one of the two Popes, Urban II., encouraged it, and finally Godfrey of Bouillon (of the Ducal family of Lorraine) put himself at its head. The soldiers of this, the First Crusade, came chiefly from France, Burgundy and Italy. Although many of them passed through Germany on their way to the East, they made few recruits among the people; but the success of the undertaking, the capture of Jerusalem by Godfrey in 1099, and the religious enthusiasm which it created, tended greatly to strengthen the Papal power, and also that faction in the Church which was hostile to Henry IV.




  • Henry V.'s Character and Course.
  • —The Condition of Germany.
  • —Strife concerning the Investiture of Bishops.
  • —Scene in St. Peter's.
  • —Troubles in Germany and Italy.
  • —The "Concordat of Worms."
  • —Death of Henry V.
  • —Absence of National Feeling.
  • —Papal Independence.
  • —Lothar of Saxony chosen Emperor.
  • —His Visits to Italy, and Death.
  • —Konrad of Hohenstaufen succeeds.
  • —His Quarrel with Henry the Proud.
  • —The Women of Weinsberg.
  • —Welf (Guelph) and Waiblinger (Ghibelline).
  • —The Second Crusade.
  • —March to the Holy Land.
  • —Konrad invited to Rome.
  • —Arnold of Brescia.
  • —Konrad's Death.

Henry V. showed his true character immediately after his accession to the throne. Although he had been previously supported by the Papal party, he was no sooner acknowledged king of Germany than he imitated his father in opposing the claims of the Church. The new Pope, Paschalis II., had found it expedient to recognize the Bishops whom Henry IV. had appointed, but at the same time he issued a manifesto declaring that all future appointments must come from him. Henry V. answered this with a letter of defiance, and continued to select his own Bishops and abbots, which the Pope, not being able to resist, was obliged to suffer.

During the disturbed fifty years of Henry IV.'s reign, Burgundy and Italy had become practically independent of Germany; Hungary and Poland had thrown off their dependent condition, and even the Wends beyond the Elbe were no longer loyal to the Empire. Within the German States, the Imperial power was already so much weakened by the establishment of hereditary Dukes and Counts, not related to the ruling family, that the king (or Emperor) exercised very little direct authority over the people. The crown-lands had been mostly either given away in exchange for assistance, or lost during the civil wars; the feudal system was[Pg 156] firmly fastened upon the country, and only a few free cities—like those in Italy—kept alive the ancient spirit of liberty and political equality. Under such a system a monarch could accomplish little, unless he was both wiser and stronger than the reigning princes under him: there was no general national sentiment to which he could appeal. Henry V. was cold, stern, heartless and unprincipled; but he inspired a wholesome fear among his princely "vassals," and kept them in better order than his father had done.


After giving the first years of his reign to the settlement of troubles on the frontiers of the Empire, Henry V. prepared, in 1110, for a journey to Italy. So many followers came to him that when he had crossed the Alps and mustered them on the plains of Piacenza, there were 30,000 knights present. With such a force, no resistance was possible: the Lombard cities acknowledged him, Countess Matilda of Tuscany followed their example, and the Pope found it expedient to meet him in a friendly spirit. The latter was willing to crown Henry as Emperor, but still claimed the right of investing the Bishops. This Henry positively refused to grant, and, after much deliberation, the Pope finally proposed a complete separation of Church and State,—that is, that the lands belonging to the Bishops and abbots, or under their government, should revert to the crown, and the priests themselves become merely officials of the Church, without any secular power. Although the change would have been attended with some difficulty in Germany, Henry consented, and the long quarrel between Pope and Emperor was apparently settled.

On the 12th of February, 1111, the king entered Rome at the head of a magnificent procession, and was met at the gate of St. Peter's by the Pope, who walked with him hand in hand to the platform before the high altar. But when the latter read aloud the agreement, the Bishops raised their voices in angry dissent. The debate lasted so long that one of the German knights cried out: "Why so many words? Our king means to be crowned Emperor, like Karl the Great!" The Pope refused the act of coronation, and was immediately made prisoner. The people of Rome rose in arms, and a terrible fight ensued. Henry narrowly escaped death in the streets, and was compelled to encamp outside the city. At the end of two months, the resistance both of[Pg 157] Pope and people was crushed; he was crowned Emperor, and Paschalis II. gave up his claim for the investiture of the Bishops.


Henry V. returned immediately to Germany, defeated the rebellious Thuringians and Saxons in 1113, and the following year was married to Matilda, daughter of Henry I. of England. This was the climax of his power and splendor: it was soon followed by troubles with Friesland, Cologne, Thuringia and Saxony, and in the course of two years his authority was set at nought over nearly all Northern Germany. Only Suabia, under his nephew, Frederick of Hohenstaufen, and Duke Welf II. of Bavaria, remained faithful to him.

He was obliged to leave Germany in this state and hasten to Italy in 1116, on account of the death of the Countess Matilda, who had bequeathed Tuscany to the Church, although she had previously acknowledged the Imperial sovereignty. Henry claimed and secured possession of her territory; he then visited Rome, the Pope leaving the city to avoid meeting him. The latter died soon afterwards, and for a time a new Pope, of the Emperor's own appointment, was installed in the Vatican. The Papal party, which now included all the French Bishops, immediately elected another, who excommunicated Henry V., but the act was of no consequence, and was in fact overlooked by Calixtus II., who succeeded to the Papal chair in 1118.

The same year Henry returned to Germany, and succeeded, chiefly through the aid of Frederick of Hohenstaufen, in establishing his authority. The quarrel with the Papal power concerning the investiture of the Bishops was still unsettled: the new Pope, Calixtus II., who was a Burgundian and a relation of the Emperor, remained in France, where his claims were supported. After long delays and many preliminary negotiations, a Diet was held at Worms in September, 1122, when the question was finally settled. The choice of the Bishops and their investiture with the ring and crozier were given to the Pope, but the nominations were required to be made in the Emperor's presence, and the candidates to receive from him their temporal power, before they were consecrated by the Church. This arrangement is known as the Concordat of Worms. It was hailed at the time as a fortunate settlement of a strife which had lasted for fifty years; but it only increased the difficulty[Pg 158] by giving the German Bishops two masters, yet making them secretly dependent on the Pope. So long as they retained the temporal power, they governed according to the dictates of a foreign will, which was generally hostile to Germany. Then began an antagonism between the Church and State, which was all the more intense because never openly acknowledged, and which disturbs Germany even at this day.


Pope Calixtus II. took no notice of the ban of excommunication, but treated with Henry V. as if it had never been pronounced. The troubles in Northern Germany, however, were not subdued by this final peace with Rome,—a clear evidence that the humiliation of Henry IV. was due to political and not to religious causes. Henry V. died at Utrecht, in Holland, in May, 1125, leaving no children, which the people believed to be a punishment for his unnatural treatment of his father. There was no one to mourn his death, for even his efforts to increase the Imperial authority, and thereby to create a national sentiment among the Germans, were neutralized by his coldness, haughtiness and want of principle, as a man. The people were forced, by the necessities of their situation, to support their own reigning princes, in the hope of regaining from the latter some of their lost political rights.

Another circumstance tended to prevent the German Emperors from acquiring any fixed power. They had no capital city, as France already possessed in Paris: after the coronation, the monarch immediately commenced his "royal ride," visiting all portions of the country, and receiving, personally, the allegiance of the whole people. Then, during his reign, he was constantly migrating from one castle to another, either to settle local difficulties, to collect the income of his scattered estates, or for his own pleasure. There was thus no central point to which the Germans could look as the seat of the Imperial rule: the Emperor was a Frank, a Saxon, a Bavarian or Suabian, by turns, but never permanently a German, with a national capital grander than any of the petty courts.

The period of Henry V.'s death marks, also, the independence of the Papal power. The "Concordat of Worms" indirectly took away from the Roman (German) Emperor the claim of appointing the Pope, which had been exercised, from time to time, during nearly five hundred years.[Pg 159] The celibacy of the priesthood was partially enforced by this time, and the Roman Church thereby gained a new power. It was now able to set up an authority (with the help of France) nearly equal to that of the Empire. These facts must be borne in mind as we advance; for the secret rivalry which now began underlies all the subsequent history of Germany, until it came to a climax in the Reformation of Luther.


Henry V. left all his estates and treasures to his nephew, Frederick of Hohenstaufen, but not the crown jewels and insignia, which were to be bestowed by the National Diet upon his successor. Frederick, and his brother Konrad, Duke of Franconia, were the natural heirs to the crown; but, as the Hohenstaufen family had stood faithfully by Henry IV. and V. in their conflicts with the Pope, it was unpopular with the priests and reigning princes. At the Diet, the Archbishop of Mayence nominated Lothar of Saxony, who was chosen after a very stormy session. His first acts were to beg the Pope to confirm his election, and then to give up his right to have the Bishops and abbots appointed in his presence. He next demanded of Frederick of Hohenstaufen the royal estates which the latter had inherited from Henry V. Being defeated in the war which followed, he strengthened his party by marrying his only daughter, Gertrude, to Henry the Proud, Duke of Bavaria (grandson of Duke Welf, Henry IV.'s friend, whence this family was called the Welfs—Guelphs). By this marriage Henry the Proud became also Duke of Saxony; but a part of the Dukedom, called the North-mark, was separated and given to a Saxon noble, a friend of Lothar, named Albert the Bear.

Lothar was called to Italy in 1132 by Innocent II., one of two Popes, who, in consequence of a division in the college of Cardinals, had been chosen at the same time. He was crowned Emperor in the Lateran, in June, 1133, while the other Pope Anaclete II. was reigning in the Vatican. He acquired the territory of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany, but only on condition of paying 400 pounds of silver annually to the Church. The former state of affairs was thus suddenly reversed: the Emperor acknowledged himself a dependent of the temporal Papal power. When he returned to Germany, the same year, Lothar succeeded in subduing the resistance of the Hohenstaufens, and then[Pg 160] bound the reigning princes of Germany, by oath, to keep peace for the term of twelve years.


This truce enabled him to return to Italy for the purpose of assisting Pope Innocent, who had been expelled from Rome. The rival of the latter, Anaclete II., was supported by the Norman king, Roger II. of Sicily, who, in the summer of 1137, was driven out of Southern Italy by Lothar's army. But quarrels broke out with the Pisans, who were his allies, and with Pope Innocent, for whose cause he was fighting, and he finally set out for Germany, without even visiting Rome. At Trient, in the Tyrol, he was seized with a mortal sickness, and died on the Brenner pass of the Alps, in a shepherd's hut. His body was taken to Saxony and buried in the chapel of a monastery which he had founded there.

A National Diet was called to meet in May, 1138, and elect a successor. Lothar's son-in-law, Henry the Proud, Duke of Bavaria, Saxony and Tuscany (which latter the Emperor had transferred also to him), seemed to have the greatest right to the throne; but he was already so important that the jealousy of the other reigning princes was excited against him. Their policy was, to choose a weak rather than a strong ruler,—one who would not interfere with their authority in their own lands. Konrad of Hohenstaufen took advantage of this jealousy; he courted the favor of the princes and the bishops, and was chosen and crowned by the latter, three months before the time fixed for the meeting of the Diet. The movement, though in violation of all law, succeeded perfectly: a new Diet was called, for form's sake, and all the German princes, except Henry the Proud, acquiesced in Konrad's election.

In order to maintain his place, the new king was compelled to break the power of his rival. He therefore declared that Henry the Proud should not be allowed to govern two lands at the same time, and gave all Saxony to Albert the Bear. When Henry rose in resistance, Konrad proclaimed that he had forfeited Bavaria, which he gave to Leopold of Austria. In this emergency, Henry the Proud called upon the Saxons to help him, and had raised a considerable force when he suddenly died, towards the end of the year 1139. His brother, Welf, continued the struggle in Bavaria, in the interest of his young son, Henry, afterwards called "the Lion." He attempted to raise the siege[Pg 161] of the town of Weinsberg, which was beleaguered by Konrad's army, but failed. The tradition relates that when the town was forced to surrender, the women sent a deputation to Konrad, begging to be allowed to leave with such goods as they could carry on their backs. When this was granted and the gates were opened, they came out, carrying their husbands, sons or brothers as their dearest possessions. The fame of this deed of the women of Weinsberg has gone all over the world.


In this struggle, for the first time, the names of Welf and Waiblinger (from the little town of Waiblingen, in Würtemberg, which belonged to the Hohenstaufens) were first used as party cries in battle. In the Italian language they became "Guelph" and "Ghibelline," and for hundreds of years they retained a far more intense and powerful significance than the names "Whig" and "Tory" in England. The term Welf (Guelph) very soon came to mean the party of the Pope, and Waiblinger (Ghibelline) that of the German Emperor. The end of this first conflict was, that in 1142, young Henry the Lion (great-grandson of Duke Welf of Bavaria) was allowed to be Duke of Saxony. From him descended the later Dukes of Brunswick and Hannover, who retained the family name of Welf, or Guelph, which, through George I., is also that of the royal family of England at this day. Albert the Bear was obliged to be satisfied with the North-mark, which was extended to the eastward of the Elbe and made an independent principality. He called himself Markgraf (Border Count) of Brandenburg, and thus laid the basis of a new State, which, in the course of centuries developed into Prussia.

About this time the Christian monarchy in Jerusalem began to be threatened with overthrow by the Saracens, and the Pope, Eugene III., responded to the appeals for help from the Holy Land, by calling for a Second Crusade. He not only promised forgiveness of all sins, but released the volunteers from payment of their debts and whatever obligations they might have contracted under oath. France was the first to answer the call: then Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard, in the Roman Church) visited Germany and made passionate appeals to the people. The first effect of his speeches was the plunder and murder of the Jews in the cities along the Rhine; then the slow German blood was roused to enthusiasm for the rescue of the Holy Land,[Pg 162] and the impulse became so great that king Konrad was compelled to join in the movement. His nephew, the red-bearded Frederick of Suabia, also put the cross on his mantle: nearly all the German princes and people, except the Saxons, followed the example.


In May, 1147, the Crusaders assembled at Ratisbon. There were present 70,000 horsemen in armor, without counting the foot-soldiers and followers. All the robber-bands and notorious criminals of Germany joined the army for the sake of the full and free pardon offered by the Pope. Konrad led the march down the Danube, through Austria and Thrace, to Constantinople. Louis VII., king of France, followed him, with a nearly equal force, leaving the German States through which he passed in a famished condition. The two armies, united at Constantinople, advanced through Asia Minor, but were so reduced by battles, disease and hardships on the way, that the few who reached Palestine were too weak to reconquer the ground lost by the king of Jerusalem. Only a band of Flemish and English Crusaders, who set out by sea, succeeded in taking Lisbon from the Saracens.

During the year 1149 the German princes returned from the East with their few surviving followers. The loss of so many robbers and robber-knights was, nevertheless, a great gain to the country: the people enjoyed more peace and security than they had known for a long time. Duke Welf of Bavaria (brother of Henry the Proud) was the first to reach Germany: Konrad, fearing that he would make trouble, sent after him the young Duke of Suabia, Frederick Red-Beard (Barbarossa) of Hohenstaufen. It was not long, in fact, before the war-cries of "Guelph!" and "Ghibelline!" were again heard; but Welf, as well as his nephew, Henry the Lion, of Saxony, was defeated. During the Crusade, the latter had carried on a war against the Wends and other Slavonic tribes in Prussia, the chief result of which was the foundation of the city of Lübeck.


King Konrad now determined to pay his delayed visit to Rome, and be crowned Emperor. Immediately after his return from the East, he had received a pressing invitation from the Roman Senate to come, to recognize the new order of things in the ancient city, and make it the permanent capital of the united German and Italian Empire. Arnold of Brescia, who for years had been advocating the[Pg 163] separation of the Papacy from all temporal power, and the re-establishment of the Roman Church upon the democratic basis of the early Christian Church, had compelled the Pope, Eugene III., to accept his doctrine. Rome was practically a Republic, and Arnold's reform, although fiercely opposed by the Bishops, abbots and all priests holding civil power, made more and more headway among the people. At a National Diet, held at Würzburg in 1151, it was decided that Konrad should go to Rome, and the Pope was officially informed of his intention. But before the preparations for the journey were completed, Konrad died, in February, 1152, at Bamberg. He was buried there in the Cathedral built by Henry II.




  • Frederick I., Barbarossa.
  • —His Character.
  • —His First Acts.
  • —Visit to Italy.
  • —Coronation and Humiliation.
  • —He is driven back to Germany.
  • —Restores Order.
  • —Henry the Lion and Albert the Bear.
  • —Barbarossa's Second Visit to Italy.
  • —He conquers Milan.
  • —Roman Laws revived.
  • —Destruction of Milan.
  • —Third and Fourth Visits to Italy.
  • —Troubles with the Popes.
  • —Barbarossa and Henry the Lion.
  • —The Defeat at Legnano.
  • —Reconciliation with Alexander III.
  • —Henry the Lion banished.
  • —Tournament at Mayence.
  • —Barbarossa's Sixth Visit to Italy.
  • —Crusade for the Recovery of Jerusalem.
  • —March through Asia Minor.
  • —Barbarossa's Death.
  • —His Fame among the German People.
  • —His Son, Henry VI., Emperor.
  • —Richard of the Lion-Heart Imprisoned.
  • —Last Days of Henry the Lion.
  • —Henry VI.'s Deeds and Designs.
  • —His Death.

Konrad left only an infant son at his death, and the German princes, who were learning a little wisdom by this time, determined not to renew the unfortunate experiences of Henry IV.'s minority. The next heir to the throne was Frederick of Suabia, who was now thirty-one years old, handsome, popular, and already renowned as a warrior. He was elected immediately, without opposition, and solemnly crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle. When he made his "royal ride" through Germany, according to custom, the people hailed him with acclamations, hoping for peace and a settled authority after so many civil wars. His mother was a Welf princess, whence there seemed a possibility of terminating the rivalry between Welf and Waiblinger, in his election. The Italians always called him "Barbarossa," on account of his red beard, and by this name he is best known in history.

Since the accession of Otto the Great, no German monarch had been crowned under such favorable auspices, and none had possessed so many of the qualities of a great ruler. He was shrewd, clear-sighted, intelligent, and of an iron will: he enjoyed the exercise of power, and the aim of his life was to extend and secure it. On the other hand he was[Pg 165] despotic, merciless in his revenge, and sometimes led by the violence of his passions to commit deeds which darkened his name and interfered with his plans of empire.


Frederick first assured to the German princes the rights which they already possessed as the rulers of States, coupled with the declaration that he meant to exact the full and strict performance of their duties to him, as King. On his first royal journey, he arbitrated between Swen and Canute, rival claimants to the throne of Denmark, conferred on the Duke of Bohemia the title of king, and took measures to settle the quarrel between Henry the Lion of Saxony, and Henry of Austria, for the possession of Bavaria. In all these matters he showed the will, the decision and the imposing personal bearing of one who felt that he was born to rule; and had he remained in Germany, he might have consolidated the States into one Nation. But the phantom of a Roman Empire beckoned him to Italy. The invitation held out to Konrad was not renewed, for Pope Eugene III. was dead, and his successor, Adrian IV. (an Englishman, by the name of Breakspeare), rejected Arnold of Brescia's doctrines. It was in Frederick's power to secure the success of either side; but his first aim was the Imperial crown, and he could only gain it without delay by assisting the Pope.

In 1154 Frederick, accompanied by Henry the Lion and many other princes, and a large army, crossed the Brenner Pass, in the Tyrol, and descended into Italy. According to old custom, the first camp was pitched on the Roncalian fields, near Piacenza, and the royal shield was set up as a sign that the chief ruler was present and ready to act as judge in all political troubles. Many complaints were brought to him against the City of Milan, which had become a haughty and despotic Republic, and began to oppress Lodi, Como, and other neighboring cities. Frederick saw plainly the trouble which this independent movement in Lombardy would give to him or his successors; but after losing two months and many troops in besieging and destroying Tortona, one of the towns friendly to Milan, he was not strong enough to attack the latter city: so, having been crowned King of Lombardy at Pavia, he marched, in 1155, towards Rome.


At Viterbo he met Pope Adrian IV., and negotiations commenced in regard to his coronation as Emperor, which, it seems, was not to be had for nothing. Adrian's first[Pg 166] demand was the suppression of the Roman Republic, which had driven him from the city. Frederick answered by capturing Arnold of Brescia, who was then in Tuscany, and delivering him into the Pope's hands. The latter then demanded that Frederick should hold his stirrup when he mounted his mule. This humiliation, second only to that which Henry IV. endured at Canossa, was accepted by the proud Hohenstaufen in his ambitious haste to be crowned; but even then Rome had to be first taken from the Republicans. By some means an entrance was forced into that part of the city on the right bank of the Tiber; Frederick was crowned in all haste and immediately retreated, but not before he and his escort were furiously attacked in the streets by the Roman people. Henry the Lion, by his bravery and presence of mind, saved the new Emperor from being slain. The same night, Arnold of Brescia was burned to death by the Pope's order. (Since 1870, his bust has been placed upon the Pincian Hill, in Rome, among those of the other great men who gave their lives for Italian freedom.)

The news of the Pope's barbarous revenge drove the Romans to madness. They rushed forth by thousands, threw themselves upon the Emperor's camp, and fought until the next night with such desperation that Frederick deemed it prudent to retreat to Tivoli. The heats of summer and the fevers they brought soon compelled him to leave for Germany; the glory of his coming was already exhausted. He fought his way through Spoleto; Verona shut its gates upon him, and one robber-castle in the Alps held the whole army at bay, until it was taken by Otto of Wittelsbach. The unnatural composition of the later "Roman Empire" was again demonstrated. If, during the four centuries which had elapsed since Charlemagne's accession to power, the German rule was the curse of Italy, Italy (or the fancied necessity of ruling Italy) was no less a curse to Germany. The strength of the German people, for hundreds of years, was exhausted in endeavoring to keep up a high-sounding sovereignty, which they could not truly possess, and—in the best interests of the two countries—ought not to have possessed.

On returning to Germany, Frederick found enough to do. He restored the internal peace and security of the country with a strong hand, executing the robber-knights, tearing down their castles, and even obliging fourteen reigning[Pg 167] princes, among whom was the Archbishop of Mayence, to undergo what was considered the shameful punishment of carrying dogs in their arms before the Imperial palace. By his second marriage with Beatrix, Princess of Burgundy, he established anew the German authority over that large and rich kingdom; while, at a diet held in 1156, he gave Bavaria to Henry the Lion, and pacified Henry of Austria by making his territory an independent Dukedom. This was the second phase in the growth of Austria.


Henry the Lion, however, was more a Saxon than a Bavarian. Although he first raised Munich from an insignificant cluster of peasants' huts to the dignity of a city, his energies were chiefly directed towards extending his sway from the Elbe eastward, along the Baltic. He conquered Mecklenburg and colonized the country with Saxons, made Lübeck an important commercial center, and slowly Germanized the former territory of the Wends. Albert the Bear, Count of Brandenburg, followed a similar policy, and both were encouraged by the Emperor, who was quite willing to see his own sway thus extended. A rhyme current among the common people, at the time, says:

"Henry the Lion and Albert the Bear,
Thereto Frederick with the red hair,
Three Lords are they,
Who could change the world to their way."

The grand imperial character of Frederick, rather than what he had actually accomplished, had already given him a great reputation throughout Europe. Pope Adrian IV. endeavored to imitate Gregory VII.'s language to Henry IV. in treating with him, but soon found that he was deserted by the German Bishops, and thought it prudent to apologize. His manner, nevertheless, and the increasing independence of Milan, called Frederick across the Alps with an army of 100,000 men, in 1158. Milan, then surrounded with strong walls, nine miles in circuit, was besieged, and, at the end of a month, forced to surrender, to rebuild Lodi, and pay a fine of 9,000 pounds of silver. Afterwards the Emperor pitched his camp on the Roncalian fields, with a splendor before unknown. Ambassadors from England, France, Hungary and Constantinople were present, and the Imperial power, almost for the first time, was thus recognized as the first in the civilized world.[Pg 168]

Frederick used this opportunity to revive the old Roman laws, or at least, to have a code of laws drawn up, which should define his rights and those of the reigning princes under him. Four doctors of the University of Bologna were selected, who discovered so many ancient imperial rights which had fallen into disuse that the Emperor's treasury was enriched to the amount of 30,000 pounds of silver annually, by their enforcement. When this system came to be practically applied, Milan and other Lombard cities which claimed the right to elect their own magistrates, and would have lost it under the new order of things, determined to resist. A war ensued: the little city of Crema was first besieged, and, after a gallant defence of seven months, taken and razed to the ground.


Now came the turn of Milan. In the meantime the Pope, Adrian IV., had died, after threatening the Emperor with excommunication. The college of cardinals was divided, each party electing its own Pope. Of these, Victor IV. was recognized by Frederick, who claimed the right to decide between them, while most of the Italian cities, with France and England, were in favor of Alexander III. The latter immediately excommunicated the Emperor, who, without paying any regard to the act, prepared to take his revenge on Milan. In March, 1162, after a long siege, he forced the city to surrender: the magistrates appeared before him in sackcloth, barefoot, with ashes upon their heads and ropes around their necks, and begged him, with tears, to be merciful; but there was no mercy in his heart. He gave the inhabitants eight days to leave the city, then levelled it completely to the earth, and sowed salt upon the ruins as a token that it should never be rebuilt. The rival cities of Pavia, Lodi and Como rejoiced over this barbarity, and all the towns of northern Italy hastened to submit to all the Emperor's claims, even that they should be governed by magistrates of his appointment.

In spite of this apparent submission, he had no sooner returned to Germany than the cities of Lombardy began to form a union against him. They were instigated, and secretly assisted, by Venice, which was already growing powerful through her independence. The Pope whom Frederick had supported, was also dead, and he determined to set up a new one instead of recognizing Alexander III. He went to Italy with a small escort, in 1163, but was compelled[Pg 169] to go back without accomplishing anything but a second destruction of Tortona, which had been rebuilt. In Germany new disturbances had broken out, but his personal influence was so great that he subdued them temporarily: he also prevailed upon the German bishops to recognize Paschalis III., the Pope whom he had appointed. He then set about raising a new army, and finally, in 1166, made his fourth journey to Italy.


This was even more unfortunate than the third journey had been. The Lombard cities, feeling strong through their union, had not only rebuilt Milan and Tortona, but had constructed a new fortified town, which they named, after the Pope, Alessandria. Frederick did not dare to attack them, but marched on to Ancona, which he besieged for seven months, finally accepting a ransom instead of surrender. He then took that part of Rome west of the Tiber, and installed his Pope in the Vatican. Soon afterward, in the summer of 1167, a terrible pestilence broke out, which carried off thousands of his best soldiers in a few weeks. His army was so reduced by death, that he stole through Lombardy almost as a fugitive, remained hidden among the Alps for months, and finally crossed Mont Cenis with only thirty followers, himself disguised as a common soldier.

Having reached Germany in safety, Frederick's personal influence at once gave him the power and popularity which he had forever lost in Italy. He found Henry the Lion, who in addition to Bavaria now governed nearly all the territory from the Rhine to the Vistula, north of the Hartz Mountains, at enmity with Albert the Bear and a number of smaller reigning princes. As Emperor, he settled the questions in dispute, deciding in favor of Henry the Lion, although the increasing power of the latter excited his apprehensions. Henry was too cautious to make the Emperor his enemy, but in order to avoid another march to Italy, he set out upon a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Frederick, however, did not succeed in raising a fresh army to revenge his disgrace until 1174, when he made his fifth journey to Italy. He first besieged the new city of Alessandria, but in vain; then, driven to desperation by his failure, he called for help upon Henry the Lion, who had now returned from the Holy Land. The two met at Chiavenna, in the Italian Alps; but Henry steadfastly refused to aid the Emperor,[Pg 170] although the latter conquered his own pride so far as to kneel before him.


Bitterly disappointed and humiliated, Frederick appealed to all the German States for aid, but did not receive fresh troops until the spring of 1176. He then marched upon Milan, but was met by the united forces of Lombardy at Legnano, near Como. The latter fought with such desperation that the Imperial army was completely routed, and its camp equipage and stores taken, with many thousands of prisoners, who were treated with the same barbarity which the Emperor himself had introduced anew into warfare. He fell from his horse during the fight, and had been for some days reported to be dead, when he suddenly appeared before the Empress Beatrix, at Pavia, having escaped in disguise.

His military strength was now so broken that he was compelled to seek a reconciliation with Pope Alexander III. Envoys went back and forth between the two, the Lombard cities and the king of Sicily; conferences were held at various places, but months passed and no agreement was reached. Then the Pope, having received Frederick's submission to all his demands, proposed an armistice, which was solemnly concluded in Venice, in August, 1177. There the Emperor was released from the Papal excommunication; he sank at Alexander's feet, but the latter caught and lifted him in his arms, and there was once more peace between the two rival powers. The other Pope, whose claims Frederick had supported up to that time, was left to shift for himself. Before the armistice ceased, in 1183, a treaty was concluded at Constance, by which the Italian cities recognized the Emperor as chief ruler, but secured for themselves the right of independent government. Thus twenty years had been wasted, the best blood of Germany squandered, the worst barbarities of war renewed, and Frederick, after enduring shame and humiliation, had not attained one of his haughty personal aims. Yet he was as proud in his bearing as ever; his court lost none of its splendor, and his influence over the German princes and people was undiminished.

He reached Germany again in 1178, full of wrath against Henry the Lion. It was easy to find a pretext for proceeding against him, for the Archbishop of Cologne, the Bishop of Halberstadt, and many nobles had already made complaints. Henry, in fact, was much like Frederick in his[Pg 171] nature, but his despotic sternness and pride were more directly exercised upon the people. He raised an army and boldly resisted the Imperial power: again Westphalia, Thuringia and Saxony were wasted by civil war, and the struggle was prolonged until 1181, when Henry was forced to surrender unconditionally. He was banished to England for three years: his Duchy of Bavaria was given to Otto of Wittelsbach; and the greater part of Saxony, from the Rhine to the Baltic, was cut up and divided among the reigning Bishops and smaller princes. Only the province of Brunswick was left to Henry the Lion, of all his possessions. This was Frederick's policy for diminishing the power of the separate States: the more they were increased in number, the greater would be the dependence of each on the Emperor.


The ruin of Henry the Lion fully restored Frederick's authority over all Germany. In May, 1184, he gave a grand tournament and festival at Mayence, which surpassed in pomp everything that had before been seen by the people. The flower of knighthood, foreign as well as German, was present: princes, bishops and lords, scholars and minstrels, 70,000 knights, and probably hundreds of thousands of the soldiers and common people were gathered together. The Emperor, still handsome and towering in manly strength, in spite of his sixty-three years, rode in the lists with his five blooming sons, the eldest of whom, Henry, was already crowned King of Germany, as his successor. For many years afterwards, the wandering minstrels sang the glories of this festival, which they compared to those given by the half-fabulous king Arthur.

Immediately afterwards, Frederick made his sixth journey to Italy, without an army, but accompanied by a magnificent retinue. The temporary union of the cities against him was at an end, and their former jealousies of each other had broken out more fiercely than ever; so that, instead of meeting him in a hostile spirit, each endeavored to gain his favor, to the damage of the others. It was easy for him to turn this state of affairs to his own personal advantage. The Pope, now Urban III., endeavored to make him give up Tuscany to the Church, and opposed his design of marrying his son Henry to Constance, daughter of the king of Sicily, since all Southern Italy would thus fall to the Hohenstaufen family. Another excommunication was threatened, and[Pg 172] would probably have been hurled upon the Emperor's head, if the Pope had not died before pronouncing it. The marriage of Henry and Constance took place in 1186.


The next year, all Europe was shaken by the news that Jerusalem had been taken by Sultan Saladin. A call for a new Crusade was made from Rome, and the Christian kings and people of Europe responded to it. Richard of the Lion-Heart, of England; Philip Augustus of France; and first of all Frederick Barbarossa, Roman Emperor, put the cross on their mantles, and prepared to march to the Holy Land. Frederick left his son Henry behind him, as king, but he was still suspicious of Henry the Lion, and demanded that he should either join the Crusade or retire again to England for three years longer. Henry the Lion chose the latter alternative.

The German Crusaders, numbering about 30,000, met at Ratisbon in May, 1189, and marched overland to Constantinople. Then they took the same route through Asia Minor which had been followed by the second Crusade, defeating the Sultan and taking the city of Iconium by the way, and after threading the wild passes of the Taurus, reached the borders of Syria. While on the march, the Emperor received the false message that his son Henry was dead. The tears ran down his beard, no longer red, but silver-white; then, turning to the army, he cried: "My son is dead, but Christ lives! Forwards!" On the 10th of June, 1190, either while attempting to ford, or bathing in the little river Calycadnus, not far from Tarsus, he was drowned. The stream, fed by the melted snows of the Taurus, was ice-cold, and one account states that he was not drowned, but died in consequence of the sudden chill. A few of his followers carried his body to Palestine, where it was placed in the Christian church at Tyre. Notwithstanding the heroism of the English Richard at Ascalon, the Crusade failed, since the German army was broken up after Frederick's death, most of the knights returning directly home.

The most that can be said for Frederick Barbarossa as a ruler, is, that no other Emperor before or after his time maintained so complete an authority over the German princes. The influence of his personal presence seems to have been very great: the Imperial power became splendid and effective in his hands, and, although he did nothing to[Pg 173] improve the condition of the people, beyond establishing order and security, they gradually came to consider him as the representative of a grand national idea. When he went away to the mysterious East, and never returned, the most of them refused to believe that he was dead. By degrees the legend took root among them that he slumbered in a vault underneath the Kyffhäuser—one of his castles, on the summit of a mountain, near the Hartz,—and would come forth at the appointed time, to make Germany united and free. Nothing in his character, or in the proud and selfish aims of his life, justifies this sentiment which the people attached to his name; but the legend became a symbol of their hopes and prayers, through centuries of oppression and desolating war, and the name of "Barbarossa" is sacred to every patriotic heart in Germany, even at this day.


Henry the Lion hastened back to Germany at once, and attempted to regain possession of Saxony. King Henry took the field against him, and the interminable strife between Welf and Waiblinger was renewed for a time. The king was twenty-five years old, tall and stately like his father, but even more stern and despotic than he. He was impatient to proceed to Italy, both to be crowned Emperor and to secure the Norman kingdom of Sicily as his wife's inheritance: therefore, making a temporary truce with Henry the Lion, he hastened to Rome and was there crowned as Henry VI. in 1191. His attempt to conquer Naples, which was held by the Norman prince, Tancred, completely failed, and a deadly pestilence in his army compelled him to return to Germany before the close of the same year.

The fight with Henry the Lion was immediately renewed, and during the whole of 1192 Northern Germany was ravaged worse than before. In December of that year, King Richard of the Lion-Heart, returning home overland from Palestine, was taken prisoner by Duke Leopold of Austria, whom he had offended during the Crusade, and was delivered to the Emperor. As king Richard was the brother-in-law of Henry the Lion, he was held partly as a hostage, and partly for the purpose of gaining an enormous ransom for his liberation. His mother came from England, and the sum of 150,000 silver marks which the Emperor demanded was paid by her exertions: still Richard was kept prisoner at Trifels, a lonely castle among the Vosges mountains. The legend relates that his minstrel, Blondel, discovered his[Pg 174] place of imprisonment by singing the king's favorite song under the windows of all the castles near the Rhine, until the song was answered by the well-known voice from within. The German princes, finally, felt that they were disgraced by the Emperor's conduct, and they compelled him to liberate Richard, in February, 1194.


The same year a reconciliation was effected with Henry the Lion. The latter devoted himself to the improvement of the people of his little state of Brunswick: he instituted reforms in their laws, encouraged their education, collected books and works of art, and made himself so honored and beloved before his death, in August, 1195, that he was mourned as a benefactor by those who had once hated him as a tyrant. He was sixty-six years old, three years younger than his rival, Barbarossa, whom he fully equalled in energy and ability. Although defeated in his struggle, he laid the basis of a better civil order, a higher and firmer civilization, throughout the North of Germany.

Henry VI., enriched by king Richard's ransom, went to Italy, purchased the assistance of Genoa and Pisa, and easily conquered the Sicilian kingdom. He treated the family of Tancred (who was now dead) with shocking barbarity, tortured and executed his enemies with a cruelty worthy of Nero, and made himself heartily feared and hated. Then he hastened back to Germany, to have the Imperial dignity made hereditary in his family. Even here he was on the point of succeeding, in spite of the strong opposition of the Saxon princes, when a Norman insurrection recalled him to Sicily. He demanded the provinces of Macedonia and Epirus from the Greek Emperor, encouraged the project of a new Crusade, with the design of conquering Constantinople, and evidently dreamed of making himself ruler of the whole Christian world, when death cut him off, in 1197, in his thirty-second year. His widow, Constance of Sicily, was left with a son, Frederick, then only three years old.




  • Rival Emperors in Germany.
  • —Pope Innocent III.
  • —Murder of Philip of Hohenstaufen.
  • —Otto IV. becomes Emperor.
  • —Frederick of Hohenstaufen goes to Germany.
  • —His Character.
  • —Decline of Otto's Power.
  • —Frederick II. crowned Emperor.
  • —Troubles with the Pope.
  • —His Crusade to the Holy Land.
  • —Frederick's Court at Palermo.
  • —Henry, Count of Schwerin.
  • —Gregory IX.'s Persecution of Heretics.
  • —Meeting of Frederick II. and his son, King Henry.
  • —The Emperor returns to Germany.
  • —His Marriage with Isabella of England.
  • —He leaves Germany for Italy.
  • —War in Lombardy.
  • —Conflict with Pope Gregory IX.
  • —Capture of the Council.
  • —Course of Pope Innocent III.
  • —Wars in Germany and Italy.
  • —Conspiracies against Frederick II.
  • —His Misfortunes and Death.
  • —The Character of his Reign.
  • —His son, Konrad IV., succeeds.
  • —William of Holland rival Emperor.
  • —Death of Konrad IV.
  • —End of William of Holland.
  • —The Boy, Konradin.
  • —Manfred, King of Naples.
  • —Usurpation of Charles of Anjou.
  • —Konradin goes to Italy.
  • —His Defeat and Capture.
  • —His Execution.
  • —The Last of the Hohenstaufens.

A story was current among the German people, that, shortly before Henry VI.'s death, the spirit of Theodoric the Great, in giant form on a black war-steed, rode along the Rhine presaging trouble to the Empire. This legend no doubt originated after the trouble came, and was simply a poetical image of what had already happened. The German princes were determined to have no child again, as their hereditary Emperor; but only one son of Frederick Barbarossa still lived,—Philip of Suabia. The bitter hostility between Welf and Waiblinger still existed, and although Philip was chosen by a Diet held in Thuringia, the opposite party, secretly assisted by the Pope and by Richard of the Lion-heart, of England (who had certainly no reason to be friendly to the Hohenstaufens!) met at Aix-la-Chapelle, and elected Otto, son of Henry the Lion.

Just at this crisis, Innocent III. became Pope. He was as haughty, inflexible and ambitious as Gregory VII., whom[Pg 176] he took for his model: under him, and with his sanction, the Inquisition, which linked the Christian Church to barbarism, was established. So completely had the relation of the two powers been changed by the humiliation of Henry IV. and Barbarossa, that the Pope now claimed the right to decide between the rival monarchs. Of course he gave his voice for Otto, and excommunicated Philip. The effect of this policy, however, was to awaken the jealousy of the German Bishops as well as the Princes,—even the former found the Papal interference a little too arbitrary—and Philip, instead of being injured, actually derived advantage from it. In the war which followed, Otto lost so much ground that in 1207 he was obliged to fly to England, where he was assisted by king John; but he would probably have again failed, when an unexpected crime made him successful. Philip was murdered in 1208, by Otto of Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria, on account of some personal grievance.


As he left no children, and Frederick, the son of Henry VI., was still a boy of fourteen, Otto found no difficulty in persuading the German princes to accept him as king. His first act was to proceed against Philip's murderer and his accomplice, the Bishop of Bamberg. Both fled, but Otto of Wittelsbach was overtaken near Ratisbon, and instantly slain. In 1209, king Otto collected a magnificent retinue at Augsburg, and set out for Italy, in order to be crowned Emperor at Rome. As the enemy of the Hohenstaufens, he felt sure of a welcome; but Innocent III., whom he met at Viterbo, required a great many special concessions to the Papal power before he would consent to bestow the crown. Even after the ceremony was over, he inhospitably hinted to the new Emperor, Otto IV., that he should leave Rome as soon as possible. The gates of the city were shut upon the latter, and his army was left without supplies.

The jurists of Bologna soon convinced Otto that some of his concessions to the Pope were illegal, and need not be observed. He therefore took possession of Tuscany, which he had agreed to surrender to the Pope, and afterwards marched against Southern Italy, where the young Frederick of Hohenstaufen was already acknowledged as king of Sicily. The latter had been carefully educated under the guardianship of Innocent III., after the death of Constance in 1198, and threatened to become a dangerous rival for the Imperial crown. Otto's invasion so exasperated the Pope[Pg 177] that he excommunicated him, and called upon the German princes to recognize Frederick in his stead. As Otto had never been personally popular in Germany, the Waiblinger, or Hohenstaufen party, responded to Innocent's proclamation. Suabia and Bavaria and the Archbishop of Mayence pronounced for Frederick, while Saxony, Lorraine and the northern Bishops remained true to Otto. The latter hastened back to Germany in 1212, regained some of his lost ground, and attempted to strengthen his cause by marrying Beatrix, the daughter of Philip. But she died four days after the marriage, and in the meantime Frederick, supplied with money by the Pope, had crossed the Alps.


The young king, who had been educated wholly in Sicily, and who all his life was an Italian rather than a German, was now eighteen years old. He resembled his grandfather, Frederick Barbarossa, in person, was perhaps his equal in strength and decision of character, but far surpassed him or any of his imperial predecessors in knowledge and refinement. He spoke six languages with fluency; he was a poet and minstrel; he loved the arts of peace no less than those of war, yet he was a statesman and a leader of men. On his way to Germany, he found the Lombard cities, except Pavia, so hostile to him that he was obliged to cross the Alps by secret and dangerous paths, and when he finally reached the city of Constance, with only sixty followers, Otto IV. was close at hand, with a large army. But Constance opened its gates to the young Hohenstaufen: Suabia, the home of his fathers, rose in his support, and the Emperor, without even venturing a battle, retreated to Saxony.


For nearly three years, the two rivals watched each other without engaging in open hostilities. The stately bearing of Frederick, which he inherited from Barbarossa, the charm and refinement of his manners, and the generosity he exhibited towards all who were friendly to his claims, gradually increased the number of his supporters. In 1215, Otto joined King John of England and the Count of Flanders in a war against Philip Augustus of France, and was so signally defeated that his influence in Germany speedily came to an end. Lorraine and Holland declared for Frederick, who was crowned in Aix-la-Chapelle with great pomp the same year. Otto died near Brunswick, three years afterwards, poor and unhonored.[Pg 178]

Pope Innocent III. died in 1216, and Frederick appears to have considered that the assistance which he had received from him was personal and not Papal; for he not only laid claim to the Tuscan possessions, but neglected his promise to engage in a new Crusade for the recovery of Jerusalem, and even attempted to control the choice of Bishops. At the same time he took measures to secure the coronation of his infant son, Henry, as his successor. His journey to Rome was made in the year 1220. The new Pope, Honorius III., a man of a mild and yielding nature, nevertheless only crowned him on condition that he would observe the violated claims of the Church, and especially that he would strictly suppress all heresy in the Empire. When he had been crowned Emperor as Frederick II., he fixed himself in Southern Italy and Sicily for some years, quite neglecting his German rule, but wisely improving the condition of his favorite kingdom. He was signally successful in controlling the Saracens, whose language he spoke, whom he converted into subjects, and who afterwards became his best soldiers.

The Pope, however, became very impatient at the non-fulfilment of Frederick's promises, and the latter was compelled, in 1226, to summon a Diet of all the German and Italian princes to meet at Verona, in order to make preparations for a new crusade. But the cities of Lombardy, fearing that the army to be raised would be used against them, adopted all possible measures against the meeting of the Diet, took possession of the passes of the Adige, and prevented the Emperor's son, the young king Henry of Germany, and his followers, from entering Italy. Angry and humiliated, Frederick was compelled to return to Sicily. The next year, 1227, Honorius died, and the Cardinals elected as his successor Gregory IX., a man more than eighty years old, but of a remarkably stubborn and despotic nature. He immediately threatened the Emperor with excommunication in case the crusade for the recovery of Jerusalem was not at once undertaken, and the latter was compelled to obey. He hastily collected an army and fleet, and departed from Naples, but returned at the end of three days, alleging a serious illness as the cause of his sudden change of plan.


He was instantly excommunicated by Gregory IX., and he replied by a proclamation addressed to all kings and[Pg 179] princes,—a document breathing defiance and hate against the Pope and his claims. Nevertheless, in order to keep his word in regard to the Crusade, he went to the East with a large force in 1228, and obtained, by a treaty with the Sultan of Egypt, the possession of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Mount Carmel, for ten years. His second wife, the Empress Iolanthe, was the daughter of Guy of Lusignan, the last king of Jerusalem; and therefore, when Frederick visited the holy city, he claimed the right, as Guy's heir, of setting the crown of Jerusalem upon his own head. The entire Crusade, which was not marked by any deeds of arms, occupied only eight months.

Although he had fulfilled his agreement with Rome, the Pope declared that a crusade undertaken by an excommunicated Emperor was a sin, and did all he could to prevent Frederick's success in Palestine. But when the latter returned to Italy, he found that the Roman people, a majority of whom were on his side, had driven Gregory IX. from the city. It was therefore comparatively easy for him to come to an agreement, whereby the Pope released him from the ban, in return for being reinstated in Rome. This was only a truce, however, not a lasting peace: between two such imperious natures, peace was impossible. The agreement, nevertheless, gave Frederick some years of quiet, which he employed in regulating the affairs of his Southern-Italian kingdom. He abolished, as far as possible, the feudal system introduced by the Normans, and laid the foundation of a representative form of government. His Court at Palermo became the resort of learned men and poets, where Arabic, Provençal, Italian and German poetry was recited, where songs were sung, where the fine arts were encouraged, and the rude and warlike pastimes of former rulers gave way to the spirit of a purer civilization. Although, as we have said, his nature was almost wholly Italian, no Emperor after Charlemagne so fostered the growth of a German literature as Frederick II.

But this constitutes his only real service to Germany. While he was enjoying the peaceful and prosperous development of Naples and Sicily, his great empire in the north was practically taking care of itself, for the boy-king, Henry, governed chiefly by allowing the reigning bishops, dukes and princes to do very much as they pleased. There was a season of peace with France, Hungary and Poland, and Denmark,[Pg 180] which was then the only dangerous neighbor, was repelled without the Imperial assistance. Frederick II., in his first rivalry with Otto, had shamefully purchased Denmark's favor by giving up all the territory between the Elbe and the Oder. But when Henry, Count of Schwerin, returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and found the Danish king, Waldemar, in possession of his territory, he organized a revolt in order to recover his rights, and succeeded in taking Waldemar and his son prisoners. Frederick II. now supported him, and the Pope as a matter of course supported Denmark. A great battle was fought in Holstein, and the Danes were so signally defeated that they were forced to give up all the German territory, except the island of Rügen and a little strip of the Pomeranian coast, beside paying 45,000 silver marks for the ransom of Waldemar and his son.


About this time, in consequence of the demand of Pope Innocent III. that all heresy should be treated as a crime and suppressed by force, a new element of conflict with Rome was introduced into Germany. Among other acts of violence, the Stedinger, a tribe of free farmers of Saxon blood, who inhabited the low country near the mouth of the Weser, were literally exterminated by order of the Archbishop of Bremen, to whom they had refused the payment of tithes. In 1230, Gregory IX. wrote to king Henry, urging him to crush out heresy in Germany: "Where is the zeal of Moses, who destroyed 23,000 idolaters in one day? Where is the zeal of Elijah, who slew 450 prophets with the sword, by the brook Kishon? Against this evil the strongest means must be used: there is need of steel and fire." Conrad of Marburg, a monk, who inflicted years of physical and spiritual suffering upon Elizabeth, Countess of Thuringia, in order to make a saint of her, was appointed Inquisitor for Germany by Gregory, and for three years he tortured and burned at will. His horrible cruelty at last provoked revenge: he was assassinated on the highway near Marburg, and his death marks the end of the Inquisition in Germany.

In 1232, Frederick II., in order that he might seem to fulfil his neglected duties as German Emperor, summoned a general Diet to meet at Ravenna, but it was prevented by the Lombard cities, as the Diet of Verona had been prevented six years before. Befriended by Venice, however, Frederick marched to Aquileia, and there met his son, king[Pg 181] Henry, after a separation of twelve years. Their respective ages were thirty-seven and twenty-one: there was little personal sympathy or affection between them, and they only came together to quarrel. Frederick refused to sanction most of Henry's measures; he demanded, among other things, that the latter should rebuild the strongholds of the robber-knights of Hohenlohe, which had been razed to the ground. This seemed to Henry an outrage as well as a humiliation, and he returned home with rebellion in his heart. After proclaiming himself independent king, he entered into an alliance with the cities of Lombardy and even sought the aid of the Pope.


Early in 1235, after an absence of fifteen years, Frederick II. returned to Germany. The revolt, which had seemed so threatening, fell to pieces at his approach. He was again master of the Empire, without striking a blow: Henry had no course but to surrender without conditions. He was deposed, imprisoned, and finally sent with his family to Southern Italy, where he died seven years afterwards. The same summer the Emperor, whose wife, Iolanthe, had died some years before, was married at Worms to Isabella, sister of king Henry III. of England. The ceremony was attended with festivals of Oriental splendor; the attendants of the new Empress were Saracens, and she was obliged to live after the manner of Eastern women. Immense numbers of the nobles and people flocked to Worms, and soon afterwards to Mayence, where a Diet was held. Here, for the first time, the decrees of the Diet were publicly read in the German language. Frederick also, as the head of the Waiblinger party, effected a reconciliation with Otto of Brunswick, the head of the Welfs, whereby the rivalry of a hundred years came to an end in Germany; but in Italy the struggle between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs was continued long after the Hohenstaufen line became extinct.

In the autumn of 1236, Frederick conquered and deposed Frederick the Quarrelsome, Duke of Austria, and made Vienna a free Imperial city. A Diet was held there, at which his second son, Konrad, then nine years old, was accepted as king of Germany. This choice was confirmed by another Diet, held the following year at Speyer. The Emperor now left Germany, never to return. This brief visit, of a little more than a year, was the only interruption in his thirty years of absence; but it revived his great personal[Pg 182] influence over princes and people, it was marked by the full recognition of his authority, and it contributed, in combination with his struggle against the power of Rome which followed, to impress upon his reign a more splendid and successful character than his acts deserved. Although the remainder of his history belongs to Italy, it was not without importance for the later fortunes of Germany, and must therefore be briefly stated.


On returning to Italy, Frederick found himself involved in new difficulties with the independent cities. He was supported by his son-in-law, Ezzelin, and a large army from Naples and Sicily, composed chiefly of Saracens. With this force he won such a victory at Cortenuovo, that even Milan offered to yield, under hard conditions. Then Frederick II. made the same mistake as his grandfather, Barbarossa, in similar circumstances. He demanded a complete and unconditional surrender, which so aroused the fear and excited the hate of the Lombards, that they united in a new and desperate resistance, which he was unable to crush. Gregory IX., who claimed for the Church the Island of Sardinia, which Frederick had given as a kingdom to his son Enzio, hurled a new excommunication against the Emperor, and the fiercest of all the quarrels between the two powers now began to rage.

The Pope, in a proclamation, asserted of Frederick: "This pestilential king declares that the world has been deceived by three impostors, Moses, Mohammed and Christ, the two former of whom died honorably, but the last shamefully, upon the cross." He further styled the Emperor, "that beast of Revelations which came out of the sea, which now destroys everything with its claws and iron teeth, and, assisted by the heretics, arises against Christ, in order to drive his name out of the world." Frederick, in an answer which was sent to all the kings and princes of Christendom, wrote: "The Apostolic and Athanasian Creeds are mine; Moses I consider a friend of God, and Mohammed an arch-impostor." He described the Pope as "that horse in Revelations, from which, as it is written, issued another horse, and he that sat upon him took away the peace of the world, so that the living destroyed each other," and named him further: "the second Balaam, the great dragon, yea, even the Antichrist."


Gregory IX. endeavored, but in vain, to set up a rival Emperor: the Princes, and even the Archbishops, were[Pg 183] opposed to him. Frederick, who was not idle meanwhile, entered the States of the Church, took several cities, and advanced towards Rome. Then the Pope offered to call together a Council in Rome, to settle all matters in dispute. But those who were summoned to attend were Frederick's enemies, whereupon he issued a proclamation declaring the Council void, and warning the bishops and priests against coming to it. The most of them, however, met at Nice, in 1241, and embarked for Rome on a Genoese fleet of sixty vessels; but Frederick's son, Enzio, intercepted them with a Pisan and Sicilian fleet, captured one hundred cardinals, bishops and abbots, one hundred civil deputies and four thousand men, and carried them to Naples. The Council, therefore, could not be held, and Pope Gregory died soon afterwards, almost a hundred years old.

After quarreling for nearly two years, the Cardinals finally elected a new Pope, Innocent IV. He had been a friend of the Emperor, but the latter exclaimed, on hearing of his election: "I fear that I have lost a friend among the Cardinals, and found an enemy in the chair of St. Peter: no Pope can be a Ghibelline!" His words were true. After fruitless negotiations, Innocent IV. fled to Lyons, and there called together a Council of the Church, which declared that Frederick had forfeited his crowns and dignities, that he was cast out by God, and should be thenceforth accursed. Frederick answered this declaration with a bold statement of the corruptions of the clergy, and the dangers arising from the temporal power of the Popes, which, he asserted, should be suppressed for the sake of Christianity, the early purity of which had been lost. King Louis IX. of France endeavored to bring about a suspension of the struggle, which was now beginning to disturb all Europe; but the Pope angrily refused.

In 1246, the latter persuaded Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia, to claim the crown of Germany, and supported him with all the influence and wealth of the Church. He was defeated and wounded in the first battle, and soon afterwards died, leaving Frederick's son, Konrad, still king of Germany. In Italy, the civil war raged with the greatest bitterness, and with horrible barbarities on both sides. Frederick exhibited such extraordinary courage and determination that his enemies, encouraged by the Church, finally resorted to the basest means of overcoming him. A plot[Pg 184] formed for his assassination was discovered in time, and the conspirators executed: then an attempt was made to poison him, in which his chancellor and intimate friend, Peter de Vinea—his companion for thirty years,—seems to have been implicated. At least he recommended a certain physician, who brought to the Emperor a poisoned medicine. Something in the man's manner excited Frederick's mistrust, and he ordered him to swallow a part of the medicine. When the latter refused, it was given to a condemned criminal, who immediately died. The physician was executed and Peter de Vinea sent to prison, where he committed suicide by dashing his head against the walls of his cell.


In the same year, 1249, Frederick's favorite son, Enzio, king of Sardinia, who even surpassed his father in personal beauty, in accomplishments, in poetic talent and heroic courage, was taken prisoner by the Bolognese. All the father's offers of ransom were rejected, all his menaces defied: Enzio was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and languished twenty-two years in a dungeon, until liberated by death. Frederick was almost broken-hearted, but his high courage never flagged. He was encompassed by enemies, he scarcely knew whom to trust, yet he did not yield the least of his claims. And fortune, at last, seemed inclined to turn to his side: a new rival king, William of Holland, whom the Pope had set up against him in Germany, failed to maintain himself: the city of Piacenza, in Lombardy, espoused his cause: the Romans, tired of Innocent IV.'s absence, began to talk of electing another Pope in his stead: and even Innocent himself was growing unpopular in France. Then, while he still defiantly faced the world, still had faith in his final triumph, the body refused to support his fiery spirit. He died in the arms of his youngest son, Manfred, on the 13th of December, 1250, fifty-six years old. He was buried at Palermo; and when his tomb there was opened, in the year 1783, his corpse was found to have scarcely undergone any decay.

Frederick II. was unquestionably one of the greatest men who ever bore the title of German (or Roman) Emperor; yet all the benefits his reign conferred upon Germany were wholly of an indirect character, and were more than balanced by the positive injury occasioned by his neglect. There were strong contradictions in his nature, which make it difficult to judge him fairly as a ruler. As[Pg 185] a man of great learning and intelligence, his ideas were liberal; as a monarch, he was violent and despotic. He wore out his life, trying to crush the republican cities of Italy; he was jealous of the growth of the free cities of Germany, yet granted them a representation in the Diet; and in Sicily, where his sway was undisputed, he was wise, just and tolerant. Representing in himself the highest taste and refinement of his age, he was nevertheless as rash, passionate and relentless as the monarchs of earlier and ruder times. In his struggle with the Popes, he was far in advance of his age, and herein, although unsuccessful, he was not subdued: in reality, he was one of the most powerful forerunners of the Reformation. There are few figures in European history so bright, so brave, so full of heroic and romantic interest.


Frederick's son and successor, Konrad IV., inherited the hate and enmity of Pope Innocent IV. The latter threatened with excommunication all who should support Konrad, and forbade the priests to administer the sacraments of the Church to his followers. The Papal proclamations were so fierce that they incited the Bishop of Ratisbon to plot the king's murder, in which he came very near being successful. William of Holland, whom the people called "the Priests' King," was not supported by any of the leading German princes, but the gold of Rome purchased him enough of troops to meet Konrad in the field, and he was temporarily successful. The hostility of the Pope seems scarcely to have affected Konrad's position in Germany; but both rulers and people were growing indifferent to the Imperial power, the seat of which had been so long transferred to Italy. They therefore took little part in the struggle between William and Konrad, and the latter's defeat was by no means a gain to the former.

The two rivals, in fact, were near their end. Konrad IV. went to Italy and took possession of the kingdom of his father, which his step-brother, Manfred, governed in his name. He made an earnest attempt to be reconciled with the Pope, but Innocent IV. was implacable. He then collected an army of 20,000 men, and was about to lead it to Germany against William of Holland, when he suddenly died, in 1254, in the 27th year of his age. It was generally believed that he had been poisoned. William of Holland, since there was no one to dispute his claim, obtained a partial[Pg 186] recognition of his sovereignty in Germany; but, having undertaken to subdue the free farmers in Friesland, he was defeated. While attempting to escape, his heavy war-horse broke through the ice, and the farmers surrounded and slew him. This was in 1256, two years after Konrad's death. Innocent IV. had expended no less than 400,000 silver marks—a very large sum in those days—in supporting him and Henry Raspe against the Hohenstaufens.


Konrad IV. left behind him, in Suabia, a son Konrad, who was only two years old at his father's death. In order to distinguish him from the latter, the Italians gave him the name of Conradino (Little Konrad), and as Konradin he is known in German history. He was educated under the charge of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, and his uncle Ludwig II., Duke of Bavaria. When he was ten years old, the Archbishop of Mayence called a Diet, at which it was agreed that he should be crowned King of Germany, but the ceremony was prevented by the furious opposition of the Pope. Konradin made such progress in his studies and exhibited so much fondness for literature and the arts, that the followers of the Hohenstaufens saw in him another Frederick II. One of his poems is still in existence, and testifies to the grace and refinement of his youthful mind.

After Konrad IV.'s death, the Pope claimed the kingdom of Naples and Sicily as being forfeited to the Church, but found it prudent to allow Manfred to govern in his name. The latter submitted at first, but only until his authority was firmly established: then he declared war, defeated the Papal troops, drove them back to Rome, and was crowned king in 1258. The news of his success so agitated the Pope that he died shortly afterwards. His successor, Urban IV., a Frenchman, who imitated his policy, found Manfred too strongly established to be defeated without foreign aid. He therefore offered the crown of Southern Italy to Charles of Anjou, the brother of king Louis IX. of France. Physically and intellectually, there could be no greater contrast than between him and Manfred. Charles of Anjou was awkward and ugly, savage, ignorant and bigoted: Manfred was a model of manly beauty, a scholar and poet, a patron of learning, a builder of roads, bridges and harbors, a just and noble ruler.

Charles of Anjou, after being crowned king of Naples and Sicily by the Pope, and having secured secret advantages[Pg 187] by bribery and intrigue, marched against Manfred in 1266. They met at Benevento, where, after a long and bloody battle, Manfred was slain, and the kingdom submitted to the usurper. By the Pope's order, Manfred's body was taken from the chapel where it had been buried, and thrown into a trench: his widow and children were imprisoned for life by Charles of Anjou.


The boy Konradin determined to avenge his uncle's death, and recover his own Italian inheritance. His mother sought to dissuade him from the attempt, but Ludwig of Bavaria offered to support him, and his dearest friend, Frederick of Baden, a youth of nineteen, insisted on sharing his fortunes. Towards the end of 1267, he crossed the Alps and reached Verona with a force of 10,000 men. Here he was obliged to wait three months for further support, and during this time more than two-thirds of his German soldiers returned home. But a reaction against the Guelphs (the Papal party) had set in; several Lombard cities and the Republic of Pisa declared in Konradin's favor, and finally the Romans, at his approach, expelled Pope Urban IV. A revolt against Charles of Anjou broke out in Naples and Sicily, and when Konradin entered Rome, in July, 1268, his success seemed almost assured. After a most enthusiastic reception by the Roman people, he continued his march southward, with a considerable force.

On the 22d of August he met Charles of Anjou in battle, and was at first victorious. But his troops, having halted to plunder the enemy's camp, were suddenly attacked, and at last completely routed. Konradin and his friend, Frederick of Baden, fled to Rome, and thence to the little port of Astura, on the coast, in order to embark for Sicily; but here they were arrested by Frangipani, the Governor of the place, who had been specially favored by the Emperor Frederick II., and now sold his grandson to Charles of Anjou for a large sum of money. Konradin having been carried to Naples, a court of distinguished jurists was called, to try him for high treason. With one exception, they pronounced him guiltless of any crime; yet Charles, nevertheless, ordered him to be executed.


On the 29th of October, 1268, the last Hohenstaufen, a youth of sixteen, and his friend Frederick, were led to the scaffold. Charles watched the scene from a window of his palace; the people, gloomy and mutinous, were overawed by[Pg 188] his guards. Konradin advanced to the edge of the platform and threw his glove among the crowd, asking that it might be carried to some one who would avenge his death. A knight who was present took it afterwards to Peter of Aragon, who had married king Manfred's eldest daughter. Then, with the exclamation: "Oh, mother, what sorrow I have prepared for thee!" Konradin knelt and received the fatal blow. After him Frederick of Baden and thirteen others were executed.

The tyranny and inhuman cruelty of Charles of Anjou provoked a conspiracy which, in the year 1282, gave rise to the massacre called "the Sicilian Vespers." In one night all the French officials and soldiers in Sicily were slaughtered, and Peter of Aragon, the heir of the Hohenstaufens, became king of the island. But in Germany the proud race existed no more, except in history, legend and song.




  • Change in the Character of the German Empire.
  • —Richard of Cornwall and Alphonso of Castile purchase their election.
  • —The Interregnum.
  • —Effect of the Crusades.
  • —Heresy and Persecution.
  • —The Orders of Knighthood.
  • —Conquests of the German Order.
  • —Rise of the Cities.
  • —Robber-Knights.
  • —The Hanseatic League.
  • —Population and Power of the Cities.
  • —Gothic Architecture.
  • —The Universities.
  • —Seven Classes of the People.
  • —The small States.
  • —Service of the Hohenstaufens to Germany.
  • —Epic Poetry of the Middle Ages.
  • —Historical writers.

The end of the Hohenstaufen dynasty marks an important phase in the history of Germany. From this time the character of the Empire is radically changed. Although still called "Roman" in official documents, the term is henceforth an empty form, and even the word "Empire" loses much of its former significance. The Italian Republics were now practically independent, and the various dukedoms, bishoprics, principalities and countships, into which Germany was divided, were fast rendering it difficult to effect any unity of feeling or action among the people. The Empire which Charlemagne designed, which Otto the Great nearly established, and which Barbarossa might have founded, but for the fatal ambition of governing Italy, had become impossible. Germany was, in reality, a loose confederation of differently organized and governed States, which continued to make use of the form of an Empire as a convenience rather than a political necessity.

The events which followed the death of Konrad IV. illustrate the corrupt condition of both Church and State at that time. The money which Pope Innocent IV. so freely expended in favor of the anti-kings, Henry Raspe and William of Holland, had already taught the Electors the advantage of selling their votes: so, when William was slain by the farmers of Friesland, and no German prince seemed to[Pg 190] care much for the title of Emperor (since each already had independent power over his own territory), the high dignity so recently possessed by Frederick II., was put up at auction. Two bidders made their appearance, Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III. of England, and king Alphonso of Castile, surnamed "the Wise." The Archbishop of Cologne was the business agent of the former: he received 12,000 silver marks for himself, and eight or nine thousand apiece for the Dukes of Bavaria, the Archbishop of Mayence, and several other electors. The Archbishop of Treves, in the name of king Alphonso, offered the king of Bohemia, the Dukes of Saxony and the Margrave of Brandenburg 20,000 marks each. Of course both purchasers were elected, and they were proclaimed kings of Germany almost at the same time. Alphonso never even visited his realm: Richard of Cornwall came to Aix-la-Chapelle, was formally crowned, and returned now and then, whenever the produce of his tin-mines in Cornwall enabled him to pay for an enthusiastic reception by the people. He never attempted, however, to govern Germany, for he probably had intelligence enough to see that any such attempt would be disregarded.


This period was afterwards called by the people "the Evil Time when there was no Emperor"—and, in spite of the two kings, who had fairly paid for their titles, it is known in German history as "the Interregnum." It was a period of change and confusion, when each prince endeavored to become an absolute ruler, and the knights, in imitating them, became robbers; when the free cities, encouraged by the example of Italy, united in self-defence, and the masses of the people, although ground to the dust, began to dream again of the rights which their ancestors had possessed a thousand years before.

First of all, the great change wrought in Europe by the Crusades was beginning to be felt by all classes of society. The attempt to retain possession of Palestine, which lasted nearly two hundred years,—from the march of the First Crusade in 1096 to the fall of Acre in 1291,—cost Europe, it is estimated, six millions of lives, and an immense amount of treasure. The Roman Church favored the undertaking in every possible way, since each Crusade instantly and greatly strengthened its power; yet the result was the reverse of what the Church hoped for, in the end. The bravery, intelligence and refined manners of the Saracens[Pg 191] made a great impression on the Christian knights, and they soon began to imitate those whom they had at first despised. New branches of learning, especially astronomy, mathematics and medicine, were brought to Europe from the East; more luxurious habits of life, giving rise to finer arts of industry, followed; and commerce, compelled to supply the Crusaders and Christian colonists at such a distance, was rapidly developed to an extent unknown since the fall of the Roman Empire.


As men gained new ideas from these changes, they became more independent in thought and speech. The priests and monks ceased to monopolize all knowledge, and their despotism over the human mind met with resistance. Then, first, the charge of "heresy" began to be heard; and although during the thirteenth and a part of the fourteenth centuries the Pope of Rome was undoubtedly the highest power in Europe, the influences were already at work which afterwards separated the strongest races of the world from the Roman Church. On the one hand, new orders of monks were created, and monasteries increased everywhere: on the other hand, independent Christian sects began to spring up, like the Albigenses in France and the Waldenses in Savoy, and could not be wholly suppressed, even with fire and sword.

The orders of knighthood which possessed a religious character, were also established during the Crusades. First the Knights of St. John, whose badge was a black mantle with a white cross, formed a society to guard pilgrims to the Holy Land, and take care of the sick. Then followed the Knights Templar, distinguished by a red cross on a white mantle. Both these orders originated among the Italian chivalry, and they included few German members. During the Third Crusade, however (which was headed by Barbarossa), the German Order of Knights was formed, chiefly by the aid of the merchants of Bremen and Lübeck. They adopted the black cross on a white mantle as their badge, took the monkish vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience, like the Templars and the Knights of St. John, and devoted their lives to war with the heathen. The second Grand-Master of this order, Hermann of Salza, accompanied Frederick II. to Jerusalem, and his character was so highly estimated by the latter that he made him a prince of the German Empire.


Inasmuch as the German Order really owed its existence[Pg 192] to the support of the merchants of the Northern coast, Hermann of Salza sought for a field of labor wherein the knights might fulfil their vows, and at the same time achieve some advantage for their benefactors. As early as 1199, the Bremen merchants had founded Riga, taken possession of the eastern shore of the Baltic and established German colonies there. The native Finnish or Lithuanian inhabitants were either exterminated or forcibly converted to Christianity, and an order, called "the Brothers of the Sword," was established for the defence of the colonies. This new German territory was separated from the rest of the Empire by the country between the mouths of the Vistula and the Memel, claimed by Poland, and inhabited by the Borussii, or Prussians, a tribe which seems to have been of mixed Slavic and Lithuanian blood. Hermann of Salza obtained from Poland the permission to possess this country for the German Order, and he gradually conquered or converted the native Prussians. In the meantime the Brothers of the Sword were so hard pressed by a revolt of the Livonians that they united themselves with the German Order, and thenceforth formed a branch of it. The result of this union was that the whole coast of the Baltic, from Holstein to the Gulf of Finland, was secured to Germany, and became civilized and Christian.

During the thirty-five years of Frederick II.'s reign and the seventeen succeeding years of the Interregnum, Germany was in a condition which allowed the strong to make themselves stronger, yet left the weaker classes without any protection. The reigning Dukes and Archbishops were, of course, satisfied with this state of affairs; the independent counts and barons with large possessions maintained their power by temporary alliances; the inferior nobles, left to themselves, became robbers of land, and highwaymen. With the introduction of new arts and the wider extension of commerce, the cities of Germany had risen in wealth and power, and were beginning to develop an intelligent middle-class, standing between the farmers, who had sunk almost into the condition of serfs, and the lesser nobles, most of whom were equally poor and proud. Upwards of sixty cities were free municipalities, belonging to the Empire on the same terms as the dukedoms; that is, they contributed a certain proportion of men and money, and were bound to obey the decrees of the Imperial Diets.[Pg 193]


As soon, therefore, as there was no superior authority to maintain order and security in the land, a large number of the knights became freebooters, plundering and laying waste whenever opportunity offered, attacking the caravans of travelling merchants, and accumulating the ill-gotten wealth in their strong castles. Many an aristocratic family of the present day owes its inheritance to that age of robbery and murder. The people had few secured rights and no actual freedom in Germany, with the exception of Friesland, some parts of Saxony and the Alpine districts.

In this condition of things, the free cities soon found it advisable to assist each other. Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck first formed a union, chiefly for commercial purposes, in 1241, and this was the foundation of the famous Hanseatic League. Immediately after the death of Konrad IV., Mayence, Speyer, Worms, Strasburg and Basel formed the "Union of Rhenish Cities," for the preservation of peace and the mutual protection of their citizens. Many other cities, and even a number of reigning princes and bishops, soon became members of this league, which for a time exercised considerable power. The principal German cities were then even more important than now; few of them have gained in population or in relative wealth in the course of 600 years. Cologne had then 120,000 inhabitants, Mayence 90,000, Worms 60,000, and Ratisbon on the Danube upwards of 120,000. The cities of the Rhine had agencies in England and other countries, carried on commerce on the high seas, and owned no less than 600 armed vessels, with which they guarded the Rhine from the land-pirates whose castles overlooked its course.

During this age of civil and religious despotism, the German cities possessed and preserved the only free institutions to be found. They owed this privilege to the heroic resistance of the republican cities of Italy to the Hohenstaufens, which not only set them an example but fought in their stead. Sure of the loyalty of the German cities, the Emperors were not so jealous of their growth; but some of the rights which they conferred were reluctantly given, and probably in return for men or money during the wars in Italy. The decree which changed a vassal, or dependent, into a free man after a year's residence in a city, helped greatly to build up a strong and intelligent middle-class. The merchants, professional men and higher artisans gradually[Pg 194] formed a patrician society, out of which the governing officers were selected, while the mechanics, for greater protection, organized themselves into separate guilds, or orders. Each of the latter was very watchful of the character and reputation of its members, and thus exercised a strong moral influence. The farmers, only, had no such protection: very few of them were not dependent vassals of some nobleman or priest.


The cities, in the thirteenth century, began to exhibit a stately architectural character. The building of splendid cathedrals and monasteries, which began two centuries before, now gave employment to such a large number of architects and stone-cutters, that they formed a free corporation, under the name of "Brother-builders," with especial rights and privileges, all over Germany. Their labors were supported by the power of the Church, the wealth of the merchants and the toil of the vassals, and the masterpieces of Gothic architecture arose under their hands. The grand Cathedrals of Strasburg, Freiburg and Cologne with many others, yet remain as monuments of their genius and skill. But the private dwellings, also, now began to display the wealth and taste of their owners. They were usually built very high, with pointed gables facing the street, and adorned with sculptured designs: frequently the upper stories projected over the lower, forming a shelter for the open shops in the first story. As the cities were walled for defence, the space within the walls was too valuable to be given to wide squares and streets: hence there was usually one open market-place, which also served for all public ceremonies, and the streets were dark and narrow.

In spite of the prevailing power of the Roman Church, the Universities now began to exercise some influence. Those of Bologna and Padua were frequented by throngs of students, who attended the schools of law, while the University of Salerno, under the patronage of Manfred, became a distinguished school of medicine. The Arabic university of Cordova, in Spain, also attracted many students from all the Christian lands of Europe. Works on all branches of knowledge were greatly multiplied, so that the copying of them became a new profession. For the first time, there were written forms of law for the instruction of the people. In the northern part of Germany appeared a work called "The Saxon's Looking-Glass," which[Pg 195] was soon accepted as a legal authority by the people. But it was too liberal for the priests, and under their influence another work, "The Suabian's Looking-Glass," was written and circulated in Southern Germany. The former book declares that the Emperor has his power from God; the latter that he has it from the Pope. The Saxon is told that no man can justly hold another man as property, and that the people were made vassals through force and wrong; the Suabian is taught that obedience to rulers is his chief duty.


From these two works, which are still in existence, we learn how complicated was the political organization of Germany. The whole free population was divided into seven classes, each having its own privileges and rules of government. First, there was the Emperor; secondly, the Spiritual Princes, as they were called (Archbishops, reigning Bishops, &c.); thirdly, the Temporal Princes, some of whom were partly or wholly "Vassals" of the Spiritual authority; and fourthly, the Counts and Barons who possessed territory, either independently, or as Lehen of the second and third classes. These four classes constituted the higher nobility, by whom the Emperor was chosen, and each of whom had the right to be a candidate. Seven princes were specially entitled "Electors," because the nomination of a candidate for Emperor came from them. There were three Spiritual—the Archbishops of Mayence, Treves and Cologne; and four Temporal—the Dukes of Bavaria and Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the King of Bohemia.

The fifth class embraced the free citizens from among whom magistrates were chosen, and who were allowed to possess certain privileges of the nobles. The sixth and seventh classes were formed out of the remaining freemen, according to their circumstances and occupations. The serfs and dependents had no place in this system of government, so that a large majority of the German people possessed no other recognized right than that of being ruled and punished. In fact, the whole political system was so complicated and unpractical that we can only wonder how Germany endured it for centuries afterwards.

At the end of the Hohenstaufen dynasty there were one hundred and sixteen priestly rulers, one hundred ruling dukes, princes, counts and barons, and more than sixty independent cities in Germany. The larger dukedoms had[Pg 196] been cut up into smaller states, many of which exist, either as states or provinces, at this day. Styria and Tyrol were separated from Bavaria; the principalities of Westphalia, Anhalt, Holstein, Jülich, Berg, Cleves, Pomerania and Mecklenburg were formed out of Saxony; Suabia was divided into Würtemberg and Baden, the Palatinate of the Rhine detached from Franconia and Hesse from Thuringia. Each of the principal German races was distinguished by two colors—the Franks red and white, the Suabians red and yellow, the Bavarians blue and white, and the Saxons black and white. The Saxon black, the Frank red, and the Suabian gold were set together as the Imperial colors.


The chief service of the Hohenstaufens to Germany lay in their direct and generous encouragement of art, learning and literature. They took up the work commenced by Charlemagne and so disastrously thwarted by his son Ludwig the Pious, and in the course of a hundred years they developed what might be called a golden age of architecture and epic poetry, so strongly does it contrast with the four centuries before and the three succeeding it. The immediate connection between Germany and Italy, where the most of Roman culture had survived and the higher forms of civilization were first restored, was in this single respect a great advantage to the former country. We cannot ascertain how many of the nobler characteristics of knighthood, in that age, sprang from the religious spirit which prompted the Crusades, and how many originated from intercourse with the refined and high-spirited Saracens; both elements, undoubtedly, tended to revive the almost forgotten love of poetry in the German race.


When the knights of Provence and Italy became as proud of their songs as of their feats of arms; when minstrels accompanied the court of Frederick II. and the Emperor himself wrote poems in rivalry with them; when the Duke of Austria and the Landgrave Hermann of Thuringia invited the best poets of the time to visit them and received them as distinguished guests, and when wandering minstrels and story-tellers repeated their works in a simpler form to the people everywhere, it was not long before a new literature was created. Walter von der Vogelweide, who accompanied Frederick II. to Jerusalem, wrote not only songs of love and poems in praise of Nature, but satires against the Pope and the priesthood. Godfrey of Strasburg produced[Pg 197] an epic poem describing the times of king Arthur of the Round Table, and Wolfram of Eschenbach, in his "Parcival," celebrated the search for the Holy Grail; while inferior poets related the histories of Alexander the Great, the Siege of Troy, or Charlemagne's knight, Roland. Among the people arose the story of Reynard the Fox, and a multitude of fables; and finally, during the thirteenth century, was produced the celebrated Nibelungenlied, or Song of the Nibelungen, wherein traditions of Siegfried of the Netherlands, Theodoric the Ostrogoth and Attila with his Huns are mixed together in a powerful story of love, rivalry and revenge. The most of these poems are written in a Suabian dialect, which is now called the "Middle (or Mediæval) High-German."

Among the historical writers were Bishop Otto of Friesing, whose chronicles of the time are very valuable, and Saxo Grammaticus, in whose history of Denmark Shakspeare found the material for his play of Hamlet. Albertus Magnus, the Bishop of Ratisbon, was so distinguished as a mathematician and man of science that the people believed him to be a sorcerer. There was, in short, a general intellectual awakening throughout Germany, and, although afterwards discouraged by many of the 276 smaller powers, it was favored by others and could not be suppressed. Besides, greater changes were approaching. A hundred years after Frederick II.'s death gunpowder was discovered, and the common soldier became the equal of the knight. In another hundred years, Gutenberg invented printing, and then followed, rapidly, the Discovery of America and the Reformation.




  • Rudolf of Hapsburg.
  • —His Election as Emperor.
  • —Meeting with Pope Gregory X.
  • —War with Ottokar II. of Bohemia.
  • —Rudolf's Victories.
  • —Diet of Augsburg.
  • —Suppression of Robber-Knights.
  • —Rudolf's Second Marriage.
  • —His Death.
  • —His Character and Habits.
  • —Adolf of Nassau elected.
  • —His Rapacity and Dishonesty.
  • —Albert of Hapsburg Rival Emperor.
  • —Adolf's Death.
  • —Albert's Character.
  • —Quarrel with Pope Bonifacius.
  • —Albert's Plans.
  • —Revolt of the Swiss Cantons.
  • —John Parricida murders the Emperor.
  • —The Popes remove to Avignon.
  • —Henry of Luxemburg elected Emperor.
  • —His Efforts to restore Peace.
  • —His Welcome to Italy, and Coronation.
  • —He is Poisoned.
  • —Ludwig of Bavaria elected.
  • —Battle of Morgarten.
  • —Frederick of Austria captured.
  • —The Papal "Interdict."
  • —Conspiracy of Leopold of Austria.
  • —Ludwig's Visit to Italy.
  • —His Superstition and Cowardice.
  • —His Efforts to be reconciled to the Pope.
  • —Treachery of Philip VI. of France.
  • —The Convention at Rense.
  • —Alliance with England.
  • —Ludwig's Unpopularity.
  • —Karl of Bohemia Rival Emperor.
  • —Ludwig's Death.
  • —The German Cities.

Richard of Cornwall died in 1272, and the German princes seemed to be in no haste to elect a successor. The Pope, Gregory X., finally demanded an election, for the greater convenience of having to deal with one head, instead of a multitude; and the Archbishop of Mayence called a Diet together at Frankfort, the following year. He proposed, as candidate, Count Rudolf of Hapsburg (or Habsburg), a petty ruler in Switzerland, who had also possessions in Alsatia. Up to his time the family had been insignificant; but, as a zealous partisan of Frederick II. in whose excommunication he had shared, as a crusader against the heathen Prussians, and finally, in his maturer years, as a man of great prudence, moderation and firmness, he had made the name of Hapsburg generally and quite favorably known. His brother-in-law, Count Frederick of Hohenzollern, the Burgrave, or Governor, of the city of Nuremburg (and the founder of the present house of the Hohenzollerns), advocated[Pg 199] Rudolf's election among the members of the Diet. The chief considerations in his favor were his personal character, his lack of power, and the circumstance of his possessing six marriageable daughters. There were also private stipulations which secured him the support of the priesthood, and so he was elected King of Germany.


Rudolf was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle. At the close of the ceremony it was discovered that the Imperial sceptre was missing, whereupon he took a crucifix from the altar, and held it forth to the princes, who came to swear allegiance to his rule. He was at this time fifty-five years of age, extremely tall and lank, with a haggard face and large aquiline nose. Although he was always called "Emperor" by the people, he never received, or even desired, the imperial Crown of Rome. He was in the habit of saying that Rome was the den of the lion, into which led the tracks of many other animals, but none were seen leading out of it again.

It was easy for him, therefore, to conclude a peace with the Pope. He met Gregory X. at Lausanne, and there formally renounced all claim to the rights held by the Hohenstaufens in Italy. He even recognized Charles of Anjou as king of Sicily and Naples, and betrothed one of his daughters to the latter's son. The Church of Rome received possession of all the territory it had claimed in Central Italy, and the Lombard and Tuscan republics were left for awhile undisturbed. He further promised to undertake a new Crusade for the recovery of Jerusalem, and was then solemnly recognized by Gregory X. as rightful king of Germany.

But, although Rudolf had so readily given up all for which the Hohenstaufens had struggled in Italy, he at once claimed their estates in Germany as belonging to the crown. This brought him into conflict with Counts Ulric and Eberhard II. of Würtemberg, who were also allied with king Ottokar II. of Bohemia in opposition to his authority. The latter had obtained possession of Austria, through marriage, and of all Styria and Carinthia to the Adriatic by purchase. He was ambitious and defiant: some historians suppose that he hoped to make himself Emperor of Germany, others that his object was to establish a powerful Slavonic nation. Rudolf did not delay long in declaring him outlawed, and in calling upon the other princes for an army to lead against him. The call was received with indifference: no one feared the new Emperor, and hence no one obeyed.[Pg 200]


Gathering together such troops as his son-in-law, Ludwig of the Bavarian Palatinate, could furnish, Rudolf marched into Austria, after he had restored order in Würtemberg. A revolt of the Austrian and Styrian nobles against Bohemian rule followed this movement: the country was gradually reconquered, and Vienna, after a siege of five weeks, fell into Rudolf's hands. Ottokar II. then found it advisable to make peace with the man whom he had styled "a poor Count," by giving up his claim to Austria, Styria and Carinthia, and paying homage to the Emperor of Germany. In October, 1276, the treaty was concluded. Ottokar appeared in all the splendor he could command, and was received by Rudolf in a costume not very different from that of a common soldier. "The Bohemian king has often laughed at my gray coat," he said; "but now my coat shall laugh at him." Ottokar was enraged at what he considered an insulting humiliation, and secretly plotted revenge. For nearly two years he intrigued with the States of Northern Germany and the Poles, collected a large army under the pretext of conquering Hungary, and suddenly declared war against Rudolf.

The Emperor was only supported by the Count of Tyrol, by Frederick of Hohenzollern and a few bishops, but he procured the alliance of the Hungarians, and then marched against Ottokar with a much inferior force. Nevertheless, he was completely victorious in the battle which took place, on the river March, in August, 1278. Ottokar was killed, and his Saxon and Bavarian allies scattered. Rudolf used his victory with a moderation which secured him new advantages. He married one of his daughters to Wenzel, Ottokar's son, and allowed him the crown of Bohemia and Moravia; he gave Carinthia to the Count of Tyrol, and Austria and Styria to his own sons, Rudolf and Albert. Towards the other German princes he was so conciliatory and forbearing that they found no cause for further opposition. Thus the influence of the House of Hapsburg was permanently founded, and—curiously enough, when we consider the later history of Germany—chiefly by the help of the founder of the House of Hohenzollern.


After spending five years in Austria, and securing the results of his victory, Rudolf returned to the interior of Germany. A Diet held at Augsburg in 1282 confirmed his sons in their new sovereignties, and his authority as German[Pg 201] Emperor was thenceforth never seriously opposed. He exerted all his influence over the princes in endeavoring to settle the numberless disputes which arose out of the law by which the territory and rule of the father were divided among many sons,—or, in case there were no direct heirs, which gave more than one relative an equal claim. He proclaimed a National Peace, or cessation of quarrels between the States, and thereby accomplished some good, although the order was only partially obeyed. At a Diet which he held in Erfurt, he urged the strongest measures for the suppression of knightly robbery. Sixty castles of the noble highwaymen were razed to the ground, and more than thirty of the titled vagabonds expiated their crimes on the scaffold. In all the measures which he undertook for the general welfare of the country he succeeded as far as was possible at such a time.

In his schemes of personal ambition, however, the Emperor was not so successful. His attempt to make his eldest son Duke of Suabia failed completely. Then in order to establish a right to Burgundy, he married, at the age of sixty-six, the sister of Count Robert, a girl of only fourteen. Although he gained some few advantages in Western Switzerland, he was resisted by the city of Berne, and all he accomplished in the end was the stirring up of a new hostility to Germany and a new friendship for France throughout the whole of Burgundy. On the eastern frontier, however, the Empire was enlarged by the voluntary annexation of Silesia to Bohemia, in exchange for protection against the claims of Poland.

In 1290 Rudolf's eldest son, of the same name, died, and at a Diet held in Frankfort the following year he endeavored to procure the election of his son Albert, as his successor. A majority of the bishops and princes decided to postpone the question, and Rudolf left the city, deeply mortified. He soon afterwards fell ill, and, being warned by the physician that his case was serious, he exclaimed: "Well, then, now for Speyer!"—the old burial-place of the German Emperors. But before reaching there he died, in July, 1291, aged seventy-three years.


Rudolf of Hapsburg was very popular among the common people, on account of his frank, straightforward manner, and the simplicity of his habits. He was a complete master of his own passions, and in this respect contrasted[Pg 202] remarkably with the rash and impetuous Hohenstaufens. He never showed impatience or irritation, but was always good-humored, full of jests and shrewd sayings, and accessible to all classes. When supplies were short, he would pull up a turnip, peel and eat it in the presence of his soldiers, to show that he fared no better than they, he would refuse a drink of water unless there was enough for all; and it is related that once, on a cold day, he went into the shop of a baker in Mayence to warm himself, and was greatly amused when the good housewife insisted on turning him out as a suspicious character. Nevertheless, he could not overcome the fascination which the Hohenstaufen name still exercised over the people. The idea of Barbarossa's return had already taken root among them, and more than one impostor, who claimed to be the dead Emperor, found enough of followers to disturb Rudolf's reign.

An Imperial authority like that of Otto the Great or Barbarossa had not been restored; yet Rudolf's death left the Empire in a more orderly condition, and the many small rulers were more willing to continue the forms of Government. But the Archbishop Gerard of Mayence, who had bargained secretly with Count Adolf of Nassau, easily persuaded the Electors that it was impolitic to preserve the power in one family, and he thus secured their votes for Adolf, who was crowned shortly afterwards. The latter was even poorer than Rudolf of Hapsburg had been, but without either his wisdom or honesty. He was forced to part with so many Imperial privileges to secure his election, that his first policy seems to have been to secure money and estates for himself. He sold to Visconti of Milan the Viceroyalty over Lombardy, which he claimed as still being a German right, and received from Edward I. of England £100,000 sterling as the price of his alliance in a war against Philip IV. of France. Instead, however, of keeping his part of the bargain, he used some of the money to purchase Thuringia of the Landgrave Albert, who was carrying on an unnatural quarrel with his two sons, Frederick and Dietzmann, and thus disposed of their inheritance. Albert (surnamed the Degenerate) also disposed of the Countship of Meissen in the same way, and when the people resisted the transfer, their lands were terribly devastated by Adolf of Nassau. This course was a direct interference with the rights of reigning families, a violation of[Pg 203] the law of inheritance, and it excited great hostility to Adolf's rule among the other princes.


The rapacity of the new Emperor, in fact, was the cause of his speedy downfall. In order to secure the support of the Bishops, he had promised them the tolls on vessels sailing up and down the Rhine, while the abolition of the same tolls was promised to the free cities on that river. The Archbishop of Mayence sent word to him that he had other Emperors in his pocket, but Adolf paid little heed to his remonstrances. Albert of Hapsburg, son of Rudolf, turned the general dissatisfaction to his own advantage. He won his brother-in-law, Wenzel II. of Bohemia, to his side, and purchased the alliance of Philip the Fair of France by yielding to him the possession of portions of Burgundy and Flanders. After private negotiations with the German princes, both spiritual and temporal, the Archbishop of Mayence called a Diet together in that city, in June, 1298. Adolf was declared to have forfeited the crown, and Albert was elected in his stead by all the Electors except those of Treves and Bavaria.

Within ten days after the election the rivals met in battle: both had foreseen the struggle, and had made hasty preparations to meet it. Adolf fought with desperation, even after being wounded, and finally came face to face with Albert, on the field. "Here you must yield the Empire to me!" he cried, drawing his sword. "That rests with God," was Albert's answer, and he struck Adolf dead. After this victory, the German princes nevertheless required that Albert should be again elected before being crowned, since they feared that this precedent of choosing a rival monarch might lead to trouble in the future.

Albert of Hapsburg was a hard, cold man, with all of his father's will and energy, yet without his moderation and shrewdness. He was haughty and repellent in his manner, and from first to last made no friends. He was one-eyed, on account of a singular cure which had been practised upon him. Having become very ill, his physicians suspected that he was poisoned: they thereupon hung him up by the heels, and took one eye out of its socket, so that the poison might thus escape from his head! The single aim of his life was to increase the Imperial power and secure it to his own family. Whether his measures conduced to the welfare of Germany, or not, was a question which he did not[Pg 204] consider, and therefore whatever good he accomplished was simply accidental.


Although Albert had agreed to yield many privileges to the Church, the Pope, Bonifacius VIII., refused to acknowledge him as king of Germany, declaring that the election was null and void. But the same Pope, by his haughty assumptions of authority over all monarchs, had drawn upon himself the enmity of Philip the Fair, of France, and Albert made a new alliance with the latter. He also obtained the support of the cities, on promising to abolish the Rhine-dues, and with their help completely subdued the Archbishops, who claimed the dues and refused to give them up. This was a great advantage, not only for the Rhine-cities, but for all Germany: it tended to strengthen the power of the increasing middle-class.

The Pope, finding his plans thwarted and his authority defied, now began to make friendly overtures to Albert. He had already excommunicated Philip the Fair, and claimed the right to dispose of the crown of France, which he offered to Albert in return for the latter's subjection to him and armed assistance. There was danger to Germany in this tempting bait; but in 1303, Bonifacius, having been taken prisoner near Rome by his Italian enemies, became insane from rage, and soon died.

Albert's stubborn and selfish attempts to increase the power of his house all failed: their only result was a wider and keener spirit of hostility to his rule. He claimed Thuringia and Meissen, alleging that Adolf of Nassau had purchased those lands, not for himself but for the Empire; he endeavored to get possession of Holland, whose line of ruling Counts had become extinct; and after the death of Wenzel II. of Bohemia, in 1307, he married his son, Rudolf, to the latter's widow. But Counts Frederick and Dietzmann of Thuringia defeated his army: the people of Holland elected a descendant of their Counts on the female side, and the Emperor's son, Rudolf, died in Bohemia, apparently poisoned, before two years were out. Then the Swiss cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden, which had been governed by civil officers appointed by the Emperors, rose in revolt against him, and drove his governors from their Alpine valleys. In November, 1307, that famous league was formed, by which the three cantons maintained their independence, and laid the first corner-stone of the Republic of Switzerland.[Pg 205]


The following May, 1308, Albert was in Baden, raising troops for a new campaign in Thuringia. His nephew, John, a youth of nineteen, who had vainly endeavored to have his right to a part of the Hapsburg territory in Switzerland confirmed by the Emperor, was with him, accompanied by four knights, with whom he had conspired. While crossing a river, they managed to get into the same boat with the Emperor, leaving the rest of his retinue upon the other bank; then, when they had landed, they fell upon him, murdered him, and fled. A peasant woman, who was near, lifted Albert upon her lap and he died in her arms. His widow, the Empress Elizabeth, took a horrible revenge upon the families of the conspirators, whose relatives and even their servants, to the number of one thousand, were executed. One of the knights, who was captured, was broken upon the wheel. John, called in history John Parricida, was never heard of afterwards, although one tradition affirms that he fled to Rome, confessed his deed to the Pope, and passed the rest of his life, under another name, in a monastery.

Thus, within five years, the despotic plans of both Pope Bonifacius VIII. and Albert of Hapsburg came to a tragic end. The overwhelming power of the Papacy, after a triumph of two hundred years, was broken. The second Pope after Bonifacius, Clement V., made Avignon, in Southern France, his capital instead of Rome, and the former city continued to be the residence of the Popes, from 1308, the year of Albert's murder, until 1377.

The German Electors were in no hurry to choose a new Emperor. They were only agreed as to who should not be elected,—that is, no member of a powerful family; but it was not so easy to pick out an acceptable candidate from among the many inferior princes. The Church, as usual, decided the question. Peter, of Mayence (who had been a physician and was made Archbishop for curing the Pope), intrigued with Baldwin, Archbishop of Treves, in favor of the latter's brother, Count Henry of Luxemburg. A Diet was held at the "King's Seat," on the hill of Rense, near Coblentz, where the blast of a hunting-horn could be heard in four Electorates at the same time, and Henry was chosen King. He was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 6th of January, 1309, as Henry VII.


His first aim was to restore peace and order to Germany. He was obliged to reëstablish the Rhine-dues, in the interest[Pg 206] of the Archbishops who had supported him, but he endeavored to recompense the cities by granting them other privileges. At a Diet held in Speyer, he released the three Swiss cantons from their allegiance to the house of Hapsburg, gave Austria to the sons of the murdered Albert, and had the bodies of the latter and his rival, Adolf of Nassau, buried in the Cathedral, side by side. Soon afterwards the Bohemians, dissatisfied with Henry of Carinthia (who had become their king after the death of Albert's son, Rudolf), offered the hand of Wenzel II.'s youngest daughter, Elizabeth, to Henry's son, John. Although the latter was only fourteen, and his bride twenty-two years of age, Henry gave his consent to the marriage, and John became king of Bohemia.

In 1310 the new Emperor called a Diet at Frankfort, in order to enforce a universal truce among the German States. He outlawed Count Eberhard of Würtemberg, and took away his power to create disturbance; and then, Germany being quiet, he turned his attention to Italy, which was in a deplorable state of confusion, from the continual wars of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. In Lombardy, noble families had usurped the control of the former republican cities, and governed with greater tyranny than even the Hohenstaufens. Henry's object was to put an end to their civil wars, institute a new order, and—be crowned Roman Emperor. The Pope, Clement V., who was tired of Avignon and suspicious of France, was secretly in favor of the plan, and the German princes openly supported it.

Towards the close of 1310, Henry VII. crossed Mont Cenis with an army of several thousand men, and was welcomed with great pomp in Milan, where he was crowned with the iron crown of Lombardy. The poet Dante hailed him as a saviour of Italy, and all parties formed the most extravagant expectations of the advantage they would derive from his coming. The Emperor seems to have tried to act with entire impartiality, and consequently both parties were disappointed. The Guelphs first rose against him, and instead of peace a new war ensued. He was not able to march to Rome until 1312, and by that time the city was again divided into two hostile parties. With the help of the Colonnas, he gained possession of the southern bank of the Tiber, and was crowned Emperor in the Lateran Church by a Cardinal, since there was no Pope in Rome: the Orsini[Pg 207] family, who were hostile to him, held possession of the other part of the city, including St. Peter's and the Vatican.


There were now indications that all Italy would be convulsed with a repetition of the old struggle. The Guelphs rallied around king Robert of Naples as their head, while king Frederick of Sicily and the Republic of Pisa declared for the Emperor. France and the Pope were about to add new elements to the quarrel, when in August, 1313, Henry VII. died of poison, administered to him by a monk in the sacramental wine,—one of the most atrocious forms of crime which can be imagined. He was a man of many noble personal qualities, and from whom much was hoped, both in Germany and Italy; but his reign was too short for the attainment of any lasting results.

When the Electors came together at Frankfort, in 1314, it was found that their votes were divided between two candidates. Henry VII.'s son, king John of Bohemia, was only seventeen years old, and the friends of his house, not believing that he could be elected, united on Duke Ludwig of Bavaria, a descendant of Otto of Wittelsbach. On the other hand, the friends of the house of Hapsburg, with the combined influence of France and the Pope on their side, proposed Frederick of Austria, the son of the Emperor Albert. There was a division of the Diet, and both candidates were elected; but Ludwig had four of the seven Electors on his side, he reached Aix-la-Chapelle first and was there crowned, and thus he was considered to have the best right to the Imperial dignity.

Ludwig of Bavaria and Frederick of Austria had been bosom-friends until a short time previous; but they were now rivals and deadly enemies. For eight long years a civil war devastated Germany. On Frederick's side were Austria, Hungary, the Palatinate of the Rhine, and the Archbishop of Cologne, with the German nobles, as a class: on Ludwig's side were Bavaria, Bohemia, Thuringia, the cities and the middle class. Frederick's brother, Leopold, in attempting to subjugate the Swiss cantons, the freedom of which had been confirmed by Ludwig, suffered a crushing defeat in the famous battle of Morgarten, fought in 1315. The Austrian force in this battle was 9,000, the Swiss 1,300: the latter lost 15 men, the former 1,500 soldiers and 640 knights. From that day the freedom of the Swiss was secured.[Pg 208]


The Pope, John XXII., declared that he only had the right of deciding between the two rival sovereigns, and used all the means in his power to assist Frederick. The war was prolonged until 1322, when, in a battle fought at Mühldorf, near Salzburg, the struggle was decided. After a combat of ten hours, the Bavarians gave way, and Ludwig narrowly escaped capture; then the Austrians, mistaking a part of the latter's army for the troops of Leopold, which were expected on the field, were themselves surrounded, and Frederick with 1,400 knights taken prisoner. The battle was, in fact, an earlier Waterloo in its character. Ludwig saluted Frederick with the words: "We are glad to see you, Cousin!" and then imprisoned him in a strong castle.

There was now a truce in Germany, but no real peace. Ludwig felt himself strong enough to send some troops to the relief of Duke Visconti of Milan, who was hard pressed by a Neapolitan army in the interest of the Pope. For this act, John XXII. not only excommunicated and cursed him officially, but extended the Papal "Interdict" over Germany. The latter measure was one which formerly occasioned the greatest dismay among the people, but it had now lost much of its power. The "Interdict" prohibited all priestly offices in the lands to which it was applied. The churches were closed, the bells were silent, no honors were paid to the dead, and it was even ordered that the marriage ceremony should be performed in the churchyards. But the German people refused to submit to such an outrage; the few priests who attempted to obey the Pope, were either driven away or compelled to perform their religious duties as usual.

The next event in the struggle was a conspiracy of Leopold of Austria with Charles IV. of France, favored by the Pope, to overthrow Ludwig. But the other German princes who were concerned in it quietly withdrew when the time came for action, and the plot failed. Then Ludwig, tired of his trials, sent his prisoner Frederick to Leopold as a mediator, the former promising to return and give himself up, if he should not succeed. Leopold was implacable, and Frederick kept his word, although the Pope offered to relieve him of his promise, and threatened him with excommunication for not breaking it. Ludwig was generous enough to receive him as a friend, to give him his full liberty and dignity, and even to divide his royal rule privately[Pg 209] with him. The latter arrangement was so unpractical that it was not openly proclaimed, but the good understanding between the two contributed to the peace of Germany. Leopold died in 1326, and Ludwig enjoyed an undisputed authority.


In 1327, the Emperor felt himself strong enough to undertake an expedition to Italy, his object being to relieve Lombardy from the aggressions of Naples, and to be crowned Emperor in Rome in spite of the Pope. In this, he was tolerably successful. He defeated the Guelphs and was crowned in Milan the same year, then marched to Rome, and was crowned Emperor early in 1328, under the auspices of the Colonna family, by two excommunicated Bishops. He presided at an assembly of the Roman people, at which John XXII. was declared a heretic and renegade, and a Franciscan monk elected Pope under the name of Nikolaus V. Ludwig, however, soon became as unpopular as any of his predecessors, and from the same cause—the imposition of heavy taxes upon the people, in order to keep up his imperial state. He remained two years longer in Italy, encountering as much hate as friendship, and was then recalled to Germany by the death of Frederick of Austria.

The Papal excommunication, which the Hohenstaufen Emperors had borne so easily, seems to have weighed sorely upon Ludwig's mind. His nature was weak and vacillating, capable of only a limited amount of endurance. He began to fear that his soul was in peril, and made the most desperate efforts to be reconciled with the Pope. The latter, however, demanded his immediate abdication as a preliminary to any further negotiation, and was supported in this demand by the king of France, who was very ambitious of obtaining the crown of Germany, with the help of the Church. King John of Bohemia acted as a go-between, but he was also secretly pledged to France, and an agreement was nearly concluded, of a character so cowardly and disgraceful to Ludwig that when some hint of it became known, there arose such an angry excitement in Germany that the Emperor did not dare to move further in the matter.


John XXII. died about this time (1334) and was succeeded by Benedict XII., a man of a milder and more conciliatory nature, with whom Ludwig immediately commenced[Pg 210] fresh negotiations. He offered to abdicate, to swear allegiance to the Pope, to undergo any humiliation which the latter might impose upon him. Benedict was quite willing to be reconciled to him on these conditions, but the arrangement was prevented by Philip VI. of France, who hoped, like his father, to acquire the crown of Germany. As soon as this became evident, Ludwig adopted a totally different course. In the summer of 1338 he called a Diet at Frankfort (which was afterwards adjourned to Rense, near Coblentz), and laid the matter before the Bishops, princes and free cities, which were now represented.

The Diet unanimously declared that the Emperor had exhausted all proper means of reconciliation, and the Pope alone was responsible for the continuance of the struggle. The excommunication and interdict were pronounced null and void, and severe punishments were decreed for the priests who should heed them in any way. As it was evident that France had created the difficulty, an alliance was concluded with England, whose king, Edward III., appeared before the Diet at Coblentz, and procured the acknowledgment of his claim to the crown of France. Ludwig, as Emperor, sat upon the Royal Seat at Rense, and all the German princes—with the exception of king John of Bohemia, who had gone over to France—made the solemn declaration that the King and Emperor whom they had elected, or should henceforth elect, derived his dignity and power from God, and did not require the sanction of the Pope. They also bound themselves to defend the rights and liberties of the Empire against any assailant whatever. These were brave words: but we shall presently see how much they were worth.

The alliance with England was made for seven years. Ludwig was to furnish German troops for Edward III.'s army, in return for English gold. For a year he was faithful to the contract, then the old superstitious fear came over him, and he listened to the secret counsels of Philip VI. of France, who offered to mediate with the Pope in his behalf. But, after Ludwig had been induced to break his word with England, Philip, having gained what he wanted, prevented his reconciliation with the Pope. This miserable weakness on the Emperor's part destroyed his authority in Germany. At the same time he was imitating every one of his Imperial predecessors, in trying to strengthen the[Pg 211] power of his family. He gave Brandenburg to his eldest son, Ludwig, married his second son, Henry, to Margaret of Tyrol, whom he arbitrarily divorced from her first husband, a son of John of Bohemia, and claimed the sovereignty of Holland as his wife's inheritance.


Ludwig had now become so unpopular, that when another Pope, Clement VI., in April, 1346, hurled against him a new excommunication, expressed in the most horrible terms, the Archbishops made it a pretext for openly opposing the Emperor's rule. They united with the Pope in selecting Karl, the son of John of Bohemia (who fell by the sword of the Black Prince the same summer, at the famous battle of Crecy), and proclaiming him Emperor in Ludwig's stead. All the cities, and the temporal princes, except those of Bohemia and Saxony, stood faithfully by Ludwig, and Karl could gain no advantage over him. He went to France, then to Italy, and finally betook himself to Bohemia, where he was a rival monarch only in name.

In October, 1347, Ludwig, who was then residing in Munich, his favorite capital, was stricken with apoplexy while hunting, and fell dead from his horse. He was sixty-three years old, and had reigned thirty-three years. In German history, he is always called "Ludwig the Bavarian." During the last ten years of his reign many parts of Germany suffered severely from famine, and a pestilence called "the black death" carried off thousands of persons in every city. These misfortunes probably confirmed him in his superstition, and partly account for his shameful and degrading policy. The only service which his long rule rendered to Germany sprang from the circumstance, that, having been supported by the free cities in his war with Frederick of Austria, he was compelled to protect them against the aggressions of the princes afterwards, and in various ways to increase their rights and privileges. There were now 150 such cities, and from this time forward they constituted a separate power in the Empire. They encouraged learning and literature, favored peace and security of travel for the sake of their commerce, organized and protected the mechanic arts, and thus, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, contributed more to the progress of Germany than all her spiritual and temporal rulers.




  • The Imperial Crown in the Market.
  • —Günther of Schwarzburg.
  • —Karl IV. Emperor.
  • —His Character and Policy.
  • —The University of Prague.
  • —Rienzi Tribune of Rome.
  • —Karl's Course in Italy.
  • —The "Golden Bull."
  • —Its Provisions and Effect.
  • —Coronation in Rome.
  • —The Last Ten Years of his Reign.
  • —His Death.
  • —Eberhard the Greiner.
  • —The "Hansa" and its Victories.
  • —Achievements of the German Order.
  • —Wenzel becomes Emperor.
  • —The Suabian League.
  • —The Battle of Sempach.
  • —Independence of Switzerland.
  • —Defeat of the Suabian Cities.
  • —Wenzel's Rule in Prague.
  • —Conspiracy against him.
  • —Schism in the Roman Church.
  • —Count Rupert Rival Emperor.
  • —Convention of Marbach.
  • —Anarchy in Germany.
  • —Death-Blow to the German Order.
  • —Rupert's Death.

Although the German princes were nearly unanimous in the determination that no member of the house of Wittelsbach (Bavaria) should again be Emperor, they were by no means willing to accept Karl of Bohemia.[B] Ludwig's son, Ludwig of Brandenburg, made no claim to his father's crown, but he united with Saxony, Mayence and the Palatinate of the Rhine, in offering it to Edward III. of England. When the latter declined, they chose Count Ernest of Meissen, who, however, sold his claim to Karl for 10,000 silver marks. Then they took up Günther of Schwarzburg, a gallant and popular prince, who seemed to have a good prospect of success. In this emergency Karl supported the pretensions of an adventurer, known as "the False Waldemar," to Brandenburg, against Ludwig, and thus compelled the latter to treat with him. Soon afterwards Günther of Schwarzburg died, poisoned, it was generally believed, by a physician whom Karl had bribed, and by the end of 1348 the latter was Emperor of Germany, as Karl IV.

[B] Of the House of Luxemburg.

1348. KARL IV.

At this time he was thirty-three years old. He had been educated in France and Italy, and was an accomplished scholar: he both spoke and wrote the Bohemian, German,[Pg 213] French, Italian and Latin languages. He was a thorough diplomatist, resembling in this respect Rudolf of Hapsburg, from whom he differed in his love of pomp and state, and in the care he took to keep himself always well supplied with money, which he well knew how and when to use. He had first purchased the influence of the Pope by promising to disregard the declarations of the Diet of 1338 at Rense, and by relinquishing all claims to Italy. Then he won the free cities to his side by offers of more extended privileges; and the German princes, for form's sake, elected him a second time, thus acknowledging the Papal authority which they had so boldly defied, ten years before.

One of Karl's first acts was to found, in Prague—the city he selected as his capital—the first German University, which he endowed so liberally and organized so thoroughly that in a few years it was attended by six or seven thousand students. For several years afterwards he occupied himself in establishing order throughout Germany, and meanwhile negotiated with the Pope in regard to his coronation as Roman Emperor. In spite of his complete submission to the latter, there were many difficulties to be overcome, arising out of the influence of France over the Papacy, which was still established at Avignon. Karl arrested Rienzi, "the last Tribune of Rome," and kept him for a time imprisoned in Prague; but when the latter was sent back to Rome as Senator by Pope Innocent VI., in 1354, Karl was allowed to commence his Italian journey. He was crowned Roman Emperor on the 5th of April, 1355, by a Cardinal sent from Avignon for that purpose. In compliance with his promise to Pope Innocent, he remained in Rome only a single day.

Instead of attempting to settle the disorders which convulsed Italy, Karl turned his journey to good account by selling all the remaining Imperial rights and privileges to the republics and petty rulers, for hard cash. The poet Petrarch had looked forward to his coming as Dante had to that of his grandfather, Henry VII., but satirized him bitterly when he returned to Bohemia with his money. He left Italy ridiculed and despised, but reached Germany with greatly increased power. His next measure was to call a Diet, for the purpose of permanently settling the relation of the German princes to the Empire, and the forms to be observed in electing an Emperor. All had learned, several centuries too late to be of much service, the necessity of[Pg 214] some established order in these matters, and they came to a final agreement at Metz, on Christmas Day, 1356.


Then was promulgated the decree known as the "Golden Bull," which remained a law in Germany until the Empire came to an end, just 450 years afterwards. It commences with these words: "Every kingdom which is not united within itself will go to ruin: for its princes are the kindred of robbers, wherefore God removes the light of their minds from their office, they become blind leaders of the blind, and their darkened thoughts are the source of many misdeeds." The Golden Bull confirms the former custom of having seven Chief Electors—the Archbishops of Mayence, Treves and Cologne, the first of whom is Arch-Chancellor; the King of Bohemia, Arch-Cupbearer; the Count Palatine of the Rhine, Arch-Steward; the Duke of Saxony, Arch-Marshal, and the Margrave of Brandenburg, Arch-Chamberlain. The last four princes receive full authority over their territories, and there is no appeal, even to the Emperor, from their decisions. Their rule is transmitted to the eldest son; they have the right to coin money, to work mines, and to impose all taxes which formerly belonged to the Empire.

These are its principal features. The claims of the Pope to authority over the Emperor are not mentioned; the position of the other independent princes is left very much as it was, and the cities are prohibited from forming unions without the Imperial consent. The only effect of this so-called "Constitution" was to strengthen immensely the power of the four favored princes, and to encourage all the other rulers to imitate them. It introduced a certain order, and therefore was better than the previous absence of all law upon the subject; but it held the German people in a state of practical serfdom, it perpetuated their division and consequent weakness, and it gave the spirit of the Middle Ages a longer life in Germany than in any other civilized country in the world.

The remaining events of Karl IV.'s life are of no great historical importance. In 1363 his son, Wenzel, only two years old, was crowned at Prague as king of Bohemia, and soon afterwards he was called upon by the Pope, Urban V., who found that his residence in Avignon was becoming more and more a state of captivity, to assist him in returning to Rome. In 1365, therefore, Karl set out with a considerable force, entered Southern France, crowned himself king of Burgundy at Arles—which was a hollow and ridiculous[Pg 215] farce—and in 1368 reached Rome, whither Pope Urban had gone in advance. Here his wife was formally crowned as Roman Empress, and he humiliated himself by walking from the Castle of St. Angelo to St. Peter's, leading the Pope's mule by the bridle,—an act which drew upon him the contempt of the Roman people. He had few or no more privileges to sell, so he met every evidence of hostility with a proclamation of amnesty, and returned to Germany with the intention of violating his own Golden Bull, by having his son Wenzel proclaimed his successor. His departure marks the end of German interference in Italy.


For ten years longer Karl IV. continued to strengthen his family by marriage, by granting to the cities the right of union in return for their support, and by purchasing the influence of such princes as were accessible to bribes. He was so cool and calculating, and pursued his policy with so much patience and skill, that the most of his plans succeeded. His son Wenzel was elected his successor by a Diet held at Frankfort in January, 1376, each of the chief Electors receiving 100,000 florins for his vote, and this choice was confirmed by the Pope. To his second son, Sigismund, he gave Brandenburg, which he had obtained partly by intrigue and partly by purchase, and to his third son, John, the province of Lusatia, adjoining Silesia. His health had been gradually failing, and in November, 1378, he died in Prague, sixty-three years old, leaving the German Empire in a more disorderly state than he had found it. His tastes were always Bohemian rather than German: he preferred Prague to any other residence, and whatever good he intentionally did was conferred on his own immediate subjects. More than a century afterwards, the Emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg very justly said of him: "Karl IV. was a genuine father to Bohemia, but only a step-father to the rest of Germany."

During the latter years of his reign, two very different movements, independent of the Imperial will, or in spite of it, had been started in Southern and Northern Germany. In Würtemberg the cities united, and carried on a fierce war with Count Eberhard, surnamed the Greiner (Whiner). The struggle lasted for more than ten years, and out of it grew various leagues of the knights for the protection of their rights against the more powerful princes. In the North of Germany, the commercial cities, headed by Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen, formed a league, which soon became[Pg 216] celebrated under the name of "The Hansa," which gradually drew the cities of the Rhine to unite with it, and, before the end of the century, developed into a great commercial, naval and military power.


The Hanseatic League had its agencies in every commercial city, from Novgorod in Russia to Lisbon; its vessels filled the Baltic and the North Sea, and almost the entire commerce of Northern Europe was in its hands. When, in 1361, king Waldemar III. of Denmark took possession of the island of Gothland, which the cities had colonized, they fitted out a great fleet, besieged Copenhagen, finally drove Waldemar from his kingdom and forced the Danes to accept their conditions. Shortly afterwards they defeated king Hakon of Norway: their influence over Sweden was already secured, and thus they became an independent political power. Karl IV. visited Lübeck a few years before his death, in the hope of making himself head of the Hanseatic League; but the merchants were as good diplomatists as himself, and he obtained no recognition whatever. Had not the cities been so widely scattered along the coast, and each more or less jealous of the others, they might have laid the foundation of a strong North-German nation; but their bond of union was not firm enough for that.

The German Order, by this time, also possessed an independent realm, the capital of which was established at Marienburg, not far from Dantzic. The distance of the territory it had conquered in Eastern Prussia from the rest of the Empire, and the circumstance that it had also acknowledged itself a dependency of the Papal power, enabled its Grand Masters to say, openly: "If the Empire claims authority over us, we belong to the Pope; if the Pope claims any such authority, we belong to the Emperor." In fact, although the Order had now been established for a hundred and fifty years, it had never been directly assisted by the Imperial power; yet it had changed a great tract of wilderness, inhabited by Slavonic barbarians, into a rich and prosperous land, with fifty-five cities, thousands of villages, and an entire population of more than two millions, mostly German colonists. It adopted a fixed code of laws, maintained order and security throughout its territory, encouraged science and letters, and made the scholar and minstrel as welcome at its stately court in Marienburg, as they had been at that of Frederick II. in Palermo.[Pg 217]


There could be no more remarkable contrast than between the weakness, selfishness and despotic tendencies of the German Emperors and Electors during the fourteenth century, and the strong and orderly development of the Hanseatic League and the German Order in the North, or of the handful of free Swiss in the South.

King Wenzel (Wenczeslas in Bohemian) was only seventeen years old when his father died, but he had been well educated and already possessed some experience in governing. In fact, Karl IV.'s anxiety to secure the succession to the throne in his own family led him to force Wenzel's mind to a premature activity, and thus ruined him for life. He had enjoyed no real childhood and youth, and he soon became hard, cynical, wilful, without morality and even without ambition. In the beginning of his reign, nevertheless, he made an earnest attempt to heal the divisions of the Roman Church, and to establish peace between Count Eberhard the Whiner and the United Cities of Suabia.

In the latter quarrel, Leopold of Austria also took part. He had been appointed Governor of several of the free cities by Wenzel, and he seized the occasion to attempt to restore the authority of the Hapsburgs over the Swiss Cantons. The latter now numbered eight, the three original cantons having been joined by Lucerne, Zurich, Glarus, Zug and Berne. They had been invited to make common cause with the Suabian cities, more than fifty of which were united in the struggle to maintain their rights; but the Swiss, although in sympathy with the cities, declined to march beyond their own territory. Leopold decided to subjugate each, separately. In 1386, with an army of 4,000 Austrian and Suabian knights, he invaded the Cantons. The Swiss collected 1,300 farmers, fishers and herdsmen, armed with halberds and battle-axes, and met Leopold at Sempach, on the 9th of July.

The 4,000 knights dismounted, and advanced in close ranks, presenting a wall of steel, defended by rows of levelled spears, to the Swiss in their leathern jackets. It seemed impossible to break their solid front, or even to reach them with the Swiss weapons. Then Arnold of Winkelried stepped forth and said to his countrymen: "Dear brothers, I will open a road for you: take care of my wife and children!" He gathered together as many spears as he could grasp with both arms, and threw himself[Pg 218] forward upon them: the Swiss sprang into the gap, and the knights began to fall on all sides from their tremendous blows. Many were smothered in the press, trampled under foot in their heavy armor: Duke Leopold and nearly 700 of his followers perished, and the rest were scattered in all directions. It was one of the most astonishing victories in history. Two years afterwards the Swiss were again splendidly victorious at Näfels, and from that time they were an independent nation.


The Suabian cities were so encouraged by these defeats of the party of the nobles, that in 1388 they united in a common war against the Duke of Bavaria, Count Eberhard of Würtemberg and the Count Palatine Rupert. After a short but very fierce and wasting struggle, they were defeated at Döffingen and Worms, deprived of the privileges for which they had fought, and compelled to accept a truce of six years. In 1389, a Diet was held, which prohibited them from forming any further union, and thus completely re-established the power of the reigning princes. Wenzel endeavored to enforce an internal peace throughout the whole Empire, but could not succeed: what was law for the cities was not allowed to be equally law for the princes. It seems probable, from many features of the struggle, that the former designed imitating the Swiss cantons, and founding a Suabian republic, if they had been successful; but the entire governing class of Germany, from the Emperor down to the knightly highwayman, was against them, and they must have been crushed in any case, sooner or later.

For eight or nine years after these events, Wenzel remained in Prague where his reign was distinguished only by an almost insane barbarity. He always had an executioner at his right hand, and whoever refused to submit to his orders was instantly beheaded. He kept a pack of bloodhounds, which were sometimes let loose even upon his own guests: on one occasion his wife, the Empress Elizabeth, was nearly torn to pieces by them. He ordered the confessor of the latter, a priest named John of Nepomuck, to be thrown into the Moldau river for refusing to tell him what the Empress had confessed. By this act he made John of Nepomuck the patron saint of Bohemia. Some one once wrote upon the door of his palace the words: "Venceslaus, alter Nero" (Wenzel, a second Nero); whereupon he wrote the line below: "Si non fui adhuc, ero" (If[Pg 219] I have not been one hitherto, I will be now). When the city of Rothenberg refused to advance him 4,000 florins, he sent this message to the authorities: "The devil began to shear a hog, and spake thus, 'Great cry and little wool'!"


In short, Wenzel was so little of an Emperor and so much of a brutal madman, that a conspiracy, at the head of which were his cousin Jodocus of Moravia, and Duke Albert of Austria, was formed against him. He was taken prisoner and conveyed to Austria, where he was held in close confinement until his brother Sigismund, aided by a Diet of the other German princes, procured his release. In return for this service, and probably, also, to save himself the trouble of governing, he appointed Sigismund Vicar of the Empire. In 1398 he called a Diet at Frankfort, and again endeavored, but without much success, to enforce a general peace. The schism in the Roman Church, which lasted for forty years, the rival popes in Rome and Avignon cursing and making war upon each other, had at this time become a scandal to Christendom, and the Papal authority had sunk so low that the temporal rulers now ventured to interfere. Wenzel went to Rheims, where he had an interview with Charles VI. of France, in order to settle the quarrel. It was agreed that the former should compel Bonifacius IX. in Rome, and the latter Benedict XIII. in Avignon, to abdicate, so that the Church might have an opportunity to unite on a single Pope; but neither monarch succeeded in carrying out the plan.

On the contrary, Bonifacius IX. went secretly to work to depose Wenzel. He gained the support of the four Electors of the Rhine, who, headed by the Archbishop of Mayence, came together in 1400, proclaimed that Wenzel had forfeited his Imperial dignity, and elected the Count Palatine Rupert, a member of the house of Wittelsbach (Bavaria), in his place. The city of Aix-la-Chapelle shut its gates upon the latter, and he was crowned in Cologne. A majority of the smaller German princes, as well as of the free cities, refused to acknowledge him; but, on the other hand, none of them made any movement in Wenzel's favor, and so there were, practically, two separate heads to the Empire.

Rupert imagined that his coronation in Rome would secure his authority in Germany. He therefore collected an army, entered into an alliance with the republic of Florence against Milan, and marched to Italy in 1401.[Pg 220] Near Brescia he met the army of the Lombards, commanded by the Milanese general, Barbiano, and was so signally defeated that he was compelled to return to Germany. In the meantime Wenzel had come to a temporary understanding with Jodocus of Moravia and the Hapsburg Dukes of Austria, and his prospects improved as Rupert's diminished. It was not long, however, before he quarrelled with his brother Sigismund, and was imprisoned by the latter. Then ensued a state of general confusion, the cause of which is easy to understand, but the features of which it is not easy to make clear.


A number of reigning princes and cities held a convention at Marbach in 1405, and formed a temporary union, the object of which was evidently to create a third power in the Empire. Both Rupert and Wenzel at first endeavored to break up this new league, and then, failing in the attempt, both intrigued for its support. The Archbishop of Mayence and the Margrave of Baden, who stood at its head, were secretly allied with France; the smaller princes were ambitious to gain for themselves a power equal to that of the seven Electors, and the cities hoped to recover some of their lost rights. The League of Marbach, as it is called in history, had as little unity or harmony as the Empire itself. All Germany was given up to anarchy, and seemed on the point of falling to pieces: so much had the famous Golden Bull of Karl IV. accomplished in fifty years!

On the eastern shore of the Baltic, also, the march of German civilization received an almost fatal check. The two strongest neighbors of the German Order, the Poles and Lithuanians, were now united under one crown, and they defeated the army of the Order, 60,000 strong, under the walls of Wilna, in 1389. After an unsatisfactory peace of some years, hostilities were again resumed, and both sides prepared for a desperate and final struggle. Each raised an army of more than 100,000 men, among whom, on the Polish side, there were 40,000 Russians and Tartars. The decisive battle was fought at Tannenberg, in July, 1410, and the German Order, after losing 40,000 men, retreated from the field. It was compelled to give up a portion of its territory to Poland, and pay a heavy tribute: from that day its power was broken, and the Slavonic races encroached more and more upon the Germans along the Baltic.


During this same period Holland was rapidly becoming[Pg 221] estranged from the German Empire, and France had obtained possession of the greater part of Flanders. Luxemburg and part of Lorraine were incorporated with Burgundy, which was rising in power and importance, and had become practically independent of Germany. There was now no one to guard the ancient boundaries, and probably nothing but the war between England and France prevented the latter kingdom from greatly increasing her territory at the expense of the Empire.

Although Rupert of the Palatinate acquired but a limited authority in Southern Germany, he is generally classed among the German Emperors, perhaps because Wenzel's power, after the year 1400, was no greater than his own. The confusion and uncertainty in regard to the Imperial dignity lasted until 1410, when Rupert determined to make war upon the Archbishop of Mayence—who had procured his election, and since the League of Marbach was his chief enemy—as the first step towards establishing his authority. In the midst of his preparations he died, on the 18th of May, 1410.




  • Three Emperors in Germany and Three Popes in Rome.
  • —Sigismund sole Emperor.
  • —His Appearance and Character.
  • —Religious Movements in Bohemia.
  • —John Huss and his Doctrines.
  • —Division of the University of Prague.
  • —A Council of the Church called at Constance.
  • —Grand Assembly of all Nations.
  • —Organization of the Council.
  • —Flight and Capture of Pope John XXIII.
  • —Treatment of Huss.
  • —His Trial and Execution.
  • —Jerome of Prague burned.
  • —Religious Revolt in Bohemia.
  • —Frederick of Hohenzollern receives Brandenburg.
  • —The Bohemians rise under Ziska.
  • —Their two Parties.
  • —Ziska's Character.
  • —The Bohemian Demands.
  • —Ziska's Victories.
  • —Negotiations with Lithuania and Poland.
  • —Ziska's Death.
  • —Victories of Procopius.
  • —Hussite Invasions of Germany.
  • —The Fifth "Crusade" against Bohemia.
  • —The Hussites Triumphant.
  • —The Council of Basel.
  • —Peace made with the Hussites.
  • —Their Internal Wars.
  • —Revolt against Sigismund.
  • —His Death.

In 1410, the year of Rupert's death, Europe was edified by the spectacle of three Emperors in Germany, and three Popes of the Church of Rome, all claiming to rule at the same time. The Diet was divided between Sigismund and Jodocus of Moravia, both of whom were declared elected, while Wenzel insisted that he was still Emperor. A Council held at Pisa, about the same time, deposed Pope Gregory XII. in Rome and Pope Benedict XIII. in Avignon, and elected a third, who took the name of Alexander V. But neither of the former obeyed the decrees of the Council: Gregory XII. betook himself to Rimini, Alexander, soon succeeded by John XXIII., reigned in Rome, and the three spiritual rivals began a renewed war of proclamations and curses. In order to obtain money, they sold priestly appointments to the highest bidder, carried on a trade in pardons and indulgences, and brought such disgrace on the priestly office and the Christian name, that the spirit of the so-called "heretical" sects, though trampled down in fire and blood, was kept everywhere alive among the people.[Pg 223]


The political rivalry in Germany did not last long. Jodocus of Moravia, of whom an old historian says: "He was considered a great man, but there was nothing great about him, except his beard," died soon after his partial election, Wenzel was persuaded to give up his opposition, and Sigismund was generally recognized as the sole Emperor. In addition to the Mark of Brandenburg, which he had received from his father, Karl IV., he had obtained the crown of Hungary through his wife, and he claimed also the kingdoms of Bosnia and Dalmatia. He had fought the Turks on the lower Danube, had visited Constantinople, and was already distinguished for his courage and knightly bearing. Unlike his brother Wenzel, who had the black hair and high cheek-bones of a Bohemian, he was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and strikingly handsome. He spoke several languages, was witty in speech, cheerful in demeanor, and popular with all classes, but, unfortunately, both fickle and profligate. Moreover, he was one of the vainest men that ever wore a crown.

Before Sigismund entered upon his reign, the depraved condition of the Roman clergy, resulting from the general demoralization of the Church, had given rise to a new and powerful religious movement in Bohemia. As early as 1360, independent preachers had arisen among the people there, advocating the pure truths of the Gospel, and exhorting their hearers to turn their backs on the pride and luxury which prevailed, to live simply and righteously, and do good to their fellow-men. Although persecuted by the priests, they found many followers, and their example soon began to be more widely felt, especially as Wickliffe, in England, was preaching a similar doctrine at the same time. The latter's translation of the Bible was finished in 1383, and portions of it, together with his other writings in favor of a Reformation of the Christian Church, were carried to Prague soon afterwards.

The great leader of the movement in Bohemia was John Huss, who was born in 1369, studied at the University of Prague, became a teacher there, and at the same time a defender of Wickliffe's doctrines, in 1398, and four years afterwards, in spite of the fierce opposition of the clergy, was made Rector of the University. With him was associated Jerome (Hieronymus), a young Bohemian nobleman, who had studied at Oxford, and was also inspired by Wickliffe's[Pg 224] writings. The learning and lofty personal character of both gave them an influence in Prague, which gradually extended over all Bohemia. Huss preached with the greatest earnestness and eloquence against the Roman doctrine of absolution, the worship of saints and images, the Papal trade in offices and indulgences, and the idea of a purgatory from which souls could be freed by masses celebrated on their behalf. He advocated a return to the simplicity of the early Christian Church, especially in the use of the sacrament (communion). The Popes had changed the form of administering the sacrament, giving only bread to the laymen, while the priests partook of both bread and wine: Huss, and the sect which took his name, demanded that it should be administered to all "in both forms." Thus the cup or sacramental chalice, became the symbol of the latter, in the struggle which followed.


The first consequence of the preaching of Huss was a division between the Bohemians and Germans, in the University of Prague. The Germans took the part of Rome, but the Bohemians secured the support of king Wenzel through his queen, who was a follower of Huss, and maintained their ascendency. Thereupon the German professors and students, numbering 5,000, left Prague in a body, in 1409, and migrated to Leipzig, where they founded a new University. These matters were reported to the Roman Pope, who immediately excommunicated Huss and his followers. Soon afterwards, the Pope (John XXIII.), desiring to subdue the king of Naples, offered pardons and indulgences for crimes to all who would take up arms on his side. Huss and Jerome preached against this as an abomination, and the latter publicly burned the Pope's bull in the streets of Prague. The conflict now became so fierce that Wenzel banished both from the city, many of Huss's friends among the clergy fell away from him, and he offered to submit his doctrines to a general Council of the Church.

Such a Council, in fact, was then demanded by all Christendom. The intelligent classes in all countries felt that the demoralization caused by the corruption of the clergy and the scandalous quarrels of three rival Popes could no longer be endured. The Council at Pisa, in 1409, had only made matters worse by adding another Pope to the two at Rome and Avignon; for, although it claimed the highest spiritual authority on earth, it was not obeyed. The Chancellor[Pg 225] of the University of Paris called upon the Emperor Sigismund to move in favor of a new Council; all the Christian powers of Europe promised their support, and finally one of the Popes, John XXIII., being driven from Rome, was persuaded to agree, so that a grand Œcumenical Council, with authority over the Papacy, was summoned to meet in the city of Constance, in the autumn of the year 1414.


It was one of the most imposing assemblies ever held in Europe. Pope John XXIII. personally appeared, accompanied by 600 Italians; the other two Popes sent ambassadors to represent their interests. The patriarchs of Jerusalem, Constantinople and Aquileia, the Grand-Masters of the knightly Orders, thirty-three Cardinals, twenty Archbishops, two hundred Bishops and many thousand priests and monks, were present. Then came the Emperor Sigismund, the representatives of all Christian powers, including the Byzantine Emperor, and even an envoy from the Turkish Sultan, with sixteen hundred princes and their followers. The entire concourse of strangers at Constance was computed at 150,000, and thirty different languages were heard at the same time. A writer of the day thus describes the characteristics of the four principal races: "The Germans are impetuous, but have much endurance, the French are boastful and arrogant, the English prompt and sagacious, and the Italians subtle and intriguing." Gamblers, mountebanks and dramatic performers were also on hand; great tournaments, races and banquets were constantly held; yet, although the Council lasted four years, there was no disturbance of the public order, no increase in the cost of living, and no epidemic diseases in the crowded camps.

The professed objects of the Council were: a reformation of the Church, its reorganization under a single head, and the suppression of heresy. The members were divided into four "Nations"—the German, including the Bohemians, Hungarians, Poles, Russians and Greeks; the French, including Normans, Spaniards and Portuguese; the English, including Irish, Scotch, Danes, Norwegians and Swedes; and the Italian, embracing all the different States from the Alps to Sicily. Each of these nations held its own separate convention, and cast a single vote, so that no measure could be carried, unless three of the four nations were in favor of it. Germany and England advocated the reformation of the Church, as the first and most important question;[Pg 226] France and Italy cared only to have the quarrel of the Popes settled, and finally persuaded England to join them. Thus the reformation was postponed, and that was practically the end of it.


As soon as it became evident that all three of the Popes would be deposed by the Council, John XXIII. fled from Constance in disguise, with the assistance of the Hapsburg Duke, Frederick of Austria. Both were captured; the Pope, whose immorality had already made him infamous, was imprisoned at Heidelberg, and Frederick was declared to have forfeited his lands. Although Austria was afterwards restored to him, all the Hapsburg territory lying between Zurich, the Rhine and the Lake of Constance was given to Switzerland, and has remained Swiss ever since. A second Pope, Gregory XII., now voluntarily abdicated, but the third, Benedict XIII., refused to follow the example, and maintained a sort of Papal authority in Spain until his death. The Council elected a member of the family of Colonna, in Rome, who took the name of Martin V. He was no sooner chosen and installed in his office than, without awaiting the decrees of the Council, he began to conclude separate "Concordats" (agreements) with the princes. Thus the chief object of the Council was already thwarted, and the four nations took up the question of suppressing heresy.

Huss, to whom the Emperor had sent a safe-conduct for the journey to and from Constance, and who was escorted by three Bohemian knights, was favorably received by the people, on the way. He reached Constance in November, 1414, and was soon afterwards—before any examination—arrested and thrown into a dungeon so foul that he became seriously ill. Sigismund insisted that he should be released, but the cardinals and bishops were so embittered against him that they defied the Emperor's authority. All that the latter could (or did) do for him, was to procure for him a trial, which began on the 7th of June, 1415. But instead of a trial, it was a savage farce. He was accused of the absurdest doctrines, among others of asserting that there were four Gods, and every time he attempted to speak in his own defence, his voice was drowned by the outcries of the bishops and priests. He offered to renounce any doctrine he had taught, if it were proved contrary to the Gospel of Christ; but this proposition was received with derision. He was[Pg 227] simply offered the choice between instantly denying all that he held as truth or being burned at the stake as a heretic.


On the 6th of July, the Council assembled in the Cathedral of Constance. After mass had been celebrated, Huss, who had steadfastly refused to recant, was led before the congregation of priests and princes, and clothed as a priest, to make his condemnation more solemn. A bishop read the charges against him, but every attempt he made to speak was forcibly silenced. Once, however, he raised his voice and demanded the fair hearing which had been promised, and to obtain which he had accepted the Emperor's protection,—fixing his eyes sternly upon Sigismund, who could not help blushing with shame. The sacramental cup was then placed in Huss's hands, and immediately snatched from him with the words: "Thou accursed Judas! we take from thee this cup, wherein the blood of Christ is offered up for the forgiveness of sins!" to which Huss replied: "I trust that to-day I shall drink of this cup in the Kingdom of God." Each article of his priestly dress was stripped from him with a new curse, and when, finally, all had been removed, his soul was solemnly commended to the Devil; whereupon he exclaimed: "And I commend it to my Lord Jesus Christ."

Huss was publicly burned to death the same day. On arriving at the stake he knelt and prayed so fervently, that the common people began to doubt whether he really was a heretic. Being again offered a chance to retract, he declared in a loud voice that he would seal by his death the truth of all he had taught. After the torch had been applied to the pile, he was heard to cry out, three times, from the midst of the flames: "Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy upon me!" Then his voice failed, and in a short time nothing was left of the body of the immortal martyr, except a handful of ashes which were thrown into the Rhine.

Huss's friend, Jerome, who came to Constance on the express promise of the Council that he should not be imprisoned before a fair hearing, was thrown into a dungeon as soon as he arrived, and so broken down by sickness and cruelty that in September, 1415, he promised to give up his doctrines. But he soon recovered from this weakness, declared anew the truth of all he had taught, and defended himself before the Council in a speech of remarkable[Pg 228] power and eloquence. He was condemned, and burned at the stake on the 30th of May, 1416.


The fate of Huss and Jerome created an instant and fierce excitement among the Bohemians. An address, defending them against the charge of heresy and protesting against the injustice and barbarity of the Council, was signed by four or five hundred nobles, and forwarded to Constance. The only result was that the Council decreed that no safe-conduct could be allowed to protect a heretic, that the University of Prague must be recognized, and the strongest measures applied to suppress the Hussite doctrines in Bohemia. This was a defiance which the Bohemians courageously accepted. Men of all classes united in proclaiming that the doctrines of Huss should be freely taught and that no Interdict of the Church should be enforced: the University, and even Wenzel's queen, Sophia, favored this movement, which soon became so powerful that all priests who refused to administer the sacrament "in both forms" were driven from their churches.

The Council sat at Constance until May, 1418, when it was dissolved by Pope Martin V. without having accomplished anything whatever tending to a permanent reformation of the Church. The only political event of importance during this time was a business transaction of Sigismund's, the results of which, reaching to our day, have decided the fate of Germany. In 1411, the Emperor was in great need of ready money, and borrowed 100,000 florins of Frederick of Hohenzollern, the Burgrave (Burggraf, "Count of the Castle") of Nuremberg, a direct descendant of the Hohenzollern who had helped Rudolf of Hapsburg to the Imperial crown. Sigismund gave his creditor a mortgage on the territory of Brandenburg, which had fallen into a state of great disorder. Frederick at once removed thither, and, in his own private interests, undertook to govern the country. He showed so much ability, and was so successful in quelling the robber-knights and establishing order, that in 1415 Sigismund offered to sell him the sovereignty of Brandenburg (which made him, at the same time, an Elector of the Empire), for the additional sum of 300,000 gold florins. Frederick accepted the terms, and settled permanently in the little State which afterwards became the nucleus of the kingdom of Prussia, of which his own lineal descendants are now the rulers.[Pg 229]


When the Council of Constance was dissolved, Sigismund hastened to Hungary to carry on a new war with the Turks, who were already extending their conquests along the Danube. The Hussites in Bohemia employed this opportunity to organize themselves for resistance; 40,000 of them, in July, 1419, assembled on a mountain to which they gave the name of "Tabor," and chose as their leader a nobleman who was surnamed Ziska, "the one-eyed." The excitement soon rose to such a pitch that several monasteries were stormed and plundered. King Wenzel arrested some of the ringleaders, but this only inflamed the spirit of the people. They formed a procession in Prague, marched through the city, carrying the sacramental cup at their head, and took forcible possession of several churches. When they halted before the city-hall, to demand the release of their imprisoned brethren, stones were thrown at them from the windows, whereupon they broke into the building and hurled the Burgomaster and six other officials upon the upheld spears of those below. The news of this event so excited Wenzel that he was stricken with apoplexy, and died two weeks afterwards.

The Hussites were already divided into two parties, one moderate in its demands, called the "Calixtines," from the Latin calix, a chalice, which was their symbol, the other radical and fanatic, called the "Taborites," who proclaimed their separation from the Church of Rome and a new system of brotherly equality through which they expected to establish the Millennium upon earth. The exigencies of their situation obliged these two parties to unite in common defence against the forces of the Church and the Empire, during the sixteen years of war which followed; but they always remained separated in their religious views, and mutually intolerant. Ziska, who called himself "John Ziska of the Chalice, commander in the hope of God of the Taborites," had been a friend and was an ardent follower of Huss. He was an old man, bald-headed, short, broad-shouldered, with a deep furrow across his brow, an enormous aquiline nose, and a short red moustache. In his genius for military operations, he ranks among the great commanders of the world: his quickness, energy and inventive talent were marvellous, but at the same time he knew neither tolerance nor mercy.


Ziska's first policy was to arm the Bohemians. He introduced[Pg 230] among them the "thunder-guns"—small field-pieces, which had been first used at the battle of Agincourt, between England and France, three years before; he shod the farmers' flails with iron, and taught them to crack helmets and armor with iron maces; and he invented a system of constructing temporary fortresses by binding strong wagons together with iron chains. Sigismund does not seem to have been aware of the formidable character of the movement until the end of his war with the Turks, some months afterwards, and he then persuaded the Pope to summon all Christendom to a crusade against Bohemia. During the year 1420 a force of 100,000 soldiers was collected, and Sigismund marched at their head to Prague. The Hussites met him with the demand for the acceptance of the following articles: 1.—The word of God to be freely preached; 2.—The sacrament to be administered in both forms; 3.—The clergy to possess no property or temporal authority; 4.—All sins to be punished by the proper authorities. Sigismund was ready to accept these articles as the price of their submission, but the Papal Legate forbade the agreement, and war followed.

On the 1st of November, 1420, the "Crusaders" were totally defeated by Ziska, and all Bohemia was soon relieved of their presence. The dispute between the moderates and the radicals broke out again; the idea of a community of property began to prevail among the Taborites, and most of the Bohemian nobles refused to act with them. Ziska left Prague with his troops and for a time devoted himself to the task of suppressing all opposition through the country with fire and sword. He burned no less than 550 convents and monasteries, slaying the priests and monks who refused to accept the new doctrines; but he proceeded with equal severity against a new sect called the Adamites, who were endeavoring to restore Paradise by living without clothes. While besieging the town of Raby, an arrow destroyed his remaining eye, yet he continued to plan battles and sieges as before. The very name of the blind warrior became a terror throughout Germany.

In September, 1421, a second Crusade of 200,000 men, commanded by five German Electors, entered Bohemia from the west. It had been planned that the Emperor Sigismund, assisted by Duke Albert of Austria, to whom he had given his daughter in marriage, and who was now also supported[Pg 231] by many of the Bohemian nobles, should invade the country from the east at exactly the same time. The Hussites were thus to be crushed between the upper and the nether millstones. But the blind Ziska, nothing daunted, led his wagons, his flail-men and mace-wielders against the Electors, whose troops began to fly before them. No battle was fought; the 200,000 Crusaders were scattered in all directions, and lost heavily during their retreat. Then Ziska wheeled about and marched against Sigismund, who was late in making his appearance. The two armies met on the 8th of January, 1422, and the Hussite victory was so complete that the Emperor narrowly escaped falling into their hands. It is hardly to be wondered that they should consider themselves to be the chosen people of God, after such astonishing successes.


At this juncture, Prince Witold of Lithuania, supported by king Jagello of Poland, offered to accept the four articles of the Hussites, provided they would give him the crown of Bohemia. The Moderates were all in his favor, and even Ziska left the Taborites when, true to their republican principles, they refused to accept Witold's proposition. The separation between the two parties of the Hussites was now complete. Witold sent his nephew Koribut, who swore to maintain the four articles, and was installed at Prague, as "Vicegerent of Bohemia." Thereupon Sigismund made such representations to king Jagello of Poland, that Koribut was soon recalled by his uncle. About the same time a third Crusade was arranged, and Frederick of Brandenburg (the Hohenzollern) selected to command it, but the plan failed from lack of support. The dissensions among the Hussites became fiercer than ever; Ziska was at one time on the point of attacking Prague, but the leaders of the moderate party succeeded in coming to an understanding with him, and he entered the city in triumph. In October, 1424, while marching against Duke Albert of Austria, who had invaded Moravia, he fell a victim to the plague. Even after death he continued to terrify the German soldiers, who believed that his skin had been made into a drum, and still called the Hussites to battle.


A majority of the Taborites elected a priest, called Procopius the Great, as their commander in Ziska's stead; the others, who thenceforth styled themselves "Orphans," united under another priest, Procopius the Little. The approach[Pg 232] of another Imperial army, in 1426, compelled them to forget their differences, and the result was a splendid victory over their enemies. Procopius the Great then invaded Austria and Silesia, which he laid waste without mercy. The Pope called a fourth Crusade, which met the same fate as the former ones: the united armies of the Archbishop of Treves, the Elector Frederick of Brandenburg and the Duke of Saxony, 200,000 strong, were utterly defeated, and fled in disorder, leaving an enormous quantity of stores and munitions of war in the hands of the Bohemians.

Procopius, who was almost the equal of Ziska as a military leader, made several unsuccessful attempts to unite the Hussites in one religious body. In order to prevent their dissensions from becoming dangerous to the common cause, he kept the soldiers of all sects under his command, and undertook fierce invasions into Bavaria, Saxony and Brandenburg, which made the Hussite name a terror to all Germany. During these expeditions one hundred towns were destroyed, more than fifteen hundred villages burned, tens of thousands of the inhabitants slain, and such quantities of plunder collected that it was impossible to transport the whole of it to Bohemia. Frederick of Brandenburg and several other princes were compelled to pay heavy tributes to the Hussites: the Empire was thoroughly humiliated, the people weary of slaughter, yet the Pope refused even to call a Council for the discussion of the difficulty.

As for the Emperor Sigismund, he had grown tired of the quarrel, long before. Leaving the other German States to fight Bohemia, he withdrew to Hungary and for some years found enough to do in repelling the inroads of the Turks. It was not until the beginning of the year 1431, when there was peace along the Danube, that he took any measures for putting an end to the Hussite war. Pope Martin V. was dead, and his successor, Eugene IV., reluctantly consented to call a Council to meet at Basel. First, however, he insisted on a fifth Crusade, which was proclaimed for the complete extermination of the Hussites. The German princes made a last and desperate effort: an army of 130,000 men, 40,000 of whom were cavalry, was brought together, under the command of Frederick of Brandenburg, while Albert of Austria was to support it by invading Bohemia from the south.[Pg 233]


Procopius and his dauntless Hussites met the Crusaders on the 14th of August, 1431, at a place called Thauss, and won another of their marvellous victories. The Imperial army was literally cut to pieces: 8,000 wagons, filled with provisions and munitions of war, and 150 cannons, were left upon the field. The Hussites marched northward to the Baltic, and eastward into Hungary, burning, slaying and plundering as they went. Even the Pope now yielded, and the Hussites were invited to attend the Council at Basel, with the most solemn stipulations in regard to personal safety and a fair discussion of their demands. Sigismund, in the meantime, had gone to Italy and been crowned Emperor in Rome, on condition of showing himself publicly as a personal servant of the Pope. He spent nearly two years in Italy, leading an idle and immoral life, and went back to Germany when his money was exhausted.

In 1433, finally, three hundred Hussites, headed by Procopius, appeared in Basel. They demanded nothing more than the acceptance of the four articles upon which they had united in 1420; but after seven weeks of talk, during which the Council agreed upon nothing and promised nothing, they marched away, after stating that any further negotiation must be carried on in Prague. This course compelled the Council to act; an embassy was appointed, which proceeded to Prague, and on the 30th of November, the same year, concluded a treaty with the Hussites. The four demands were granted, but each with a condition attached which gave the Church a chance to regain its lost power. For this reason, the Taborites and "Orphans" refused to accept the compact; the moderate party united with the nobles and undertook to suppress the former by force. A fierce internal war followed, but it was of short duration. In 1434, the Taborites were defeated, their fortified mountain taken, Procopius the Great and the Little were both slain, and the members of the sect dispersed. The Bohemian Reformation was never again dangerous to the Church of Rome.


The Emperor Sigismund, after proclaiming a general amnesty, entered Prague in 1436. He made some attempt to restore order and prosperity to the devastated country, but his measures in favor of the Church provoked a conspiracy against him, in which his second wife, the Empress Barbara, was implicated. Being warned by his son-in-law, Duke[Pg 234] Albert of Austria, he left Prague for Hungary. On reaching Znaim, the capital of Moravia, he felt the approach of death, whereupon, after naming Albert his successor, he had himself clothed in his Imperial robes and seated in a chair, so that, after a worthless life, he was able to die in great state, on the 9th of December, 1437. With him expired the Luxemburg dynasty, after having weakened, distracted, humiliated and almost ruined Germany for exactly ninety years.




  • Albert of Austria Chosen Emperor.
  • —His Short Reign.
  • —Frederick III. succeeds.
  • —His Character.
  • —The Council of Basel.
  • —The French Mercenaries and the Swiss.
  • —The Suabian Cities.
  • —George Podiebrad in Bohemia and John Hunyádi in Hungary.
  • —Condition of the German Empire.
  • —Losses of the German Order.
  • —Rise of Burgundy.
  • —Charles the Bold and his Plans.
  • —The Battles of Grandson and Morat.
  • —Death of Charles the Bold.
  • —Marriage of Maximilian of Hapsburg and Mary of Burgundy.
  • —Frederick III.'s Troubles.
  • —Aid of the Suabian Cities.
  • —Maximilian's Humiliation.
  • —Frederick's Death.
  • —The Fall of the Eastern Empire.
  • —Gutenberg's Invention of Printing.

The German Electors seemed to be acting contrary to their usual policy, when, on the 18th of March, 1438, they unanimously voted for Albert of Austria, who became Emperor as Albert II. With him commences the Hapsburg dynasty, which kept sole possession of the Imperial office until Francis II. gave up the title of Emperor of Germany, in 1806. Albert II. was Duke of Austria, and, as the heir of Sigismund, he was also king of Hungary and Bohemia; consequently the power of his house was much greater than that of any other German prince; but the Electors were influenced by the consideration that his territories lay mostly outside of Germany proper, that they were in a condition which would demand all his time and energy, and therefore the other States and principalities would probably be left to themselves, as they had been under Sigismund. Nothing is more evident in the history of Germany, from first to last, than the opposition of the ruling princes to any close political union of a national character, but it was seldom so selfishly and shamelessly manifested as in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.


The events of Albert II.'s short reign are not important. He appears to have been a man of strong character, honest[Pg 236] and well-meaning, but a new war with the Turks called him to Hungary soon after his accession to the throne, and he was obliged to leave the interests of the Empire in the hands of his Chancellor, Schlick, a man who shared his views but could not exercise the same authority over the princes. Before anything could be accomplished, Albert died in Hungary, in October, 1439, in the forty-second year of his age. He left one son, Ladislas, an infant, born a few days after his death.

The Electors again met, and in February, 1440, unanimously chose Albert's cousin, Frederick of Styria and Carinthia, who, after waiting three months before he could make up his mind, finally accepted, and was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle as Frederick III. His indolence, eccentricity and pedantic stiffness seemed to promise just such a wooden figure-head as the princes required: it is difficult to imagine any other reason for the selection. He was more than a servant, he was almost an abject slave of the Papal power, and his secretary, Æneas Sylvius (who afterwards became Pope as Pius II.), ruled him wholly in the interest of the Church of Rome, at a time when a majority of the German princes, and even many of the Bishops, were endeavoring to effect a reformation.

The Council at Basel had not adjourned after concluding the Compact of Prague with the Hussites. The desire for a correction of the abuses which had so weakened the spiritual authority of the Church was strong enough to compel the members to discuss plans of reform. Their course was so distasteful to the Pope, Eugene IV., that he threatened to excommunicate the Council, which, in return, deposed him and elected Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, who took the name of Pope Felix V. The prospect of a new schism disturbed the Christian world; many of the reigning princes refused to support Eugene unless he would grant entire freedom to the Church in Germany, and he would have probably been obliged to yield, but for the help extended to him by Frederick III., under the influence of Æneas Sylvius. The latter, who was no less unscrupulous than cunning, succeeded in destroying the work of reform in its very beginning. By the Concordat of Vienna, in 1448, Frederick neutralized the action of the Council and restored the Papal authority in its most despotic form. Felix V. was forced to abdicate, and the Council of Basel—which[Pg 237] had meanwhile adjourned to Lausanne—was finally dissolved, after a session of seventeen years.


In his political course, during this time, Frederick III. was equally infamous, but less successful. After making a temporary arrangement with Hungary and Bohemia, he determined to reconquer the former Hapsburg possessions from the Swiss. A quarrel between Zurich and the other Cantons seemed to favor his plan; but, not being able to obtain any troops in Germany, he applied to Charles VII. of France for 5,000 of the latter's mercenaries. As Charles, with the help of Joan D'Arc, the Maid of Orleans, had just victoriously concluded his war with England, he had plenty of men to spare; so, instead of 5,000, he sent 30,000, under the command of the Dauphin. This force marched into Switzerland, and was met, on the 26th of August, 1444, at St. Jacob, near Basel, by an army of 1600 devoted Swiss, every man of whom fell, after a battle which lasted ten hours. The French were so crippled and discouraged that they turned back and for months afterwards laid waste Baden and Alsatia; so that only German territory suffered by this transaction.

The Suabian cities, inspired by the heroic attitude of the Swiss, now made another attempt to protect themselves against the encroachment of the reigning princes upon their ancient rights. For two years a fierce war was waged between them and the latter, who were headed by the Hohenzollern Count, Albert Achilles of Brandenburg. The struggle came to an end in 1450, and so greatly to the disadvantage of the cities that the people of Schaffhausen annexed themselves and their territory to Switzerland. The following year, as there was a temporary peace, Frederick III. undertook a journey to Italy, with an escort of 3,000 men. His object was to be crowned Emperor at Rome, and the Pope could not refuse the request of such an obedient servant, especially after the latter had kissed his foot and appeared publicly as his groom. He was the last German Emperor who amused the Roman people by playing such a part. During the year he spent in Italy he avoided Milan, and made no attempt to claim, or even to sell, any of the former Imperial rights.


Disturbances in Hungary and Bohemia hastened his return to Germany. Both countries demanded that he should give up the boy Ladislas, son of Albert II., whom he still[Pg 238] kept with him. In Bohemia George Podiebrad, a Hussite nobleman, was at the head of the government; in Hungary the ruler was John Hunyádi (often called Hunniades by English historians), one of the most heroic and illustrious characters in Hungarian annals. The Emperor was compelled to give up Austria at once to Ladislas, who, at the age of sixteen, was also chosen king of Hungary and Bohemia. But he died soon afterwards, in 1457, and then Matthias Corvinus, the son of Hunyádi, was elected king by the Hungarians, and George Podiebrad by the Bohemians. Even Austria, which Frederick attempted to retain, passed partly into the hands of his brother Albert. The German princes looked on well-pleased, and saw the power of the Hapsburg house diminished; only its old ally, the house of Hohenzollern, still exhibited an active friendship for Frederick III.

The condition of the Empire, at this time, was most deplorable. While France, England and Spain were increasing their power by better political organization, Germany was weakened by an almost unbroken series of internal wars. The 340 independent Dukes, Bishops, Counts, Abbots, Barons and Cities, fought or made peace, leagued themselves together or separated, just as they pleased. So wanton became the spirit of destruction that Albert Achilles of Brandenburg openly declared: "Conflagration is the ornament of war,"—and the people described one of his campaigns by saying: "They can read at night, in Franconia." Frederick III. called a number of National Diets, but as he never attended any, the smaller rulers soon followed his example. Although the Turks began to ravage the borders of Styria and Carinthia, and carried away thousands of the inhabitants as slaves, he spent his time in Austria, quarrelling with his brother Albert, and intriguing alternately with the Hungarians and the Bohemians, in the attempt to secure for himself the crowns worn by Matthias Corvinus and George Podiebrad.

Along the Baltic shore the growth of the German element was checked, and almost destroyed. After its crushing defeat at Tannenberg, the German Order not only lost its power, but its liberal and intelligent character. It began to impose heavy taxes on the cities, and to rule with greater harshness the population under its sway. The result was a combined revolt of the cities and the country nobility, who[Pg 239] compelled the Order to grant them a constitution, guaranteeing the rights for which they contended. They purchased Frederick III.'s consent to this measure for 54,000 gold florins. Soon afterwards, however, the Order paid the Emperor 80,000 gold florins to withdraw his consent. Then the cities and nobles, exasperated at this treachery, rose again, and called the Poles to their help. The Order appealed to the Empire, but received no assistance: it was defeated and its territory overrun; West-Prussia was annexed to Poland, which held it for three centuries afterwards, and East-Prussia, detached completely from the Empire, was left as a little German island, surrounded by Slavonic races. The responsibility for this serious loss to Germany, as well as for the internal anarchy and barbarity which prevailed, rests directly upon the Electors, who selected Frederick III. precisely because they knew his character, and who never attempted to depose him during his long and miserable reign of fifty-three years.


Germany was also seriously threatened on the west, not by France, but by the sudden growth of a new power which was equally dangerous to France. This was the Duchy of Burgundy, which in the course of a hundred years had grown to the dimensions of a kingdom, and was now strong enough to throw off the dependency of the territories it embraced, to France on the one side, and to the German Empire on the other. The foundation of its growth was laid in 1363, when king John of France made his fourth son, called Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and the latter, by marrying the Countess Margaret of Flanders, extended his territory to the mouth of the Rhine. He died in 1404, and was succeeded by his grandson, Philip the Good, who extended the sway of Burgundy, by purchase, inheritance, or force of arms, over all Belgium and Holland, so that it then reached from the Rhine to the North Sea. His court was one of the most splendid in Europe, and during his reign of sixty-three years Flanders became the rival of Italy in wealth, architecture and the fine arts.

Philip the Good died in 1467, and was succeeded by his son, Charles the Bold, a man whose boldness was his only virtue. He was rash, vindictive, and almost insanely ambitious; and the only purpose of his life seems to have been to extend his territory to the Alps and the Mediterranean, to gain possession of Lorraine and Alsatia, and thus to found[Pg 240] a kingdom of Burgundy, almost corresponding to that given to Lothar by the Treaty of Verdun, in 843. (See Chapter XII.) He first acquired additional territory in Belgium, then took a mortgage on all the possessions of the Hapsburgs in Alsatia and Baden by making a loan to Sigismund of Tyrol. Frederick III. not only permitted these transactions, but met Charles at Treves in 1473 to arrange a marriage between the latter's only daughter, Mary of Burgundy, and his own son, Maximilian. During the visit, which lasted two months, Charles the Bold displayed so much pomp and splendor that the Emperor, unable to make an equal show, finally left without saying good-bye. The interests of Germany did not move him, but when his personal vanity was touched, he was capable of action.


For a short time, Frederick exhibited a little energy and intelligence. In order to secure the alliance of the Swiss, who were equally threatened by the designs of Charles the Bold, he concluded a Perpetual Peace with them, relinquishing forever the claims of the house of Hapsburg to authority over any part of their territory. The cities of Alsatia and Baden advanced money to Sigismund of Tyrol to pay his debt, and when Charles the Bold nevertheless refused to give up Alsatia and part of Lorraine, which he had seized in the meantime, war was declared against him. Louis XI. of France, equally jealous of Burgundy, favored the movement, but took no active part in it. Although Charles was driven out of Alsatia, and failed to take the city of Neuss after a siege of ten months, he succeeded in negotiating a peace, by offering a truce of nine years to Louis XI. and promising his daughter's hand to Frederick's son, Maximilian. In this treaty the Emperor, who had persuaded Switzerland and Lorraine to become his allies, infamously gave them up to Charles the Bold's revenge.

The latter instantly seized the whole of Lorraine, transferred his capital from Brussels to Nancy, and, considering his future kingdom secured, prepared first to punish the Swiss. He collected a magnificent army of 50,000 men, crossed the Jura, and appeared before the town of Grandson, on the Lake of Neufchatel. The place surrendered, on condition that the citizens should be allowed to leave unharmed; but Charles seized them, hanged a number and threw the rest into the lake. By this time the Swiss army, numbering 18,000, appeared before Grandson. Before[Pg 241] beginning the battle, they fell upon their knees and prayed fervently; whereupon Charles cried out: "See, they are begging for mercy, but not one of them shall escape!" For several hours the fight raged fiercely; then the horns of the mountaineers—the "bulls of Uri and the cows of Unterwalden," as the Swiss called them—were heard in the distance, as they hastened to join their brethren. A panic seized the Burgundians, and after a short and desperate struggle they fled, leaving all their camp equipage, 420 cannon, and such enormous treasures in the hands of the Swiss that the soldiers divided the money by hatfuls.


This grand victory occurred on the 3d of May, 1476. Charles made every effort to retrieve his fortunes: he called fresh troops into the field, reorganized his army, and on the 22d of June again met the Swiss near the little town and lake of Morat. The battle fought there resulted in a more crushing defeat than that of Grandson: 15,000 Burgundians were left dead upon the field. The aid which the Swiss had begged the German Empire to give them had not been granted, but it was not needed. Charles the Bold seems to have become partially insane after this overthrow of his ambitious plans. He refused the proffered mediation of Frederick III. and the Pope, and endeavored to resume the war. In the meantime Duke René of Lorraine had recovered his land, and when Charles marched to retake Nancy, the Swiss allied themselves with the former. A final battle was fought before the walls of Nancy, in January, 1477. After the defeat and flight of the Burgundians, the body of Charles was found on the field, so covered with blood and mud as scarcely to be recognized.

Up to this time, the German Empire had always claimed that its jurisdiction extended over Switzerland, but henceforth no effort was ever made to enforce it. The little communities of free people, who had defied and humiliated Austria, and now, within a few months, crushed the splendid and haughty house of Burgundy, were left alone, an eye-sore to the neighboring princes, but a hope to their people. The Hapsburg dynasty, nevertheless, profited by the fall of Charles the Bold. Mary of Burgundy gave her hand to Maximilian, in 1477, and he established his court in Flanders. He was both handsome and intellectually endowed, and was reputed to be the most accomplished knight of his day. Louis XI. of France attempted to gain possession of those[Pg 242] provinces of Burgundy which had French population, but was signally defeated by Maximilian in 1479. Three years afterwards, however, when Mary of Burgundy was killed by a fall from her horse, the cities of Bruges and Ghent, instigated by France, claimed the guardianship of her two children, Philip and Margaret, the latter of whom was sent to Paris to be educated as the bride of the Dauphin. A war ensued which lasted until 1485, when Maximilian was reluctantly accepted as Regent of Flanders.


While these events were taking place, Frederick III. was involved in a quarrel with Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, who easily succeeded in driving him from Vienna, and then from Austria. Still the German princes looked carelessly on, and the weak old Emperor wandered from one to the other, everywhere received as an unwelcome guest. In 1486 he called a Diet at Frankfort, and endeavored, but in vain, to procure a union of the forces of the Empire against Hungary. All that was accomplished was Maximilian's election as King of Germany. Immediately after being crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle, he made a formal demand on Matthias Corvinus for the surrender of Austria. Before any further steps could be taken, he was recalled to Flanders by a new rebellion, which lasted for three years.

Frederick III., deserted on all sides, and seeing the Hapsburg possessions along the frontiers of Austria and Tyrol threatened by Bavaria, finally appealed to the Suabian cities for help. He succeeded in establishing a new Suabian League, which was composed of twenty-two free cities, the Count of Würtemberg and a number of independent nobles. A force was raised, with which he first marched to the relief of Maximilian, who had been taken and imprisoned at Bruges and was threatened with death. The undertaking was successful: Maximilian was released, and in 1489 his authority was established over all the Netherlands.

The next step was to rescue Austria from the Hungarians. An interview between Frederick III. and Matthias Corvinus was arranged, but before it could take place the latter died, in April, 1490. Maximilian, with the troops of the Suabian League, retook Vienna, and even advanced into Hungary, the crown of which country he claimed for himself, but was forced to conclude peace at Presburg, the following year, without obtaining it. Austria, however, was completely restored to the house of Hapsburg.[Pg 243]


Before the year 1491 came to an end, Maximilian suffered a new humiliation. The last Duke of Brittany (in Western France) had died, leaving, like Charles the Bold of Burgundy, a single daughter, Anna, as his only heir. Maximilian, who had been a widower since 1482, applied for her hand, which she promised to him: the marriage ceremony was even performed by proxy. But Charles VIII. of France, although betrothed to Maximilian's young daughter, Margaret, now fourteen years old, saw in this new alliance a great danger for his kingdom; so he prevented Anna from leaving Brittany, married her himself, and sent Margaret home to Austria. Maximilian entered into an alliance with Henry VII. of England, secured the support of the Suabian League, and made war upon France. The Netherlands, nevertheless, refused to aid him; whereupon Henry VII. withdrew from the alliance, and the matter was settled by a treaty of peace in 1493, which left the duchy of Burgundy in the hands of France.

Frederick III. had already given up the government of Germany (that is, what little he exercised) to his son. He settled at Linz and devoted his days to religion and alchemy. He had a habit of thrusting back his right foot and closing the doors behind him with it; but one day, kicking out too violently, he so injured his leg that the physicians were obliged to amputate it. This accident hastened his death, which took place in August, 1493. He was seventy-eight years old, and had reigned fifty-three years, wretchedly enough—but of this fact he was not aware. He evidently considered himself a great and successful monarch. All his books were stamped with the vowels, A. E. I. O. U.—which was a mystery to every one, until the meaning was discovered after his death. The letters are the initials of the words, Alles Erdreich Ist Oesterreich Unterthan, "All Earth is subject to Austria"!

Two events occurred during Frederick's reign, one of which illustrated the declining power of the Roman Church, while the other, unnoticed in the confusion of civil war, was destined to be the chief weapon for the overthrow of the priestly power. The first of these was the fall of the Eastern Empire, when Sultan Mohammed II. conquered Constantinople in 1453. Although this catastrophe had been long foreseen, the news of it nevertheless created a powerful excitement throughout Europe. One-fourth of the zeal[Pg 244] expended on any one of the Crusades would have saved Turkey to Christendom: the German Empire, alone, could have easily repelled the Ottoman invasion; but each petty ruler thought only of himself, and the Popes were solely interested in preventing the Reformation of the Church. The latter, now—especially Pius II. (Æneas Sylvius)—were very eager for a new Crusade for the recovery of Constantinople: there was much talk, but no action, and finally even the talk ceased.


The other event was a simple invention, which is chiefly remarkable for not having been made long before. The great use of cards for gambling first led to the employment of wooden blocks, upon which the figures were cut and then printed in colors. Wood-engraving, of a rude kind, gradually came into use, and as early as the year 1420 Lawrence Coster, of Harlem, in Holland, produced entire books, each page of which was engraved upon a single block. But John Gutenberg, of Mayence, about the year 1436, originated the plan of casting movable types and setting them together to form words. His chief difficulty was in discovering a proper metal of which to cast them, and a kind of ink which would give a clear impression. Paper made of linen had already been in use, in Germany, for about a hundred and thirty years.

Gutenberg was poor, and therefore took a man named Fust, who had considerable means, as his partner. They completed the first printing-press in 1440, but several more years elapsed before the invention achieved any result. There was a quarrel between the two; Gutenberg withdrew, and Fust took his own assistant, Peter Schoeffer, as partner in the former's place. Schoeffer discovered the right combination of metal for the types, as well as an excellent ink. In 1457 appeared the first printed book, a Latin psalter; in 1461 the Latin Bible, and two years afterwards a German Bible. These Bibles are masterpieces of the printer's art: they were sold at from thirty to sixty gold florins a copy, which was just one-tenth the cost of a written Bible at that time. The art was at first kept a profound secret, and the people supposed that the books were produced by magic, as they were multiplied so rapidly and sold so cheaply; but when Mayence was taken by Adolf of Nassau, in 1462, during one of the civil wars, the invention became known to the world, and printing-presses were soon established in Holland, Italy and England.[Pg 245]


The clergy, and especially the monks, would have suppressed the art, if they had been able. It took away from the latter the profitable business of copying manuscript works, and it placed within the reach of the people the knowledge, of which the former had preserved the monopoly. By the simple invention of movable types, the darkness of centuries began to recede from the world: the life of the Middle Ages grew faint and feeble, and a mighty, irresistible change swept over the minds and habits of men. But the rulers of that day, great or little, were the last persons to suspect that any such change was at hand.




  • Maximilian I. as Man and Emperor.
  • —The Diet of 1495, at Worms.
  • —The Perpetual Peace declared.
  • —The Imperial Court.
  • —Marriage of Philip of Hapsburg to Joanna of Spain.
  • —War with Switzerland.
  • —March to Italy.
  • —League against Venice.
  • —The "Holy League" against France.
  • —The Diet of 1512.
  • —The Empire divided into Ten Districts.
  • —Revolts of the Peasants.
  • —The "Bond-Shoe" and "Poor Konrad."
  • —Change in Military Service.
  • —Character of Maximilian's Reign.
  • —The Cities of Germany.
  • —Their Wealth and Architecture.
  • —The Order of the "Holy Vehm."
  • —Other Changes under Maximilian.
  • —Last Years of his Reign.
  • —His Death.

As Maximilian had been elected in 1486, he began to exercise the full Imperial power, without any further formalities, after his father's death. For the first time since the death of Henry VII. in 1313, the Germans had a popular Emperor. They were at last weary of the prevailing disorder and insecurity, and partly conscious that the power of the Empire had declined, while that of France, Spain, and even Poland, had greatly increased. Therefore they brought themselves to submit to the authority of an Emperor who was in every respect stronger than any of the Electors by whom he had been chosen.

Maximilian had all the qualities of a great ruler, except prudence and foresight. He was tall, finely-formed, with remarkably handsome features, clear blue eyes, and blonde hair falling in ringlets upon his shoulders; he possessed great muscular strength, his body was developed by constant exercise, and he was one of the boldest, bravest and most skilful knights of his day. While his bearing was stately and dignified, his habits were simple: he often marched on foot, carrying his lance, at the head of his troops, and was able to forge his armor and temper his sword, as well as wear them. Yet he was also well-educated, possessed a taste[Pg 247] for literature and the arts, and became something of a poet in his later years. Unlike his avaricious predecessors, he was generous even to prodigality; but, inheriting his father's eccentricity of character, he was whimsical, liable to act from impulse instead of reflection, headstrong and impatient. If he had been as wise as he was honest and well-meaning, he might have regenerated Germany.


The commencement of his reign was signalized by two threatening events. The Turks were renewing their invasions, and boldly advancing into Carinthia, between Vienna and the Adriatic; Charles VIII. of France had made himself master of Naples, and was apparently bent on conquering and annexing all of Italy. Maximilian had just married Blanca Maria Sforza, niece of the reigning Duke of Milan, which city, with others in Lombardy, and even the Pope—forgetting their old enmity to the German Empire—demanded his assistance. He called a Diet, which met at Worms in 1495; but many of the princes, both spiritual and temporal, had learned a little wisdom, and they were unwilling to interfere in matters outside of the Empire until something had been done to remedy its internal condition. Berthold, Archbishop of Mayence, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, John Cicero of Brandenburg, and Eberhard of the Beard, first Duke of Würtemberg, with many of the free cities, insisted so strongly on the restoration of order, security, and the establishment of laws which should guarantee peace, that the Emperor was forced to comply. For fourteen weeks the question was discussed with the greatest earnestness: the opposition of many princes and nearly the whole class of nobles was overcome, and a Perpetual National Peace was proclaimed. By this measure, the right to use force was prohibited to all; the feuds which had desolated the land for a thousand years were ordered to be suppressed; and all disputes were referred to an Imperial Court, permanently established at Frankfort, and composed of sixteen Councillors. It was also agreed that the Diet should meet annually, and remain in session for one month, in order to insure the uninterrupted enforcement of its decrees. A proposition to appoint an Imperial Council of State (equivalent to a modern "Ministry"), of twenty members, which should have power, in certain cases, to act in the Emperor's name, was rejected by Maximilian, as an assault upon his personal rights.[Pg 248]


Although the decree of Perpetual Peace could not be carried into effect immediately, it was not a dead letter, as all former decrees of the kind had been. Maximilian bound himself, in the most solemn manner, to respect the new arrangements, and there were now several honest and intelligent princes to assist him. One difficulty was the collection of a government tax, called "the common penny," to support the expenses of the Imperial Court. Such a tax had been for the first time imposed during the war with the Hussites, but very little of it was then paid. Even now, when the object of it was of such importance to the whole people, several years elapsed before the Court could be permanently established. The annual sessions of the Diet, also, were much less effective than had been anticipated: princes, priests and cities were so accustomed to a selfish independence, that they could not yet work together for the general good.

Before the Diet at Worms adjourned, it agreed to furnish the Emperor with 9,000 men, to be employed in Italy against the French, and afterwards against the Turks on the Austrian frontier. Charles VIII. retreated from Italy on hearing of this measure, yet not rapidly enough to avoid being defeated, near Parma, by the combined Germans and Milanese. In 1496 Sigismund of Tyrol died, and all the Hapsburg lands came into Maximilian's possession. The same year, he married his son Philip, then eighteen years old and accepted as Regent by the Netherlands, to Joanna, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile. The other heirs to the Spanish throne died soon afterwards, and when Isabella followed them, in 1504, she appointed Philip and Joanna her successors. The pride and influence of the house of Hapsburg were greatly increased by this marriage, but its consequences were most disastrous to Germany, for Philip's son was Charles V.

The next years of Maximilian's reign were disturbed, and, on the whole, unfortunate for the Empire. An attempt to apply the decrees of the Diet of Worms to Switzerland brought on a war, which, after occasioning the destruction of 2,000 villages and castles, and the loss of 20,000 lives, resulted in the Emperor formally acknowledging the independence of Switzerland in a treaty concluded at Basel in 1499. Then Louis XII. of France captured Milan, interfered secretly in a war concerning the succession, which[Pg 249] broke out in Bavaria, and bribed various German princes to act in his interest, when Maximilian called upon the Diet to assist him in making war upon France. After having with much difficulty obtained 12,000 men, the Emperor marched to Italy, intending to replace the Sforza family in Milan and then be crowned by Pope Julius II. in Rome. But the Venetians stopped him at the outset of the expedition, and he was forced to return ingloriously to Germany.


Maximilian's next step was another example of his want of judgment in political matters. In order to revenge himself upon Venice, he gave up his hostility to France, and in 1508 became a party to the League of Cambray, uniting with France, Spain and the Pope in a determined effort to destroy the Venetian Republic. The war, which was bloody and barbarous, even for those times, lasted three years. Venice lost, at the outset, Trieste, Verona, Padua and the Romagna, and seemed on the verge of ruin, when Maximilian suddenly left Italy with his army, offended, it was said, at the refusal of the French knights, to fight side by side with his German troops. The Venetians then recovered so much of their lost ground that they purchased the alliance of the Pope, and finally of Spain. A new alliance, called "the Holy League," was formed against France; and Maximilian, after continuing to support Louis XII. a while longer, finally united with Henry VII. of England in joining it. But Louis XII., who was a far better diplomatist than any of his enemies, succeeded, after he had suffered many inevitable losses, in dissolving this powerful combination. He married the sister of Henry of England, yielded Navarre and Naples to Spain, promised money to the Swiss, and held out to Maximilian the prospect of a marriage which would give Milan to the Hapsburgs.

Thus the greater part of Europe was for years convulsed with war chiefly because instead of a prudent and intelligent national power in Germany, there was an unsteady and excitable family leader, whose first interest was the advantage of his house. After such sacrifices of blood and treasure, such disturbance to the development of industry, art and knowledge among the people, the same confusion prevailed as before.


Before the war came to an end, another general Diet met at Cologne, in 1512, to complete the organization commenced in 1495. Private feuds and acts of retaliation had[Pg 250] not yet been suppressed, and the Imperial Council was working under great disadvantages, both from the want of money and the difficulty of enforcing obedience to its decisions. The Emperor demanded the creation of a permanent military force, which should be at the service of the Empire; but this was almost unanimously refused. In other respects, the Diet showed itself both willing and earnest to complete the work of peace and order. The whole Empire was divided into ten Districts, each of which was placed under the jurisdiction of a Judicial Chief and Board of Councillors, whose duty it was to see that the decrees of the Diet and the judgments of the Imperial Court were obeyed.

The Districts were as follows: 1.—The Austrian, embracing all the lands governed by the Hapsburgs, from the Danube to the Adriatic, with the Tyrol, and some territory on the Upper Rhine: Bohemia, Silesia and Hungary were not included. 2.—The Bavarian, comprising the divisions on both sides of the Danube, and the bishopric of Salzburg. 3.—The Suabian, made up of no less than 90 spiritual and temporal principalities, including Würtemberg, Baden, Hohenzollern, and the bishoprics of Augsburg and Constance. 4.—The Franconian, embracing the Brandenburg possessions, Ansbach and Baireuth, with Nuremberg and the bishoprics of Bamberg, Würzburg, &c. 5.—The Upper-Rhenish, comprising the Palatinate, Hesse, Nassau, the bishoprics of Basel, Strasburg, Speyer, Worms, &c., the free cities of the Rhine as far as Frankfort, and a number of petty States. 6.—The Electoral-Rhenish, with the Archbishoprics of the Palatinate, Mayence, Treves, Cologne, and the principality of Amberg. 7.—The Burgundian, made up of 21 States, four of them dukedoms and eight countships. 8.—The Westphalian, with the dukedoms of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, Oldenburg, part of Friesland, and 7 bishoprics. 9.—The Lower Saxon, embracing the dukedoms of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Saxe-Lauenburg, Holstein and Mecklenburg, the Archbishoprics of Magdeburg and Lübeck, the free cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, and a number of smaller States. 10.—The Upper Saxon, including the Electorates of Saxony and Brandenburg, the dukedom of Pomerania, the smaller States of Anhalt, Schwarzburg, Mansfeld, Reuss, and many others of less importance.


This division of Germany into districts had the external[Pg 251] appearance of an orderly political arrangement; but the States, great and little, had been too long accustomed to having their own way. The fact that an independent baron, like Franz von Sickingen, could still disturb a large extent of territory for a number of years, shows the weakness of the new national power. Moreover, nothing seems to have been done, or even attempted, by the Diet, to protect the agricultural population from the absolute despotism of the landed nobility. In Alsatia, as early as 1493, there was a general revolt of the peasants (called by them the Bond-shoe), which was not suppressed until much blood had been shed. It excited a spirit of resistance throughout all Southern Germany. In 1514, Duke Ulric of Würtemberg undertook to replenish his treasury by using false weights and measures, and provoked the common people to rise against him. They formed a society, to which they gave the name of "Poor Konrad," which became so threatening that, although it was finally crushed by violence, it compelled the reform of many flagrant evils and showed even the most arrogant rulers that there were bounds to tyranny.

But, although the feudal system was still in force, the obligation to render military service, formerly belonging to it, was nearly at an end. The use of cannon, and of a rude kind of musket, had become general in war: heavy armor for man and horse was becoming not only useless, but dangerous; and the courage of the soldier, not his bodily strength or his knightly accomplishments, constituted his value in the field. The Swiss had set the example of furnishing good troops to whoever would pay for them, and a similar class, calling themselves Landsknechte (Servants of the Country), arose in Germany. The robber-knights, by this time, were nearly extinct: when Frederick of Hohenzollern began to use artillery against their castles, it was evident that their days of plunder were over. The reign of Maximilian, therefore, marks an important turning-point in German history. It is, at the same time, the end of the stormy and struggling life of the Middle Ages, and the beginning of a new and fiercer struggle between men and their oppressors. Maximilian, in fact, is called in Germany "the Last of the Knights."


The strength of Germany lay chiefly in the cities, which, in spite of their narrow policy towards the country, and their jealousy of each other, had at least kept alive and encouraged[Pg 252] all forms of art and industry, and created a class of learned men outside of the Church. While the knighthood of the Hohenstaufen period had sunk into corruption and semi-barbarism, and the people had grown more dangerous through their ignorance and subjection, the cities had gradually become centres of wealth and intelligence. They were adorned with splendid works of architecture; they supported the early poets, painters and sculptors; and, when compelled to act in concert against the usurpations of the Emperor or the inferior rulers, whatever privileges they maintained or received were in favor of the middle-class, and therefore an indirect gain to the whole people.

The cities, moreover, exercised an influence over the country population by their markets, fairs, and festivals. The most of them were as largely and as handsomely built as at present, but in times of peace the life within their walls was much gayer and more brilliant. Pope Pius II., when he was secretary to Frederick III. as Æneas Sylvius, wrote of them as follows: "One may veritably say that no people in Europe live in cleaner or more cheerful cities than the Germans; their appearance is as new as if they had only been built yesterday. By their commerce they amass great wealth: there is no banquet at which they do not drink from silver cups, no dame who does not wear golden ornaments. Moreover, the citizens are also soldiers, and each one has a sort of arsenal in his own house. The boys in this country can ride before they can talk, and sit firmly in the saddle when the horses are at full speed: the men move in their armor without feeling its weight. Verily, you Germans might be masters of the world, as formerly, but for your multitude of rulers, which every wise man has always considered an evil!"

During the fifteenth century a remarkable institution, called "the Vehm"—or, by the people, "the Holy Vehm"—exercised a great authority throughout Northern Germany. Its members claimed that it was founded by Charlemagne, to assist in establishing Christianity among the Saxons; but it is not mentioned before the twelfth century, and the probability is that it sprang up from the effort of the people to preserve their old democratic organization, in a secret form, after it had been overthrown by the reigning princes. The object of the Vehm was to enforce impartial justice among all classes, and for this purpose it held[Pg 253] open courts for the settlement of quarrels and minor offences, while graver crimes were tried at night, in places known only to the members. The latter were sworn to secrecy, and also to implicit obedience to the judgments of the courts or the orders of the chiefs, who were called "Free Counts." The head-quarters of the Vehm were in Westphalia, but its branches spread over a great part of Germany, and it became so powerful during the reign of Frederick III. that it even dared to cite him to appear before its tribunal.


In all probability the dread of the power of the Vehm was one of the causes which induced both Maximilian and the princes to reorganize the Empire. In proportion as order and justice began to prevail in Germany, the need of such a secret institution grew less; but about another century elapsed before its courts ceased to be held. After that, it continued to exist in Westphalia as an order for mutual assistance, something like that of the Freemasons. In this form it lingered until 1838, when the last "Free Count" died.

Among the other changes introduced during Maximilian's reign were the establishment of a police system, and the invention of a postal system by Franz of Taxis. The latter obtained a monopoly of the post routes throughout Germany, and his family, which afterwards became that of Thurn and Taxis, received an enormous revenue from this source, from that time down to the present day. Maximilian himself devoted a great deal of time and study to the improvement of artillery, and many new forms of cannon, which were designed by him, are still preserved in Vienna.

Although the people of Germany did not share to any great extent in the passion for travel and adventure which followed the discovery of America in 1492 and the circumnavigation of Africa in 1498, they were directly affected by the changes which took place in the commerce of the world. The supremacy of Venice in the South and of the Hanseatic League in the North of Europe, began slowly to decline, while the powers which undertook to colonize the new lands—England, Spain and Portugal—rose in commercial importance.


The last years of Maximilian promised new splendors to the house of Hapsburg. In 1515 his younger grandson, Ferdinand, married the daughter of Ladislas, king of Bohemia and Hungary, whose only son died shortly afterwards,[Pg 254] leaving Ferdinand heir to the double crown. In 1516, the Emperor's elder grandson, Karl, became king of Spain, Sicily and Naples, in addition to Burgundy and Flanders, which he held as the great-grandson of Charles the Bold. At a Diet held at Augsburg, in 1518, Maximilian made great exertions to have Karl elected his successor, but failed on account of the opposition of Pope Leo X. and Francis I. of France, whose agents were present with heavy bribes in their pockets.

Disappointed and depressed, the Emperor left Augsburg, and went to Innsbruck, but the latter city refused to entertain him until some money which he had borrowed of it should be refunded. His strength had been failing for years before, and he always travelled with a coffin among his baggage. He now felt his end approaching, took up his abode in the little town of Wels, and devoted his remaining days to religious exercises. There he died, on the 11th of January, 1519, in the sixtieth year of his age.




  • Martin Luther.
  • —Signs of the Coming Reformation.
  • —Luther's Youth and Education.
  • —His Study of the Bible.
  • —His Professorship at Wittenberg.
  • —Visit to Rome.
  • —Tetzel's Sale of Indulgences.
  • —Luther's Theses.
  • —His Meeting with Cardinal Cajetanus.
  • —Escape from Augsburg.
  • —Meeting with the Pope's Nuncio.
  • —Excitement in Germany.
  • —Luther burns the Pope's Bull.
  • —Charles V. elected German Emperor.
  • —Luther before the Diet at Worms.
  • —His Abduction and Concealment.
  • —He Returns to Wittenberg.
  • —Progress of the Reformation.
  • —The Anabaptists.
  • —The Peasants' War.
  • —Luther's Manner of Translating the Bible.
  • —Leagues For and Against the Reformation.
  • —Its Features.
  • —The Wars of Charles V.
  • —Diet at Speyer.
  • —The Protestants.
  • —The Swiss Reformer, Zwingli.
  • —His Meeting with Luther.
  • —Charles V. returns to Germany.
  • —The Augsburg Confession.
  • —Measures against the Protestants.
  • —The League of Schmalkalden.
  • —The Religious Peace of Nuremberg.
  • —Its Consequences.
  • —John of Leyden.
  • —Another Diet.
  • —Charles V. Invades France.
  • —The Council of Trent.
  • —Luther's last Years.
  • —His Death and Burial.

When the Emperor Maximilian died, a greater man than himself or any of his predecessors on the Imperial throne had already begun a far greater work than was ever accomplished by any political ruler. Out of the ranks of the poor, oppressed German people arose the chosen Leader who became powerful above all princes, who resisted the first monarch of the world, and defeated the Church of Rome after an undisturbed reign of a thousand years. We must therefore leave the succession of the house of Hapsburg until we have traced the life of Martin Luther up to the time of Maximilian's death.

The Reformation, which was now so near at hand, already existed in the feelings and hopes of a large class of the people. The persecutions of the Albigenses in France, the Waldenses in Savoy and the Wickliffites in England, the burning of Huss and Jerome, and the long ravages of the Hussite war had made all Europe familiar with the leading doctrine of each of these sects—that the Bible was the highest authority, the only source of Christian truth. Earnest,[Pg 256] thinking men in all countries were thus led to examine the Bible for themselves, and the great dissemination of the study of the ancient languages, during the fifteenth century, helped very much to increase the knowledge of the sacred volume. Then came the art of printing, as a most providential aid, making the truth accessible to all who were able to read it.


The long reign of Frederick III., as we have seen, was a period of political disorganization, which was partially corrected during the reign of Maximilian. Internal peace was the first great necessity of Germany, and, until it had been established, the people patiently endured the oppressions and abuses of the Church of Rome. When they were ready for a serious resistance to the latter, the man was also ready to instruct and guide them, and the Church itself furnished the occasion for a general revolt against its authority.

Martin Luther, the son of a poor miner, was born in the little Saxon town of Eisleben (not far from the Hartz), on the 10th of November, 1483. He attended a monkish school at Magdeburg, and then became what is called a "wandering-scholar"—that is, one who has no certain means of support, but chants in the church, and also in the streets for alms—at Eisenach, in Thuringia. As a boy he was so earnest, studious and obedient, and gave such intellectual promise, that his parents stinted themselves in order to save enough from their scanty earnings to secure him a good education. But their circumstances gradually improved, and in 1501 they were able to send him to the University of Erfurt. Four years afterwards he was graduated with honor, and delivered a course of lectures upon Aristotle.

Luther's father desired that he should study jurisprudence, but his thoughts were already turned towards religion. A copy of the Bible in the library of the University excited in him such a spiritual struggle that he became seriously ill; and he had barely recovered, when, while taking a walk with a fellow-student, the latter was struck dead by lightning at his side. Then he determined to renounce the world, and in spite of the strong opposition of his father, became a monk of the Augustine Order, in Erfurt. He prayed, fasted, and followed the most rigid discipline of the order, in the hope of obtaining peace of mind, but in vain: he was tormented by doubt and even by despair, until he turned again to the Bible. A zealous study of the exact language of the Gospels gave him not only a firm faith, but[Pg 257] a peace and cheerfulness which was never afterwards disturbed by trials or dangers.


The Elector, Frederick the Wise, of Saxony, had founded a new University at Wittenberg, and sought to obtain competent professors for it. The Vicar-General of the Augustine Order, to whom Luther's zeal and ability were known, recommended him for one of the places, and in 1508 he began to lecture in Wittenberg, first on Greek philosophy, and then upon theology. His success was so marked that in 1510 he was sent by the Order on a special mission to Rome, where the corruptions of the Church and the immorality of the Pope and Cardinals made a profound and lasting impression upon his mind. He returned to Germany, feeling as he never had felt before, the necessity of a reformation of the Church. In 1512 he was made Doctor of Theology, and from that time forward his teachings, which were based upon his own knowledge of the Bible, began to bear abundant fruit.

In the year 1517, the Pope, Leo X., famous both for his luxurious habits and his love of art, found that his income was not sufficient for his expenses, and determined to increase it by issuing a series of absolutions for all forms of crime, even perjury, bigamy and murder. The cost of pardon was graduated according to the nature of the sin. Albert, Archbishop of Mayence, bought the right of selling absolutions in Germany, and appointed as his agent a Dominican monk of the name of Tetzel. The latter began travelling through the country like a pedlar, publicly offering for sale the pardon of the Roman Church for all varieties of crime. In some places he did an excellent business, since many evil men also purchased pardons in advance for the crimes they intended to commit: in other districts Tetzel only stirred up the abhorrence of the people, and increased their burning desire to have such enormities suppressed.

Only one man, however, dared to come out openly and condemn the Papal trade in sin and crime. This was Dr. Martin Luther, who, on the 31st of October, 1517, nailed upon the door of the Church at Wittenberg a series of ninety-five theses, or theological declarations, the truth of which he offered to prove, against all adversaries. The substance of them was that the pardon of sins came only from God, and could only be purchased by true repentance; that to offer absolutions for sale, as Tetzel was doing, was an unchristian[Pg 258] act, contrary to the genuine doctrines of the Church; and that it could not, therefore, have been sanctioned by the Pope. Luther's object, at this time, was not to separate from the Church of Rome, but to reform and purify it.


The ninety-five theses, which were written in Latin, were immediately translated, printed, and circulated throughout Germany. They were followed by replies, in which the action of the Pope was defended; Luther was styled a heretic, and threatened with the fate of Huss. He defended himself in pamphlets, which were eagerly read by the people; and his followers increased so rapidly that Leo X., who had summoned him to Rome for trial, finally agreed that he should present himself before the Papal Legate, Cardinal Cajetanus, at Augsburg. The latter simply demanded that Luther should retract what he had preached and written, as being contrary to the Papal bulls; whereupon Luther, for the first time, was compelled to declare that "the command of the Pope can only be respected as the voice of God, when it is not in conflict with the Holy Scriptures." The Cardinal afterwards said: "I will have nothing more to do with that German beast, with the deep eyes and the whimsical speculations in his head!" and Luther said of him: "He knew no more about the Word than a donkey knows of harp-playing."

The Vicar-General of the Augustines was still Luther's friend, and, fearing that he was not safe in Augsburg, he had him let out of the city at daybreak, through a small door in the wall, and then supplied with a horse. Having reached Wittenberg, where he was surrounded with devoted followers, Frederick the Wise was next ordered to give him up. About the same time Leo X. declared that the practices assailed by Luther were doctrines of the Church, and must be accepted as such. Frederick began to waver; but the young Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and other distinguished men connected with the University exerted their influence, and the Elector finally refused the demand. The Emperor Maximilian, now near his end, sent a letter to the Pope, begging him to arrange the difficulty, and Leo X. commissioned his Nuncio, a Saxon nobleman named Karl von Miltitz, to meet Luther. The meeting took place at Altenburg in 1519: the Nuncio, who afterwards reported that he "would not undertake to remove Luther from Germany with the help of 10,000 soldiers, for he had found ten[Pg 259] men for him where one was for the Pope"—was a mild and conciliatory man. He prayed Luther to pause, for he was destroying the peace of the Church, and succeeded, by his persuasions, in inducing him to promise to keep silence, provided his antagonists remained silent also.


This was merely a truce, and it was soon broken. Dr. Eck, one of the partisans of the Church, challenged Luther's friend and follower, Carlstadt, to a public discussion in Leipzig, and it was not long before Luther himself was compelled to take part in it. He declared his views with more clearness than ever, disregarding the outcry raised against him that he was in fellowship with the Bohemian heretics. The struggle, by this time, had affected all Germany, the middle class and smaller nobles being mostly on Luther's side, while the priests and reigning princes, with a few exceptions, were against him. In order to defend himself from misrepresentation and justify his course, he published two pamphlets, one called "An Appeal to the Emperor and Christian Nobles of Germany," and the other, "Concerning the Babylonian Captivity of the Church." These were read by tens of thousands, all over the country.

Pope Leo X. immediately issued a bull, ordering all Luther's writings to be burned, excommunicating those who should believe in them, and summoning Luther to Rome. This only increased the popular excitement in Luther's favor, and on the 10th of December, 1520, he took the step which made impossible any reconciliation between himself and the Papal power. Accompanied by the Professors and students of the University, he had a fire kindled outside of one of the gates of Wittenberg, placed therein the books of canonical law and various writings in defence of the Pope, and then cast the Papal bull into the flames, with the words: "As thou hast tormented the Lord and His Saints, so may eternal flame torment and consume thee!" This was the boldest declaration of war ever hurled at such an overwhelming authority; but the courage of this one man soon communicated itself to the people. The knight, Ulric von Hutten, a distinguished scholar, who had been crowned as poet by the Emperor Maximilian, openly declared for Luther: the rebellious baron, Franz von Sickingen, offered him his castle as a safe place of refuge. Frederick the Wise was now his steadfast friend, and, although the dangers which beset him increased every day, his own faith[Pg 260] in the righteousness of his cause only became firmer and purer.


By this time the question of electing a successor to Maximilian had been settled. When the Diet came together at Frankfort, in June, 1519, two prominent candidates presented themselves,—king Francis I. of France, and king Charles of Spain, Naples, Sicily and the Spanish possessions in the newly-discovered America. The former of these had no other right to the crown than could be purchased by the wagon-loads of money which he sent to Germany; the latter was the grandson of Maximilian, and also represented, in his own person, Austria, Burgundy and the Netherlands. Again the old jealousy of so much power arose among the Electors, and they gave their votes to Frederick the Wise, of Saxony. He, however, shrank from the burden of the imperial rule, at such a time, and declined to accept. Then Charles of Spain, who had ruined the prospects of Francis I. by distributing 850,000 gold florins among the members of the Diet, was elected without any further difficulty. The following year he was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle, and became Karl V. in the list of German Emperors. Although he reigned thirty-six years, he always remained a foreigner: he never even learned to speak the German language fluently: his tastes and habits were Spanish, and his election, at such a crisis in the history of Germany, was a crime from the effects of which the country did not recover for three hundred years afterwards.

Luther wrote to the new Emperor, immediately after the election, begging that he might not be condemned unheard, and was so earnestly supported by Frederick the Wise, who had voted for Charles at the Diet, that the latter sent Luther a formal invitation to appear before him at Worms, where a new Diet had been called, specially to arrange the Imperial Court in the ten districts of the Empire, and to raise a military force to drive the French out of Lombardy, which Francis I. had seized. Luther considered this opportunity "a call from God:" he set out from Wittenberg, and wherever he passed the people flocked together in great numbers to see him and hear him speak. On approaching Worms, one of his friends tried to persuade him to turn back, but he answered: "Though there were as many devils in the city as tiles on the roofs, yet would I go!" He entered Worms in an open wagon, in his monk's dress, stared at by[Pg 261] an immense concourse of people. The same evening he received visits from a number of princes and noblemen.


On the 17th of April, 1521, Luther was conducted by the Marshal of the Empire to the City Hall, where the Diet was in session. As he was passing through the outer hall, the famous knight and general, George von Frundsberg, clapped him upon the shoulder, with the words: "Monk, monk! thou art in a strait, the like of which myself and many leaders, in the most desperate battles, have never known. But if thy thoughts are just, and thou art sure of thy cause, go on in God's name, and be of good cheer, He will not forsake thee!" Charles V. is reported to have said, when Luther entered the great hall: "That monk will never make a heretic of me!" After having acknowledged all his writings, Luther was called upon to retract them. He appeared to be somewhat embarrassed and undecided, either confused by the splendor of the Imperial Court, or shaken by the overwhelming responsibility resting upon him. He therefore asked a little time for further consideration, and was allowed twenty-four hours.

When he reappeared before the Diet, the next day, he was calm and firm. In a plain, yet most earnest address, delivered both in Latin and German so that all might understand, he explained the grounds of his belief, and closed with the solemn words: "Unless, therefore, I should be confuted by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures and by clear and convincing reasons, I cannot and will not retract, because there is neither wisdom nor safety in acting against conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise: God help me! Amen."

Charles V., without allowing the matter to be discussed by the Diet, immediately declared that Luther should be prosecuted as a heretic, as soon as the remaining twenty-one days of his safe-conduct had expired. He was urged by many of the partisans of Rome, not to respect the promise, but he answered: "I do not mean to blush, like Sigismund." Luther's sincerity and courage confirmed the faith of his princely friends. Frederick the Wise and the Landgrave Philip of Hesse walked by his side when he left the Diet, and Duke Eric of Brunswick sent him a jug of beer. His followers among the nobility greatly increased in numbers and enthusiasm.


It was certain, however, that he would be in serious[Pg 262] danger as soon as he had been formally outlawed by the Emperor. A plot, kept secret from all his friends, was formed for his safety, and successfully carried out during his return from Worms to Wittenberg. Luther travelled in an open wagon, with only one companion. On entering the Thuringian Forest, he sent his escort in advance, and was soon afterwards, in a lonely glen, seized by four knights in armor and with closed visors, placed upon a horse and carried away. The news spread like wild-fire over Germany that he had been murdered, and for nearly a year he was lost to the world. His writings were only read the more: the Papal bull and the Imperial edict which ordered them to be burned were alike disregarded. Charles V. went back to Spain immediately after the Diet of Worms, after having transferred the German possessions of the house of Hapsburg to his younger brother, Ferdinand, and the business of suppressing Luther's doctrines fell chiefly to the Archbishops of Mayence and Cologne, and the Papal Legate.

Luther, meanwhile, was in security in a castle called the Wartburg, on the summit of a mountain near Eisenach. He was dressed in a knightly fashion, wore a helmet, breastplate and sword, allowed his beard to grow, and went by the name of "Squire George." But in the privacy of his own chamber—all the furniture of which is preserved to this day, as when he lived in it—he worked zealously upon a translation of the New Testament into German. In the spring of 1522 he was disturbed in his labors by the report of new doctrines which were being preached in Wittenberg. His friend Carlstadt had joined a fanatical sect, called the Anabaptists, which advocated the abolition of the mass, the destruction of pictures and statues, and proclaimed the coming of God's Kingdom upon the Earth.

The experience of the Bohemians showed Luther the necessity of union in his great work of reforming the Christian Church. Moreover, his enemies triumphantly pointed to the excesses of the Anabaptists as the natural result of his doctrines. There was no time to be lost: in spite of the remonstrance of the Elector Frederick, he left the Wartburg, and rode alone, as a man-at-arms, to Wittenberg, where even Melanchthon did not recognize him on his arrival. He began preaching, with so much power and eloquence, that in a few days the new sect lost all the ground it had gained, and its followers were expelled from the city. The necessity of[Pg 263] arranging another and simpler form of divine service was made evident by these occurrences; and after the publication of the New Testament in German, in September, 1522, Luther and Melanchthon united in the former task.


The Reformation made such progress that by 1523, not only Saxony, Hesse and Brunswick had practically embraced it, but also the cities of Frankfort, Strasburg, Nuremberg and Magdeburg, the Augustine order of monks, a part of the Franciscans, and quite a large number of priests. Now, however, a new and most serious trouble arose, partly from the preaching of the Anabaptists, headed by their so-called Prophet, Thomas Münzer, and partly provoked by the oppressions which the common people had so long endured. In the summer of 1524 the peasants of Würtemberg and Baden united, armed themselves, and issued a manifesto containing twelve articles. They demanded the right to choose their own priests; the restriction of tithes to their harvests; the abolition of feudal serfdom; the use of the forests; the regulation of the privilege of the nobles to hunt and fish; and protection, in certain other points, against the arbitrary power of the landed nobility. They seemed to take it for granted that Luther would support them; but he, dreading a civil war and desirous to keep the religious reformation free from any political movement, published a pamphlet condemning their revolt. At the same time he used his influence on their behalf, with the reigning priests and princes.

The excitement, however, was too great to be subdued by admonitions of patience and forbearance. A dreadful war broke out in 1525: the army of 30,000 peasants ravaged a great part of Southern Germany, destroying castles and convents, and venting their rage in the most shocking barbarities, which were afterwards inflicted upon themselves, when they were finally defeated by the Count of Waldburg. The movement extended through Middle Germany even to Westphalia, and threatened to become general: some parts of Thuringia were held for a short time by the peasants, and suffered terrible ravages. Another army of 8,000, headed by Thomas Münzer, was cut to pieces near Mühlhausen, in Saxony, and by the end of the year 1525, the rebellion was completely suppressed. In this short time, some of the most interesting monuments of the Middle Ages, among them the grand castle of the Hohenstaufens, in Suabia, had been[Pg 264] levelled to the earth; whole provinces were laid waste; tens of thousands of men, women and children were put to the sword, and a serious check was given to the progress of the Reformation, through all Southern Germany.


The stand which Luther had taken against the rebellion preserved the friendship of those princes who were well-disposed towards him, but he took no part in the measures of defence against the Imperial and Papal power, which they were soon compelled to adopt. He devoted himself to the completion of his translation of the Bible, in which he was faithfully assisted by Melanchthon and others. In this great work he accomplished even more than a service to Christianity; he created the modern German language. Before his time, there had been no tongue which was known and accepted throughout the whole Empire. The poets and minstrels of the Middle Ages wrote in Suabian; other popular works were in low-Saxon, Franconian or Alsatian. The dialect of Holland and Flanders had so changed that it was hardly understood in Germany; that of Brandenburg and the Baltic provinces had no literature as yet, and the learned or scientific works of the time were written in Latin.

No one before Luther saw that the simplest and most expressive qualities of the German language must be sought for in the mouths of the people. With all his scholarship, he never used the theological style of writing, but endeavored to express himself so that he could be clearly understood by all men. In translating the Old Testament, he took extraordinary pains to find words and phrases as simple and strong as those of the Hebrew writers. He frequented the market-place, the merry-making, the house of birth, marriage or death, to learn how the common people expressed themselves in all the circumstances of life. He enlisted his friends in the same service, begging them to note down for him any peculiar, characteristic phrase; "for," said he, "I cannot use the words heard in castles and courts." Not a sentence of the Bible was translated until he had found the best and clearest German expression for it. He wrote, in 1530: "I have exerted myself, in translating, to give pure and clear German. And it has verily happened, that we have sought and questioned a fortnight, three, four weeks, for a single word, and yet it was not always found. In Job, we so labored, Philip Melanchthon, Aurogallus and I, that in four days we sometimes barely finished three lines."[Pg 265]


Pope Leo X. died in 1521, and was succeeded by Adrian VI., the last German who wore the Papal crown. He admitted many of the corruptions of the Roman Church, and seemed inclined to reform them; but he only lived two years, and his successor was Clement VII., a nephew of Leo. The latter induced Ferdinand of Austria, the Dukes of Bavaria and several Bishops to unite in a league for suppressing the spread of Luther's doctrines. Thereupon the Elector John of Saxony (Frederick the Wise having died in 1525), Philip of Hesse, Albert of Brandenburg, the Dukes of Brunswick and Mecklenburg, the Counts of Mansfeld and Anhalt and the city of Magdeburg formed a counter-alliance at Torgau, in 1526. At the Diet held in Speyer the same year, the party of the Reformation was so strong that no decree against it could be passed; the question was left free.

The organization of the Christian Church which was by this time adopted in Saxony, soon spread over all Northern Germany. Its principal features were: the abolition of the monastic orders and of priestly celibacy; divine service in the language of the country; the distribution of the Bible, in German, to all persons; the communion in both forms, for laymen; and the instruction of the people and their children in the truths of Christianity. The former possessions of the Church were given up to the State, and Luther, against Melanchthon's advice, even insisted on uniting the episcopal authority with the political, in the person of the reigning prince. He set the example of giving up priestly celibacy, by marrying, in 1525, Catharine von Bora, a nun of a noble family. This step created a great sensation; even many of Luther's friends condemned his course, but he declared that he was right, and he was rewarded by twenty-one years of unalloyed domestic happiness.

The Emperor Charles V., during all these events, was absent from Germany. His first war with France was brought to a conclusion by the battle of Pavia, in February, 1525, when Francis I. was obliged to surrender, and was sent as a prisoner to Madrid. But having purchased his freedom the following year, by giving up his claims to Italy, Burgundy and Flanders, he no sooner returned to France than he recommenced the war,—this time in union with Pope Clement VII., who was jealous of the Emperor's increasing power in Italy. The old knight George von Frundsberg and the Constable de Bourbon—a member of the royal[Pg 266] family of France, who had gone over to Charles V.'s side,—then united their forces, which were principally German, and marched upon Rome. The city was taken by storm, in 1527, terribly ravaged and the Pope made prisoner. Charles V. pretended not to have known of or authorized this movement; he liberated the Pope, who promised, in return, to call a Council for the Reformation of the Church. The war continued, however,—Venice, Genoa and England being also involved—until 1529, when it was terminated by the Peace of Cambray.


Charles V. and the Pope then came to an understanding, in virtue of which the former was crowned king of Lombardy and Emperor of Rome in Bologna, in 1530, and bound himself to extirpate the doctrines of Luther in Germany. In Austria, Bavaria and Würtemberg, in fact, the persecution had already commenced: many persons had been hanged or burned at the stake for professing the new doctrines. Ferdinand of Austria, who had meanwhile succeeded to the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary, was compelled to call a Diet at Speyer, in 1529, to take measures against the Turks, then victorious in Transylvania and a great part of Hungary; a majority of Catholics was present, and they passed a decree repeating the outlawry of Luther and his doctrines by the Diet of Worms. Seven reigning princes, headed by Saxony, Brandenburg and Hesse, and fifteen imperial cities, joined in a solemn protest against this measure, asserting that the points in dispute could only be settled by a universal Council, called for the purpose. From that day, the name of "Protestants" was given to both the followers of Luther, and the Swiss Reformers, under the lead of Zwingli.

The history of the Reformation in Switzerland cannot be here given. It will be enough to say that Zwingli, who was born in the Canton of St. Gall, in 1484, resembled Luther in his purity of character, his earnest devotion to study, and the circumstance that his ideas of religious reform were derived from an intimate knowledge of the Bible. It was the passionate desire of Philip of Hesse that both branches of the Protestants should become united, in order to be so much the stronger to meet the dangers which all felt were coming. Luther, who labored and prayed to prevent the struggle from becoming political, and who had opposed even the league of the Protestant princes at Torgau, in 1526,[Pg 267] was with difficulty induced to meet Zwingli. He was still busy with his translation of the Bible, with the preparation of a Catechism for the people, a collection of hymns to be used in worship, and other works necessary to the complete organization of the Protestant Church.


The meeting between the two Reformers finally took place in Marburg, in 1529. Melanchthon, Jonas, and many other distinguished men were present: both Luther and Zwingli fully and freely compared their doctrines, but, although they were united on all essential points, they differed in regard to the nature of the Eucharist, and Luther positively refused to give way, or even to make common cause with the Swiss Protestants. This was one of several instances, wherein the great Reformer injured his cause through his lack of wisdom and tolerance: in small things, as in great, he was inflexible.

So matters stood, in the beginning of 1530, when Charles V. returned to Germany, after an absence of nine years. He established his court at Innsbruck, and summoned a Diet to meet at Augsburg, in April, but it was not opened until the 20th of June. Melanchthon, with many other Protestant professors and clergymen, was present: Luther, being under the ban of the Empire, remained in Coburg, where he wrote his grand hymn, "Our Lord, He is a Tower of Strength." The Protestant princes and cities united in signing a Confession of Faith, which had been very carefully drawn up by Melanchthon, and the Emperor was obliged to consent that it should be read before the Diet. He ordered, however, that the reading should take place, not in the great hall where the sessions were held, but in the Bishop's chapel, and at a very early hour in the morning. The object of this arrangement was to prevent any but the members of the Diet from hearing the document.

But the weather was intensely warm, and it was necessary to open the windows; the Saxon Chancellor, Dr. Bayer, read the Confession in such a loud, clear voice, that a thousand or more persons, gathered on the outside of the Chapel, were able to hear every word. The principles asserted were:—That men are justified by faith alone; that an assembly of true believers constitutes the Church; that it is not necessary that forms and ceremonies should be everywhere the same; that preaching, the sacraments, and infant baptism, are necessary; that Christ is really present in the sacrament[Pg 268] of the Lord's Supper, which should be administered to the congregation in both forms; that monastic vows, fasting, pilgrimages and the invocation of saints are useless, and that priests must be allowed to marry. After the Confession had been read, many persons were heard to exclaim: "It is reasonable that the abuses of the Church should be corrected: the Lutherans are right, for our spiritual lords have carried it with too high a hand." The general impression was favorable to the Protestants, and the princes who had signed the Confession determined that they would maintain it at all hazards. This "Augsburg Confession," as it was thenceforth called, was the foundation of the Lutheran Church throughout Germany.


The Emperor ordered a refutation of the Protestant doctrines to be prepared by the Catholic theologians who were present, but refused to furnish a copy to the Protestants and prohibited them from making any reply. He declared that the latter must instantly return to the Roman Church, the abuses of which would be corrected by himself and the Pope. Thus the breach was made permanent between Rome and more than half of Germany. Charles V. procured the election of his brother Ferdinand to the crown of Germany, although Bavaria united with the Protestant princes in voting against him.

The Imperial Courts in the ten districts were now composed entirely of Catholics, and they were ordered to enforce the suppression of Protestant worship. Thereupon the Protestant princes and delegates from the cities met at the little town of Schmalkalden, in Thuringia, and on the 29th of March, 1531, bound themselves to unite, for the space of six years, in resisting the Imperial decree. Even Luther, much as he dreaded a religious war, could not oppose this movement. The League of Schmalkalden, as it is called, represented so much military strength, that king Ferdinand became alarmed and advised a more conciliatory course towards the Protestants. Sultan Solyman of Turkey, who had conquered all Hungary, was marching upon Vienna with an immense army, and openly boasted that he would subdue Germany.

It thus became impossible for Charles V. either to suppress the Protestants at this time, or to repel the Turkish invasion without their help. He was compelled to call a new Diet, which met at Nuremberg, and in August, 1532,[Pg 269] concluded a Religious Peace, both parties agreeing to refrain from all hostilities until a General Council of the Church should be called. Then the Protestants contributed their share of troops to the Imperial army, which soon amounted to 80,000 men, commanded by the famous general, Sebastian Schertlin, himself a Protestant. The Turks were defeated everywhere; the siege of Vienna was raised, and the whole of Hungary might have been reconquered, but for Ferdinand's unpopularity among the Catholic princes.


Other cities and smaller principalities joined the League of Schmalkalden, the power of which increased from year to year. The Religious Peace of Nuremberg greatly favored the spread of the Reformation, although it was not very strictly observed by either side. In 1534 Würtemberg, which was then held by Ferdinand of Austria, was conquered by Philip of Hesse, who reinstated the exiled Duke, Ulric. The latter became a Protestant, and thus Würtemberg was added to the League. Charles V. would certainly have interfered in this case, but he had left Germany for another nine years' absence, and was just then engaged in a war with Tunis. The reigning princes of Brandenburg and Ducal Saxony (Thuringia), who had been enemies of the Reformation, died and were succeeded by Protestant sons: in 1537 the League of Schmalkalden was renewed for ten years more, and the so-called "holy alliances," which were attempted against it by Bavaria and the Archbishops of Mayence and Salzburg, were of no avail. The Protestant faith continued to spread, not only in Germany, but also in Denmark, Sweden, Holland and England. The first of these countries even became a member of the Schmalkalden League, in 1538.

Out of the "Freedom of the Gospel," which was the first watch-word of the Reformers, smaller sects continued to arise, notwithstanding they met with almost as much opposition from the Protestants as the Catholics. The Anabaptists obtained possession of the city of Münster in 1534, and held it for more than a year, under the government of a Dutch tailor, named John of Leyden, who had himself crowned king of Zion, introduced polygamy, and cut off the heads of all who resisted his decrees. When the Bishop of Münster finally took the city, John of Leyden and two of his associates were tortured to death, and their bodies suspended in iron cages over the door of the cathedral. About the same time Simon Menno, a native of Friesland,[Pg 270] founded a quiet and peaceful sect which was named, after him, the Mennonites, and which still exists, both in Germany and the United States.


While, therefore, Charles V. was carrying on his wars, alternately with the Barbary States, and with Francis I. of France, the foundations of the Protestant Church, in spite of all divisions and disturbances, were permanently laid in Germany. Although he had been brilliantly successful in Tunis, in 1535, he failed so completely before Algiers, in 1541, that Francis I. was emboldened to make another attempt, in alliance with Sultan Solyman of Turkey, Denmark and Sweden. So formidable was the danger that the Emperor was again compelled to seek the assistance of the German Protestants, and even of England. He returned to Germany for the second time and called a Diet to meet in Speyer, which renewed the Religious Peace of Nuremberg, with the assurance that Protestants should have equal rights before the Imperial courts, and that they would be left free until the meeting of a Free Council of the Church.

Having obtained an army of 40,000 men by these concessions, Charles V. marched into France, captured a number of fortresses, and had reached Soissons on his way to Paris, when Francis I. acknowledged himself defeated and begged for peace. In the Treaty of Crespy, in 1544, he gave up his claim to Lombardy, Naples, Flanders and Artois, while the Emperor gave him a part of Burgundy, and both united in a league against the Turks and Protestants, the allies of one and the other. In order, however, to preserve some appearance of fidelity to his solemn pledges, the Emperor finally prevailed upon the Pope, Paul III., to order an Œcumenical Council. It was just 130 years since the Roman Church had promised to reform itself. The delay had given rise to the Protestant Reformation, which was now so powerful that only a just and conciliatory course on the part of Rome could settle the difficulty. Instead of this, the Council was summoned to meet at Trent, in the Italian part of the Tyrol, the Pope reserved the government of it for himself, and the Protestants, although invited to attend, were thus expected to acknowledge his authority. They unanimously declared, therefore, that they would not be bound by its decrees. Even Luther, who had ardently hoped to see all Christians again united under a purer organization of the Church, saw that a reconciliation was impossible, and published a[Pg 271] pamphlet entitled: "The Roman Papacy Founded by the Devil."


The publication of the complete translation of the Bible in 1534 was not the end of Luther's labors. His leadership in the great work of Reformation was acknowledged by all, and he was consulted by princes and clergymen, by scholars and jurists, even by the common people. He never relaxed in his efforts to preserve peace, not only among the Protestant princes, who could not yet overcome their old habit of asserting an independent authority, but also between Protestants and Catholics. Yet he could hardly help feeling that, with such a form of government, and such an Emperor, as Germany then possessed, peace was impossible: he only prayed that it might last while he lived.

Luther's powerful constitution gradually broke down under the weight of his labors and anxieties. He became subject to attacks of bodily suffering, followed by great depression of mind. Nevertheless, the consciousness of having in a great measure performed the work which he had been called upon to do, kept up his faith, and he was accustomed to declare that he had been made "a chosen weapon of God, known in Heaven and Hell, as well as upon the earth." In January, 1546, he was summoned to Eisleben, the place of his birth, by the Counts of Mansfeld, who begged him to act as arbitrator between them in a question of inheritance. Although much exhausted by the fatigues of the winter-journey, he settled the dispute, and preached four times to the people. His last letter to his wife, written on the 14th of February, is full of courage, cheerfulness and tenderness.

Two days afterwards, his strength began to fail. His friend, Dr. Jonas, was in Eisleben at the time, and Luther forced himself to sit at the table with him and with his own two sons; but it was noticed that he spoke only of the future life, and with an unusual earnestness and solemnity. The same evening it became evident to all that his end was rapidly approaching: he grew weaker from hour to hour, and occasionally repeated passages from the Bible, in German and Latin. After midnight he seemed to revive a little: Dr. Jonas, the Countess of Mansfeld, the pastor of the church at Eisleben, and his sons, stood near his bed. Then Jonas said: "Beloved Father, do you acknowledge Christ, the Son of God, our Redeemer?" Luther answered "Yes," in a strong and clear voice; then, folding his hands, he drew[Pg 272] one deep sigh and died, between two and three o'clock on the morning of the 17th of February.


After solemn services in the church at Eisleben, the body was removed on its way to Wittenberg. In every village through which the procession passed, the bells were tolled, and the people flocked together from all the surrounding country. The population of Halle, men and women, came out of the city with loud cries and lamentations, and the throng was so great that it was two hours before the coffin could be placed in the church. "Here," says an eyewitness of the scene, "we endeavored to raise the funeral psalm, De profundis ('Out of the depths have I cried unto thee'); but so heavy was our grief that the words were rather wept than sung." On the 22d of February the remains of the great Reformer were given to the earth at Wittenberg, with all the honors which the people, the authorities and the University could render.




  • Attempt to Suppress the Protestants.
  • —Treachery of Maurice of Saxony.
  • —Defeat and Capture of the Elector, John Frederick.
  • —Philip of Hesse Imprisoned.
  • —Tyranny of Charles V.
  • —The Augsburg Interim.
  • —Maurice of Saxony turns against Charles V.
  • —The Treaty of Passau.
  • —War with France.
  • —The Religious Peace of Augsburg.
  • —The Jesuits.
  • —Abdication of Charles V.
  • —Ferdinand of Austria becomes Emperor.
  • —End of the Council of Trent.
  • —Protestantism in Germany.
  • —Weakness of the Empire.
  • —Loss of the Baltic Provinces.
  • —Maximilian II. Emperor.
  • —His Tolerance.
  • —The Last Private Feud.
  • —Revolt of the Netherlands.
  • —Death of Maximilian II.
  • —Rudolf II.'s Character.
  • —Persecution of Protestants.
  • —Condition of Germany at the End of the 16th Century.

The woes which the German Electors brought upon the country, when they gave the crown to a Spaniard because he was a Hapsburg, were only commencing when Luther died. Charles V. had just enough German blood in him to enable him to deceive the German people; he had no interest in them further than the power they gave to his personal rule; he used Germany to build up the strength of Spain, and then trampled it under his feet.

The Council of Trent, which was composed almost entirely of Spanish and Italian prelates, followed the instructions of the Pope and declared that the traditions of the Roman Church were of equal authority with the Bible. This made a reconciliation with the Protestants impossible, which was just what the Pope desired: his plan was to put them down by main force. In fact, if the spirit of the Protestant faith had not already entered into the lives of the mass of the people, the Reformation might have been lost through the hesitation of some princes and the treachery of another. The Schmalkalden League was at this time weakened by personal quarrels among its members; yet it was still able to raise an army of 40,000 men, which was placed under the[Pg 274] command of Sebastian Schertlin. Charles V. had a very small force with him at Ratisbon; the troops he had summoned from Flanders and Italy had not arrived; and an energetic movement by the Protestants could not have failed to be successful.


But the two chiefs of the Schmalkalden League, John Frederick of Saxony and Philip of Hesse, showed a timidity almost amounting to cowardice in this emergency. In spite of Schertlin's entreaties, they refused to allow him to move, fearing, as they alleged, to invade the neutrality of Bavaria, or to excite Ferdinand of Austria against them. For months they compelled their army to wait, while the Emperor was constantly receiving reinforcements, among them 12,000 Italian troops furnished by the Pope. Then, when they were absolutely forced to act, a new and unexpected danger rendered them powerless. Maurice, Duke of Saxony (of the younger line), suddenly abjured the Protestant faith, declared for Charles V., and took possession of the territory of Electoral Saxony, belonging to his cousin, John Frederick. The latter hastened home with his own portion of the army, and defeated and expelled Maurice, it is true, but in doing so, gave up the field to the Emperor. Duke Ulric of Würtemberg first humbly submitted to the latter, then Ulm, Augsburg, Strasburg, and other cities: Schertlin was not left with troops enough to resist, and the Imperial and Catholic power was restored throughout Southern Germany, without a struggle.

In the spring of 1547, Charles V. marched into Northern Germany, surprised and defeated John Frederick of Saxony at Mühlberg on the Elbe, and took him prisoner. The Elector was so enormously stout and heavy that he could only mount his horse by the use of a ladder; so the Emperor's Spanish cavalry easily overtook him in his flight. Charles V. now showed himself in his true character: he appointed the fierce Duke of Alba President of a Court which tried John Frederick and condemned him to death. The other German princes protested so earnestly against this sentence that it was not carried out, but John Frederick was compelled to give up the greater part of Saxony to the traitor Maurice, and be content with Thuringia or Ducal Saxony—the territory embraced in the present duchies of Meiningen, Gotha, Weimar and Altenburg. He steadfastly refused, however, to submit to the decrees of the Council of Trent,[Pg 275] and remained firm in the Protestant faith during the five years of imprisonment which followed.


His wife, the Duchess Sibylla, heroically defended Wittenberg against the Emperor, but when John Frederick had been despoiled of his territory, she could no longer hold the city, which was surrendered. Charles V. was urged by Alba and others to burn Luther's body and scatter the ashes, as those of a heretic; but he answered, like a man: "I wage no war against the dead." Herein he showed the better side of his nature, although only for a moment. Philip of Hesse was not strong enough to resist alone, and finally, persuaded by his son-in-law, Maurice of Saxony, he promised to beg the Emperor's pardon on his knees, to destroy all his fortresses except Cassel, and to pay a fine of 150,000 gold florins, on condition that he should be allowed to retain his princely rights. These were Charles V.'s own conditions; but when Philip, kneeling before him, happened (or seemed) to smile while his application for pardon was being read, the Emperor cried out: "Wait, I'll teach you to laugh!" Breaking his solemn word without scruple, he sent Philip instantly to prison, and the latter was kept for years in close confinement, both in Germany and Flanders.

Charles V. was now also master of Northern Germany, except the city of Magdeburg, which was strongly fortified, and refused to surrender. He entrusted the siege of the place to Maurice of Saxony, and returned to Bavaria, in order to be nearer Italy. He had at last become the arbitrary ruler of all Germany: he had not only violated his word in dealing with the princes, but defied the Diet in subjecting them by the aid of foreign soldiers. His court, his commanders, his prelates, were Spaniards, who, as they passed through the German States, abused and insulted the people with perfect impunity. The princes were now reaping only what they themselves had sown; but the mass of the people, who had had no voice in the election,—who saw their few rights despised and their faith threatened with suppression—suffered terribly during this time.


In May, 1548, the Emperor proclaimed what was called the "Augsburg Interim," which allowed the communion in both forms and the marriage of priests to the Protestants, but insisted that all the other forms and ceremonies of the Catholic Church should be observed, until the Council should pronounce its final judgment. This latter body had[Pg 276] removed from Trent to Bologna, in spite of the Emperor's remonstrance, and it did not meet again at Trent until 1551, after the death of Pope Paul III. There was, in fact, almost as much confusion in the Church as in political affairs. A number of intelligent, zealous prelates desired a correction of the former abuses, and they were undoubtedly supported by the Emperor himself; but the Pope with the French and Spanish cardinals and bishops, controlled a majority of the votes of the Council, and thus postponed its action from year to year.

The acceptance of the "Interim" was resisted both by Catholics and Protestants. Charles V. used all his arts,—persuasion, threats, armed force,—and succeeded for a short time in compelling a sort of external observance of its provisions. His ambition, now, was to have his son Philip chosen by the Diet as his successor, notwithstanding that Ferdinand of Austria had been elected king in 1530, and had governed during his brother's long absence from Germany. The Protestant Electors, conquered as they were, and abject as many of them had seemed, were not ready to comply; Ferdinand's jealousy was aroused, and the question was in suspense when a sudden and startling event changed the whole face of affairs.

Maurice of Saxony had been besieging Magdeburg for a year, in the Emperor's name. The city was well-provisioned, admirably defended, and the people answered every threat with defiance and ridicule. Maurice grew tired of his inglorious position, sensitive to the name of "Traitor" which was everywhere hurled against him, and indignant at the continued imprisonment of Philip of Hesse. He made a secret treaty with Henry II. of France, to whom he promised Lorraine, including the cities of Toul, Verdun and Metz, in return for his assistance; and then, in the spring of 1552, before his plans could be divined, marched with all speed against the Emperor, who was holding his court in Innsbruck. The latter attempted to escape to Flanders, but Maurice had already seized the mountain-passes. Nothing but speedy flight across the Alps, in night and storm, attended only by a few followers, saved Charles V. from capture. The Council of Trent broke up and fled in terror; John Frederick of Saxony and Philip of Hesse were freed from their long confinement, and the Protestant cause gained at one blow all the ground it had lost.[Pg 277]


Maurice returned to Passau, on the Danube, where Ferdinand of Austria united with him in calling a Diet of the German Electors. The latter, bishops as well as princes, admitted that the Protestants could be no longer suppressed by force, and agreed to establish a religious peace, independent of any action of the Pope and Council. The "Treaty of Passau," as it was called, allowed freedom of worship to all who accepted the Augsburg Confession, and postponed other questions to the decision of a German Diet. The Emperor at first refused to subscribe to the treaty, but when Maurice began to renew hostilities, there was no other course left. The French in Lorraine and the Turks in Hungary were making rapid advances, and it was no time to assert his lost despotism over the Empire.

With the troops which the princes now agreed to furnish, the Emperor marched into France, and in October, 1552, arrived before Metz, which he besieged until the following January. Then, with his army greatly reduced by sickness and hardship, he raised the siege and marched away, to continue the war in other quarters. But it was four years before the quarrel with France came to an end, and during this time the Protestant States of Germany had nothing to fear from the Imperial power. The Margrave Albert of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, who was on the Emperor's side, attempted to carry fire and sword through their territories, in order to pay himself for his military services. After wasting, plundering and committing shocking barbarities in Saxony and Franconia, he was defeated by Maurice, in July, 1553. The latter fell in the moment of victory, giving his life in expiation of his former apostasy. The greater part of Saxony, nevertheless, has remained in the hands of his descendants to this day, while the descendants of John Frederick, although representing the elder line, possess only the little principalities of Thuringia, to each of which the Saxon name is attached, as Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Gotha, &c.


Charles V., who saw his ambitious plans for the government of the world failing everywhere, and whose bodily strength was failing also, left Germany in disgust, commissioning his brother Ferdinand to call a Diet, in accordance with the stipulations of the Treaty of Passau. The Diet met at Augsburg, and in spite of the violent opposition of the Papal Legate, on the 25th of September, 1555, concluded the[Pg 278] treaty of Religious Peace which finally gave rest to Germany. The Protestants who followed the Augsburg Confession received religious freedom, perfect equality before the law, and the undisturbed possession of the Church property which had fallen into their hands. In other respects their privileges were not equal. By a clause called the "spiritual reservation," it was ordered that when a Catholic Bishop or Abbot became Protestant he should give up land and title in order that the Church might lose none of its possessions. The rights and consciences of the people were so little considered that they were not allowed to change their faith unless the ruling prince changed his. The monstrous doctrine was asserted that religion was an affair of the government,—that is, that he to whom belonged the rule, possessed the right to choose the people's faith. In accordance with this law the population of the Palatinate of the Rhine was afterwards compelled to be alternately Calvinistic and Lutheran, four times in succession!

The Treaty of Augsburg did not include the followers of Zwingli and Calvin, who were getting to be quite numerous in Southern and Western Germany, and they were left without any recognized rights. Nevertheless, what the Lutherans had gained was also gained for them, in the end; and the Treaty, although it did not secure equal justice, gave the highest sanction of the Empire to the Reformation. The Pope rejected and condemned it, but without the least effect upon the German Catholics, who were no less desirous of peace than the Protestants. Moreover, their hopes of a final triumph over the latter were greatly increased by the zeal and activity of the Jesuits, who had been accepted and commissioned by the Church of Rome fifteen years before, who were rapidly increasing in numbers, and professed to have made the suppression of Protestant doctrines their chief task.

This treaty was the last political event of Charles V.'s reign. One month later, to a day, he formally conferred on his son, Philip II., at Brussels, the government of the Netherlands, and on the 15th of January, 1556, he resigned to him the crowns of Spain and Naples. He then sailed for Spain, where he retired to the monastery of St. Just and lived for two years longer as an Imperial monk. He was the first monarch of his time and he made Spain the leading nation of the world: his immense energy, his boundless ambition,[Pg 279] and his cold, calculating brain reëstablished his power again and again, when it seemed on the point of giving way; but he died at last without having accomplished the two chief aims of his life—the reunion of all Christendom under the Pope, and the union of Germany with the Spanish Empire. The German people, following the leaders who had arisen out of their own breast,—Luther, Melanchthon, Reuchlin and Zwingli—defeated the former of these aims: the princes, who had found in Charles V. much more of a despot than they had bargained for, defeated the latter.


The German Diet did not meet until March, 1558, when Ferdinand of Austria was elected and crowned Emperor, at Frankfort. Although a Catholic, he had always endeavored to protect the Protestants from the extreme measures which Charles V. attempted to enforce, and he faithfully observed the Treaty of Augsburg. He even allowed the Protestant form of the sacrament and the marriage of priests in Austria, which brought upon him the condemnation of the Pope. Immediately after the Diet, a meeting of Protestant princes was held at Frankfort, for the purpose of settling certain differences of opinion which were not only disturbing the Lutherans but also tending to prevent any unity of action between them and the Swiss Protestants. Melanchthon did his utmost to restore harmony, but without success. He died in 1560, at the age of sixty-three, and Calvin four years afterwards, the last of the leaders of the Reformation.

On the 4th of December, 1563, the Council of Trent finally adjourned, eighteen years after it first came together. The attempts of a portion of the prelates composing it to reform and purify the Roman Church had been almost wholly thwarted by the influence of the Popes. It adopted a series of articles, to each one of which was attached an anathema, cursing all who refused to accept it. They contained the doctrines of priestly celibacy, purgatory, masses for the dead, worship of saints, pictures and relics, absolution, fasts, and censorship of books—thus making an eternal chasm between Catholicism and Protestantism. At the close of the Council the Cardinal of Lorraine cried out: "Accursed be all heretics!" and all present answered: "Accursed! accursed!" until the building rang. In Italy, Spain and Poland, the articles were accepted at once, but the Catholics in France, Germany and Hungary were dissatisfied with many of the declarations, and the Church, in those countries, was[Pg 280] compelled to overlook a great deal of quiet disobedience.


At this time, although the Catholics had a majority in the Diet (since there were nearly 100 priestly members), the great majority of the German people had become Protestants. In all Northern Germany, except Westphalia, very few Catholic congregations were left: even the Archbishops of Bremen and Magdeburg, and the Bishops of Lübeck, Verden and Halberstadt had joined the Reformation. In the priestly territories of Cologne, Treves, Mayence, Worms and Strasburg, the population was divided; the Palatinate of the Rhine, Baden and Würtemberg were almost entirely Protestant, and even in Upper-Austria and Styria the Catholics were in a minority. Bavaria was the main stay of Rome: her princes, of the house of Wittelsbach, were the most zealous and obedient champions of the Pope in all Germany. The Roman Church, however, had not given up the struggle: she was quietly and shrewdly preparing for one more desperate effort to recover her lost ground, and the Protestants, instead of perceiving the danger and uniting themselves more closely, were quarrelling among themselves concerning theological questions upon which they have never yet agreed.

There could be no better evidence that the reign of Charles V. had weakened instead of strengthening the German Empire, than the losses and the humiliations which immediately followed. Ferdinand I. gave up half of Hungary to Sultan Solyman, and purchased the right to rule the other half by an annual payment of 300,000 ducats. About the same time, the Emperor's lack of power and the selfishness of the Hanseatic cities occasioned a much more important loss. The provinces on the eastern shore of the Baltic, which had been governed by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword after the downfall of the German Order, were overrun and terribly devastated by the Czar Ivan of Russia. The Grand Master of the Order appealed to Lübeck and Hamburg for aid, which was refused; then, in 1559, he called upon the Diet of the German Empire and received vague promises of assistance, which had no practical value. Then, driven to desperation, he turned to Poland, Sweden and Denmark, all of which countries took instant advantage of his necessities. The Baltic provinces were defended against Russia—and lost to Germany. The Swedes and[Pg 281] Danes took Esthonia, the Poles took Livonia, and only the little province of Courland remained as an independent State, the Grand Master becoming its first Duke.


Ferdinand I. died in 1564, and was immediately succeeded by his eldest son, Maximilian II. The latter was in the prime of life, already popular for his goodness of heart, his engaging manners and his moderation and justice. The Protestants cherished great hopes, at first, that he would openly join them; but, although he so favored and protected them in Austria that Vienna almost became a Protestant city, he refused to leave the Catholic Church, and even sent his son Rudolf to be educated in Spain, under the bitter and bigoted influence of Philip II. His daughter was married to Charles IX. of France, and when he heard of the massacre of St. Bartholomew (in August, 1572) he cried out: "Would to God that my son-in-law had asked counsel of me! I would so faithfully have persuaded him as a father, that he certainly would never have done this thing." He also endeavored, but in vain, to soften the persecutions and cruelties of Philip II.'s reign in the Netherlands.

Maximilian II.'s reign of twelve years was quiet and uneventful. Only one disturbance of the internal peace occurred, and it is worthy of note as the last feud, after so many centuries of free fighting between the princes. An independent knight, William von Grumbach, having been dispossessed of his lands by the Bishop of Würzburg, waylaid the latter, who was slain in the fight which occurred. Grumbach fled to France, but soon allied himself with several dissatisfied Franconian knights, and finally persuaded John Frederick of Saxony (the smaller Dukedom) to espouse his cause. The latter was outlawed by the Emperor, yet he obstinately determined to resist, in the hope of wresting the Electorate of Saxony from the younger line and restoring it to his own family. He was besieged by the Imperial army in Gotha, in 1567, and taken prisoner. Grumbach was tortured and executed, and John Frederick kept in close confinement until his death, twenty-eight years afterwards. His sons, however, were allowed to succeed him. The severity with which this breach of the internal peace was punished put an end forever, to petty wars in Germany: the measures adopted by the Diet of 1495, under Maximilian I., were at last recognized as binding laws.[Pg 282]


The Revolt of the Netherlands, which broke out immediately after Maximilian II.'s accession to the throne, had little, if any, political relation to Germany. Under Charles V. the Netherlands had been quite separated from any connection with the German Empire, and he was free to introduce the Inquisition there and persecute the Protestants with all the barbarity demanded by Rome. Philip II. followed the same policy: the torture, fire and sword were employed against the people until they arose against the intolerable Spanish rule, and entered upon that struggle of nearly forty years which ended in establishing the independence of Holland.

On the 12th of October, 1576, at a Diet where he had declared his policy in religious matters to be simply the enforcement of the Treaty of Augsburg, Maximilian II. suddenly fell dead. According to the custom which they had now followed for 140 years, of keeping the Imperial dignity in the house of Hapsburg, the Electors immediately chose his son, Rudolf II., an avowed enemy of the Protestants. Unlike his father, his nature was cold, stern and despotic: he was gloomy, unsocial and superstitious, and the circumstance that he aided and encouraged the great astronomers, Kepler and Tycho de Brahe, was probably owing to his love for astrology and alchemy. He was subject to sudden and violent attacks of passion, which were followed by periods of complete indifference to his duties. Like Frederick III., a hundred years before, he concerned himself with the affairs of Austria, his direct inheritance, rather than with those of the Empire; and thus, although internal wars had been suppressed, he encouraged the dissensions in religion and politics, which were gradually bringing on a more dreadful war than Germany had ever known before.

One of Rudolf II.'s first measures was to take from the Austrian Protestants the right of worship which his father had allowed them. He closed their churches, removed them from all the offices they held, and, justifying himself by the Treaty of Augsburg that whoever ruled the people should choose their religious faith, did his best to make Austria wholly Catholic. Many Catholic princes and priests, emboldened by his example, declared that the articles promulgated by the Council of Trent abolished the Treaty of Augsburg and gave them the right to put down heresy by force. When the Archbishop of Cologne became a Protestant and[Pg 283] married, the German Catholics called upon Alexander of Parma, who came from the Netherlands with a Spanish army, took possession of the former's territory, and installed a new Catholic Archbishop, without resistance on the part of the Protestant majority of Germany. Thus the hate and bitterness on both sides increased from year to year, without culminating in open hostilities.


The history of Germany, from the accession of Rudolf II. to the end of the century, is marked by no political event of importance. Spain was fully occupied in her hopeless attempt to subdue the Netherlands: in France Henry of Navarre was fighting the Duke of Guise; Hungary and Austria were left to check the advance of the Turkish invasion, and nearly all Germany enjoyed peace for upwards of fifty years. During this time, population and wealth greatly increased, and life in the cities and at courts became luxurious and more or less immoral. The arts and sciences began to flourish, the people grew in knowledge, yet the spirit out of which the Reformation sprang seemed almost dead. The elements of good and evil were strangely mixed together—intelligence and superstition, piety and bigotry, civilization and barbarism were found side by side. As formerly in her history, it appeared nearly impossible for Germany to grow by a gradual and healthy development: her condition must be bad enough to bring on a violent convulsion, before it could be improved.

Such was the state of affairs at the end of the sixteenth century. In spite of the material prosperity of the country, there was a general feeling among the people that evil days were coming; but the most desponding prophet could hardly have predicted worse misfortunes than they were called upon to suffer during the next fifty years.




  • Growth of the Calvinistic or "Reformed" Church.
  • —Persecution of Protestants in Styria.
  • —The Catholic League.
  • —The Struggle for the Succession of Cleves.
  • —Rudolf II. set aside.
  • —His Death.
  • —Matthias becomes Emperor.
  • —Character of Ferdinand of Styria.
  • —Revolt in Prague.
  • —War in Bohemia.
  • —Death of Matthias.
  • —Ferdinand besieged in Vienna.
  • —He is Crowned Emperor.
  • —Blindness of the Protestant Princes.
  • —Frederick of the Palatinate chosen King of Bohemia.
  • —Barbarity of Ferdinand II.
  • —The Protestants Crushed in Bohemia and Austria.
  • —Count Mansfeld and Prince Christian of Brunswick.
  • —War in Baden and the Palatinate.
  • —Tilly.
  • —His Ravages.
  • —Miserable Condition of Germany.
  • —Union of the Northern States.
  • —Christian IV. of Denmark.
  • —Wallenstein.
  • —His History.
  • —His Proposition to Ferdinand II.

The beginning of the seventeenth century found the Protestants in Germany still divided. The followers of Zwingli, it is true, had accepted the Augsburg Confession as the shortest means of acquiring freedom of worship; but the Calvinists, who were now rapidly increasing, were not willing to take this step, nor were the Lutherans any more tolerant towards them than at the beginning. The Dutch, in conquering their independence of Spain, gave the Calvinistic, or, as it was called in Germany, the Reformed Church, a new political importance; and it was not long before the Palatinate of the Rhine, Baden, Hesse-Cassel and Anhalt also joined it. The Protestants were split into two strong and unfriendly sects at the very time when the Catholics, under the teaching of the Jesuits, were uniting against them.

Duke Ferdinand of Styria, a young cousin of Rudolf II., began the struggle. Styria was at that time Protestant, and refused to change its faith at the command of the Duke, whereupon he visited every part of the land with an armed force, closed the churches, burned the hymn-books and Bibles, and banished every one who was not willing to become[Pg 285] a Catholic on the spot. He openly declared that it was better to rule over a desert than a land of heretics. Duke Maximilian of Bavaria followed his example: in 1607 he seized the free Protestant city of Donauwörth, on the Danube, on account of some quarrel between its inhabitants and a monastery, and held it, in violation of all laws of the Empire. A protest made to the Diet on account of this act was of no avail, since a majority of the members were Catholics. The Protestants of Southern Germany formed a "Union" for mutual protection, in May, 1608, with Frederick IV. of the Palatinate at their head; but, as they were mostly of the Reformed Church, they received little sympathy or support from the Protestant States in the North.


Maximilian of Bavaria then established a "Catholic League" in opposition, relying on the assistance of Spain, while the "Protestant Union" relied on that of Henry IV. of France. Both sides began to arm, and they would soon have proceeded to open hostilities, when a dispute of much greater importance diverted their attention to the North of Germany. This was the so-called "Succession of Cleves." Duke John William of Cleves, who governed the former separate dukedoms of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, and the countships of Ravensberg and Mark, embracing a large extent of territory on both sides of the Lower Rhine, died in 1609 without leaving a direct heir. He had been a Catholic, but his people were Protestants. John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and Wolfgang William of the Bavarian Palatinate, both relatives on the female side, claimed the splendid inheritance; and when it became evident that the Catholic interest meant to secure it, they quickly united their forces and took possession. The Emperor then sent the Archduke Leopold of Hapsburg to hold the State in his name, whereupon the Protestant Union made an instant alliance with Henry IV. of France, who was engaged in organizing an army for its aid, when he fell by the dagger of the assassin, Ravaillac, in 1610. This dissolved the alliance, and the "Union" and "League," finding themselves agreed in opposing the creation of another Austrian State, on the Lower Rhine, concluded peace before any serious fighting had taken place between them.


The two claimants to the succession adopted a similar policy. Wolfgang William became a Catholic, married the sister of Maximilian of Bavaria, and so brought the "League"[Pg 286] to support him, and the Elector John Sigismund became a Calvinist (which almost excited a rebellion among the Brandenburg Lutherans), in order to get the support of the "Union." The former was assisted by Spanish troops from Flanders, the latter by Dutch troops from Holland, and the war was carried on until 1614, when it was settled by a division which gave John Sigismund the lion's share.

Meanwhile the Emperor Rudolf II. was becoming so old, so whimsical and so useless, that in 1606 the princes of the house of Hapsburg held a meeting, declared him incapable of governing, "on account of occasional imbecilities of mind," and appointed his brother Matthias regent for Austria, Hungary and Moravia. The Emperor refused to yield, but, with the help of the nobility, who were mostly Protestants, Matthias maintained his claim. He was obliged, in return, to grant religious freedom, which so encouraged the oppressed Protestants in Bohemia that they demanded similar rights from the Emperor. In his helpless situation he gave way to the demand, but soon became alarmed at the increase of the heretics, and tried to take back his concession. The Bohemians called Matthias to their assistance, and in 1611 Rudolf lost his remaining kingdom and his favorite residence of Prague. As he looked upon the city for the last time, he cried out: "May the vengeance of God overtake thee, and my curse light on thee and all Bohemia!" In less than a year (on the 20th of January, 1612) he died.

Matthias was elected Emperor of Germany, as a matter of course. The house of Hapsburg was now the strongest German power which represented the Church of Rome, and the Catholic majority in the Diet secured to it the Imperial dignity then and thenceforward. The Protestants, however, voted also for Matthias, for the reason that he had already shown a tolerant policy towards their brethren in Austria, Hungary and Bohemia. His first measures, as Emperor, justified this view of his character. He held a Diet at Ratisbon for the purpose of settling the existing differences between the two, but nothing was accomplished: the Protestants, finding that they would be outvoted, withdrew in a body and thus broke up the Diet. Matthias next endeavored to dissolve both the "Union" and the "League," in which he was only partially successful. At the same time his rule in Hungary was menaced by a revolt of the Transylvanian chief, Bethlen Gabor, who was assisted by the[Pg 287] Turks: he grew weary of his task, and was easily persuaded by the other princes of his house to adopt his nephew, Duke Ferdinand of Styria, as his successor, in the year 1617, having no children of his own.


Ferdinand, who had been carefully educated by the Jesuits for the part which he was afterwards to play, and whose violent suppression of the Protestant faith in Styria made him acceptable to all the German Catholics, was a man of great energy and force of character. He was stern, bigoted, cruel, yet shrewd, cunning and apparently conciliatory when he found it necessary to be so, resembling, in both respects, his predecessor, Charles V. of Spain. In return for being chosen by the Bohemians to succeed Matthias as king, he confirmed them in the religious freedom which they had extorted from Rudolf II., and then joined the Emperor in an expedition to Hungary, leaving Bohemia to be governed in the interim by a Council of ten, seven Catholics and three Protestants.

The first thing that happened was the destruction of two Protestant churches by Catholic Bishops. The Bohemian Protestants appealed immediately to the Emperor Matthias, but, instead of redress, he gave them only threats. Thereupon they rose in Prague, stormed the Council Hall, seized two of the Councillors and one of their Secretaries, and hurled them out of the windows. Although they fell a distance of twenty-eight feet, they were not killed, and all finally escaped. This event happened on the 23d of May, 1618, and marks the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. After such long chronicles of violence and slaughter, the deed seemed of slight importance; but the hundredth anniversary of the Reformation (counting from Luther's proclamation against Tetzel, on the 31st of October, 1517) had been celebrated by the Protestants the year before, England was lost and France barely restored to the Church of Rome, the power of Spain was declining, and the Catholic priests and princes were resolved to make one more desperate struggle to regain their supremacy in Germany. Only the Protestant princes, as a body, seemed blind to the coming danger. Relying on the fact that four-fifths of the whole population of the Empire were Protestants, they still persisted in regarding all the political forms of the Middle Ages as holy, and in accepting nearly every measure which gave advantage to their enemies.[Pg 288]


Although the Protestants had only three Councillors out of ten, they were largely in the majority in Bohemia. They knew what retaliation the outbreak in Prague would bring upon them, and anticipated it by making the revolution general. They chose Count Thun as their leader, overturned the Imperial government, banished the Jesuits from the country, and entered into relations with the Protestant nobles of Austria, and the insurgent chief Bethlen Gabor in Hungary. The Emperor Matthias was willing to compromise the difficulty, but Ferdinand, stimulated by the Jesuits, declared for war. He sent two small armies into Bohemia, with a proclamation calling upon the people to submit. The Protestants of the North were at last aroused from their lethargy. Count Mansfeld marched with a force of 4,000 men to aid the Bohemians, and 3,000 more came from Silesia; the Imperial army was defeated and driven back to the Danube. At this juncture the Emperor Matthias died, on the 20th of May, 1619.

Ferdinand lost not a day in taking the power into his own hands. But Austria threatened revolution, Hungary had made common cause with Bohemia, Count Thun was marching on Vienna, and he was without an army to support his claims. Count Thun, however, instead of attacking Vienna, encamped outside the walls and began to negotiate. Ferdinand, hard pressed by the demands of the Austrian Protestants, was on the very point of yielding—in fact, a member of a deputation of sixteen noblemen had seized him by the coat,—when trumpets were heard, and a body of 500 cavalry, which had reached the city without being intercepted by the besiegers, appeared before the palace. This enabled him to defend the city, until the defeat of Count Mansfeld by another portion of his army, which had entered Bohemia, compelled Count Thun to raise the siege. Then Ferdinand hastened to Frankfort to look after his election as Emperor by the Diet, which met on the 28th of August, 1619.

It seems almost incredible that now, knowing his character and designs, the three Chief Electors who were Protestants should have voted for him, without being conscious that they were traitors to their faith and their people. It has been charged, but without any clear evidence, that they were bribed: it is probable that Ferdinand, whose Jesuitic education taught him that falsehood and perjury are permitted[Pg 289] in serving the Church, misled them by promises of peace and justice; but it is also very likely that they imagined their own sovereignty depended on sustaining every tradition of the Empire. The people, of course, had not yet acquired any rights which a prince felt himself called upon to respect.


Ferdinand was elected, and properly crowned in the Cathedral at Frankfort, as Ferdinand II. The Bohemians, who were entitled to one of the seven chief voices in the Diet, claimed that the election was not binding upon them, and chose Frederick V. of the Palatinate as their king, in the hope that the Protestant "Union" would rally to their support. It was a fatal choice and a false hope. When Maximilian of Bavaria, at the head of the Catholic "League," took the field for the Emperor, the "Union" cowardly withdrew. Frederick V. went to Bohemia, was crowned, and idled his time away in fantastic diversions for one winter, while Ferdinand was calling Spain to attack the Palatinate of the Rhine, and borrowing Cossacks from Poland to put down his Protestant subjects in Austria. The Emperor assured the Protestant princes that the war should be confined to Bohemia, and one of them, the Elector John George of Saxony, a Lutheran, openly went over to his side in order to defeat Frederick V., a Calvinist. The Bohemians fell back to the walls of Prague before the armies of the Emperor and Bavaria; and there, on the White Mountain, a battle of an hour's duration, in November, 1620, decided the fate of the country. The former scattered in all directions; Frederick V. left Prague never to return, and Spanish, Italian and Hungarian troops overran Bohemia.

Ferdinand II. acted as might have been expected from his despotic and bigoted nature. The 8,000 Cossacks which he had borrowed from his brother-in-law, king Sigismund of Poland, had already closed all Protestant Churches and suppressed freedom of worship in Austria; he now applied the same measures to Bohemia, but in a more violent and bloody form. Twenty-seven of the chief Protestant nobles were beheaded at Prague in one day; thousands of families were stripped of all their property and banished; the Protestant churches were given to the Catholics, the Jesuits took possession of the University and the schools, until finally, as a historian says, "the quiet of a sepulchre settled over Bohemia." The Protestant faith was practically obliterated[Pg 290] from all the Austrian realm, with the exception of a few scattered congregations in Hungary and Transylvania.


There is hardly anywhere, in the history of the world, such an instance of savage despotism. A large majority of the population of Austria, Bohemia and Styria were Protestants; they were rapidly growing in intelligence, in social order and material prosperity; but the will of one man was allowed to destroy the progress of a hundred years, to crush both the faith and freedom of the people, plunder them of their best earnings and make them ignorant slaves for 200 years longer. The property which was seized by Ferdinand II., in Bohemia alone, was estimated at forty millions of florins! And the strength of Germany, which was Protestant, looked on and saw all this happen! Only the common people of Austria arose against the tyrant, and gallantly struggled for months, at first under the command of a farmer named Stephen Fadinger, and, when he was slain in the moment of victory, under an unknown young hero, who had no other name than "the Student." The latter defeated the Bavarian army, resisted the famous Austrian general, Pappenheim, in many battles, and at last fell, after the most of his followers had fallen, without leaving his name to history. The Austrian peasants rivalled the Swiss of three centuries before in their bravery and self-sacrifice: had they been successful (as they might have been, with small help from their Protestant brethren), they would have changed the course of German history, and have become renowned among the heroes of the world.

The fate of Austria, from that day to this, was now sealed. Both parties—the Catholics, headed by Ferdinand II., and the Protestants, without any head,—next turned to the Palatinate of the Rhine, where a Spanish army, sent from Flanders, was wasting and plundering in the name of the Emperor. Count Ernest of Mansfeld and Prince Christian of Brunswick, who had supported Frederick V. in Bohemia, endeavored to save at least the Palatinate for him. They were dashing and eccentric young generals, whose personal reputation attracted all sorts of wild and lawless characters to take service under them. Mansfeld, who had been originally a Catholic, was partly supported by contributions from England and Holland, but he also took what he could get from the country through which he marched. Christian of Brunswick was a fantastic prince, who tried to imitate the[Pg 291] knights of the Middle Ages. He was a great admirer of the Countess Elizabeth of the Palatinate (sister of Charles I. of England), and always wore her glove on his helmet. In order to obtain money for his troops, he plundered the bishoprics in Westphalia, and forced the cities and villages to pay him heavy contributions. When he entered the cathedral at Paderborn and saw the silver statues of the Apostles around the altar, he cried out: "What are you doing here? You were ordered to go forth into the world, but wait a bit—I'll send you!" So he had them melted and coined into dollars, upon which the words were stamped: "Friend of God, foe of priests!" He afterwards gave himself that name, but the soldiers generally called him "Mad Christian."


Against these two, and George Frederick of Baden, who joined them, Ferdinand II. sent Maximilian of Bavaria, to whom he promised the Palatinate as a reward, and Tilly, a general already famous both for his military talent and his inhumanity. The latter, who had been educated by the Jesuits for a priest, was in the Bavarian service. He was a small, lean man, with a face almost comical in its ugliness. His nose was like a parrot's beak, his forehead seamed with deep wrinkles, his eyes sunk in their sockets and his cheek-bones projecting. He usually wore a dress of green satin, with a cocked hat and long red feather, and rode a small, mean-looking gray horse.

Early in 1622 the Imperial army under Tilly was defeated, or at least checked, by the united forces of Mansfeld and Prince Christian. But in May of the same year, the forces of the latter, with those of George Frederick of Baden, were almost cut to pieces by Tilly, at Wimpfen. They retreated into Alsatia, where they burned and plundered at will, while Tilly pursued the same course on the eastern side of the Rhine. He took and destroyed the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg, closed the Protestant churches, banished the clergymen and teachers, and supplied their places with Jesuits. The invaluable library of Heidelberg was sent to Pope Gregory XV. at Rome, and remained there until 1815, when a part of it came back to the University by way of Paris.


Frederick V., who had fled from the country, entered into negotiations with the Emperor, in the hope of retaining the Palatinate. He dissolved his connection with Mansfeld and[Pg 292] Prince Christian, who thereupon offered their services to the Emperor, on condition that he would pay their soldiers! Receiving no answer, they marched through Lorraine and Flanders, laying waste the country as they went, and finally took refuge in Holland. Frederick V.'s humiliation was of no avail; none of the Protestant princes supported his claim. The Emperor gave his land, with the Electoral dignity, to Maximilian of Bavaria, and this act, although a direct violation of the laws which the German princes held sacred, was acquiesced in by them at a Diet held at Ratisbon in 1623. John George of Saxony, who saw clearly that it was a fatal blow aimed both at the Protestants and at the rights of the reigning princes, was persuaded to be silent by the promise of having Lusatia added to Saxony.

By this time, Germany was in a worse condition than she had known for centuries. The power of the Jesuits, represented by Ferdinand II., his councillors and generals, was supreme almost everywhere; the Protestant princes vied with each other in meanness, selfishness and cowardice; the people were slaughtered, robbed, driven hither and thither by both parties: there seemed to be neither faith nor justice left in the land. The other Protestant nations—England, Holland, Denmark and Sweden—looked on with dismay, and even Cardinal Richelieu, who was then practically the ruler of France, was willing to see Ferdinand II.'s power crippled, though the Protestants should gain thereby. England and Holland assisted Mansfeld and Prince Christian with money, and the latter organized new armies, with which they ravaged Friesland and Westphalia. Prince Christian was on his way to Bohemia, in order to unite with the Hungarian chief, Bethlen Gabor, when, on the 6th of August, 1623, he met Tilly at a place called Stadtloon, near Münster, and, after a murderous battle which lasted three days, was utterly defeated. About the same time Mansfeld, needing further support, went to England, where he was received with great honor.

Ferdinand II. had in the meantime concluded a peace with Bethlen Gabor, and his authority was firmly established over Austria and Bohemia. Tilly with his Bavarians was victorious in Westphalia; all armed opposition to the Emperor's rule was at an end, yet instead of declaring peace established, and restoring the former order of the Empire, his agents continued their work of suppressing religious[Pg 293] freedom and civil rights in all the States which had been overrun by the Catholic armies. The whole Empire was threatened with the fate of Austria. Then, at last, in 1625, Brunswick, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen formed a union for mutual defence, choosing as their leader king Christian IV. of Denmark, the same monarch who had broken down the power of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic and North Seas! Although a Protestant, he was no friend to the North-German States, but he energetically united with them in the hope of being able to enlarge his kingdom at their expense.


Christian IV. lost no time in making arrangements with England and Holland which enabled both Mansfeld and Prince Christian of Brunswick to raise new forces, with which they returned to Germany. Tilly, in order to intercept them, entered the territory of the States which had united, and thus gave Christian IV. a pretext for declaring war. The latter marched down from Denmark at once, but found no earnest union among the States, and only 7,000 men collected. He soon succeeded, however, in bringing together a force much larger than that commanded by Tilly, and was only hindered in his plan of immediate action by a fall from his horse, which crippled him for six weeks. The city of Hamelin was taken, and Tilly compelled to fall back, but no other important movements took place during the year 1625.

Ferdinand II. was already growing jealous of the increasing power of Bavaria, and determined that the Catholic and Imperial cause should not be entrusted to Tilly alone. But he had little money, his own military force had been wasted by the wars in Bohemia, Austria and Hungary, and there was no other commander of sufficient renown to attract men to his standard. Yet it was necessary that Tilly should be reinforced as soon as possible, or his scheme of crushing the whole of Germany, and laying it, as a fettered slave, at the feet of the Roman Church, might fail, and at the very moment when success seemed sure.

In this emergency, a new man presented himself. Albert of Waldstein, better known under his historical name of Wallenstein, was born at Prague in 1583. He was the son of a poor nobleman, and violent and unruly as a youth, until a fall from the third story of a house effected a sudden change in his nature. He became brooding and taciturn,[Pg 294] gave up his Protestant faith, and was educated by the Jesuits at Olmütz. He travelled in Spain, France and the Netherlands, fought in Italy against Venice and in Hungary against Bethlen Gabor and the Turks, and rose to the rank of Colonel. He married an old and rich widow, and after her death increased his wealth by a second marriage, so that, when the Protestants were expelled from Bohemia, he was able to purchase 60 of their confiscated estates. Adding these to that of Friedland, which he had received from the Emperor in return for military services, he possessed a small principality, lived in great splendor, and paid and equipped his own troops. He was first made Count, and then Duke of Friedland, with the authority of an independent prince of the Empire.


Wallenstein was superstitious, and his studies in astrology gave him the belief that a much higher destiny awaited him. Here was the opportunity: he offered to raise and command a second army, in the Emperor's service. Ferdinand II. accepted the offer with joy, and sent word to Wallenstein that he should immediately proceed to enlist 20,000 men. "My army," the latter answered, "must live by what it can take: 20,000 men are not enough. I must have 50,000, and then I can demand what I want!" The threat of terrible ravage contained in these words was soon carried out.

Wallenstein was tall and meagre in person. His forehead was high but narrow, his hair black and cut very short, his eyes small, dark and fiery, and his complexion yellow. His voice was harsh and disagreeable: he never smiled, and spoke only when it was necessary. He usually dressed in scarlet, with a leather jerkin, and wore a long red feather on his hat. There was something cold, mistrustful and mysterious in his appearance, yet he possessed unbounded power over his soldiers, whom he governed with severity and rewarded splendidly. There are few more interesting personages in German history.




  • The Winter of 1625.
  • —6.
  • —Wallenstein's Victory.
  • —Mansfeld's Death.
  • —Tilly defeats Christian IV.
  • —Wallenstein's Successes in Saxony, Brandenburg and Holstein.
  • —Siege of Stralsund.
  • —The Edict of Restitution.
  • —Its Effects.
  • —Wallenstein's Plans.
  • —Diet at Ratisbon.
  • —Wallenstein's Removal.
  • —Arrival of Gustavus Adolphus.
  • —His Positions and Plans.
  • —His Character.
  • —Cowardice of the Protestant Princes.
  • —Tilly sacks Magdeburg.
  • —Decision of Gustavus Adolphus.
  • —Tilly's Defeat at Leipzig.
  • —Bohemia invaded.
  • —Gustavus at Frankfort.
  • —Defeat and Death of Tilly.
  • —Gustavus in Munich.
  • —Wallenstein restored.
  • —His Conditions.
  • —He meets Gustavus at Nuremberg.
  • —He invades Saxony.
  • —Battle of Lützen.
  • —Death of Gustavus Adolphus.
  • —Wallenstein's Retreat.
  • —Union of Protestant Princes with Sweden.
  • —Protestant Successes.
  • —Secret Negotiations with Wallenstein.
  • —His Movements.
  • —Conspiracy against him.
  • —His Removal.
  • —His March to Eger.
  • —His Assassination.

Before the end of the year 1625, and within three months after Ferdinand II. had commissioned Wallenstein to raise an army, the latter marched into Saxony at the head of 30,000 men. No important operations were undertaken during the winter: Christian IV. and Mansfeld had their separate quarters on the one side, Tilly and Wallenstein on the other, and the four armies devoured the substance of the lands where they were encamped. In April, 1626, Mansfeld marched against Wallenstein, to prevent him from uniting with Tilly. The two armies met at the bridge of the Elbe, at Dessau, and fought desperately: Mansfeld was defeated, driven into Brandenburg, and then took his way through Silesia towards Hungary, with the intention of forming an alliance with Bethlen Gabor. Wallenstein followed by forced marches, and compelled Gabor to make peace with the Emperor: Mansfeld disbanded his troops and set out for Venice, where he meant to embark for England. But he was already worn out by the hardships of his campaigns, and died on the way, in Dalmatia,[Pg 296] in November, 1626, 45 years of age. A few months afterwards Prince Christian of Brunswick also died, and the Protestant cause was left without any native German leader.


During the same year the cause received a second and severer blow. On the 26th of August Christian IV. and Tilly came together at Lutter, a little town on the northern edge of the Hartz, and the army of the former was cut to pieces, himself barely escaping with his life. There seemed, now, to be no further hope for the Protestants: Christian IV. retreated to Holstein, the Elector of Brandenburg gave up his connection with the Union of the Saxon States, the Dukes of Mecklenburg were powerless, and Maurice of Hesse was compelled by the Emperor to abdicate. New measures in Bohemia and Austria foreshadowed the probable fate of Germany: the remaining Protestants in those two countries, including a large majority of the Austrian nobles, were made Catholics by force.

In the summer of 1627 Wallenstein again marched northward with an army reorganized and recruited to 40,000 men. John George of Saxony, who tried to maintain a selfish and cowardly neutrality, now saw his land overrun, and himself at the mercy of the conqueror. Brandenburg was subjected to the same fate; the two Mecklenburg duchies were seized as the booty of the Empire; and Wallenstein, marching on without opposition, plundered and wasted Holstein, Jutland and Pomerania. In 1628 the Emperor bestowed Mecklenburg upon him: he gave himself the title of "Admiral of the Baltic and the Ocean," and drew up a plan for creating a navy out of the vessels of the Hanseatic League, and conquering Holland for the house of Hapsburg. After this should have been accomplished, his next project was to form an alliance with Poland against Denmark and Sweden, the only remaining Protestant powers.

While the rich and powerful cities of Hamburg and Lübeck surrendered at his approach, the little Hanseatic town of Stralsund closed its gates against him. The citizens took a solemn oath to defend their religious faith and their political independence to the last drop of their blood. Wallenstein exclaimed: "And if Stralsund were bound to Heaven with chains, I would tear it down!" and marched against the place. At the first assault he lost 1,000 men; at the second, 2,000; and then the citizens, in turn, made sallies, and inflicted still heavier losses upon him. They[Pg 297] were soon reinforced by 2,000 Swedes, and then Wallenstein was forced to raise the siege, after having lost, altogether, 12,000 of his best troops. At this time the Danes appeared with a fleet of 200 vessels, and took possession of the port of Wolgast, in Pomerania.


In spite of this temporary reverse, Ferdinand II. considered that his absolute power was established over all Germany. After consulting with the Catholic Chief-Electors (one of whom, now, was Maximilian of Bavaria), he issued, on the 6th of March, 1629, an "Edict of Restitution," ordering that all the former territory of the Roman Church, which had become Protestant, should be restored to Catholic hands. This required that two archbishoprics, twelve bishoprics, and a great number of monasteries and churches, which had ceased to exist nearly a century before, should be again established; and then, on the principle that the religion of the ruler should be that of the people, that the Protestant faith should be suppressed in all such territory. The armies were kept in the field to enforce this edict, which was instantly carried into effect in Southern Germany, and in the most violent and barbarous manner. The estates of 6,000 noblemen in Franconia, Würtemberg and Baden were confiscated; even the property of reigning princes was seized; but, instead of passing into the hands of the Church, much of it was bestowed upon the Emperor's family and his followers. The Archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg were given to his son Leopold, a boy of 15! In carrying out the measure, Catholics began to suffer, as well as Protestants, and the jealousy and alarm of all the smaller States were finally aroused.

Wallenstein, while equally despotic, was much more arrogant and reckless than Ferdinand II. He openly declared that reigning princes and a National Diet were no longer necessary in Germany; the Emperor must be an absolute ruler, like the kings of France and Spain. At the same time he was carrying out his own political plans without much reference to the Imperial authority. Both Catholics and Protestants united in calling for a Diet: Ferdinand II. at first refused, but there were such signs of hostility on the part of Holland, Denmark, Sweden and even France, that he was forced to yield. The Diet met on the 5th of June, 1630, at Ratisbon, and Maximilian of Bavaria headed the universal demand for Wallenstein's removal. The Protestants[Pg 298] gave testimony of the merciless system of plunder by which he had ruined their lands; the Catholics complained of the more than Imperial splendors of his court, upon which he squandered uncounted millions of stolen money. He travelled with 100 carriages and more than 1,000 horses, kept 15 cooks for his table, and was waited upon by 16 pages of noble blood. Jealousy of this pomp and state, and fear of Wallenstein's ambitious designs, and not the latter's fiendish inhumanity, induced Ferdinand II. to submit to the entreaties of the Diet, and remove him.


The Imperial messengers who were sent to his camp with the order of dismissal, approached him in great dread and anxiety, and scarcely dared to mention their business. Wallenstein pointed to a sheet covered with astrological characters, and quietly told them that he had known everything in advance; that the Emperor had been misled by the Elector of Bavaria, but, nevertheless, the order would be obeyed. He entertained them at a magnificent banquet, loaded them with gifts, and then sent them away. With rage and hate in his heart, but with all the external show and splendor of an independent sovereign, he retired to Prague, well knowing that the day was not far off when his services would be again needed.

Tilly was appointed commander-in-chief of the Imperial armies. At the very moment, however, when Wallenstein was dismissed, and his forces divided among several inferior generals, the leader whom the German Protestants could not furnish came to them from abroad. Their ruin and the triumph of Ferdinand II. seemed inevitable; twelve years of war in its most horrible form had desolated their lands, reduced their numbers to less than half, and broken their spirit. Then help and hope suddenly returned. On the 4th of July, 1630, Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, landed on the coast of Pomerania, with an army of 15,000 men. As he stepped upon the shore, he knelt in the sight of all the soldiers and prayed that God would befriend him. Some of his staff could not restrain their tears; whereupon he said to them: "Weep not, friends, but pray, for prayer is half victory!"

Gustavus Adolphus, who had succeeded to the throne in 1611, at the age of 17, was already distinguished as a military commander. He had defeated the Russians in Livonia and banished them from the Baltic; he had fought for three[Pg 299] years with king Sigismund of Poland, and taken from him the ports of Elbing, Pillau and Memel, and he was now burning with zeal to defend the falling Protestant cause in Germany. Cardinal Richelieu, in France, helped him to the opportunity by persuading Sigismund to accept an armistice, and by furnishing Sweden with the means of carrying on a war against Ferdinand II. The latter had assisted Poland, so that a pretext was not wanting; but when Gustavus laid his plans before his council in Stockholm, a majority of the members advised him to wait for a new cause of offence. Nevertheless, he insisted on immediate action. The representatives of the four orders of the people were convoked in the Senate-house, where he appeared before them with his little daughter, Christina, in his arms, asked them to swear fealty to her, and then bade them a solemn farewell. All burst into tears when he said: "perhaps for ever," but nothing could shake his resolution to undertake the great work.


Gustavus Adolphus was at this time 34 years old; he was so tall and powerfully built that he almost seemed a giant; his face was remarkably frank and cheerful in expression, his hair light, his eyes large and gray and his nose aquiline. Personally, he was a striking contrast to the little, haggard and wrinkled Tilly and the dark, silent and gloomy Wallenstein. Ferdinand II. laughed when he heard of his landing, called him the "Snow King," and said that he would melt away after one winter; but the common people, who loved and trusted him as soon as they saw him, named him the "Lion of the North." He was no less a statesman than a soldier, and his accomplishments were unusual in a ruler of those days. He was a generous patron of the arts and sciences, spoke four languages with ease and elegance, was learned in theology, a ready orator and—best of all—he was honest, devout and conscientious in all his ways. The best blood of the Goths from whom he was descended beat in his veins, and the Germans, therefore, could not look upon him as a foreigner; to them he was a countryman as well as a deliverer.

The Protestant princes, however, although in the utmost peril and humiliated to the dust, refused to unite with him. If their course had been cowardly and selfish before, it now became simply infamous. The Duke of Pomerania shut the gates of Stettin upon the Swedish army, until compelled by threats to open them; the Electors of Brandenburg and[Pg 300] Saxony held themselves aloof, and Gustavus found himself obliged to respect their neutrality, lest they should go over to the Emperor's side! Out of all Protestant Germany there came to him a few petty princes whose lands had been seized by the Catholics, and who could only offer their swords. His own troops, however, had been seasoned in many battles; their discipline was perfect; and when the German people found that the slightest act of plunder or violence was severely punished, they were welcomed wherever they marched.


Moving slowly, and with as much wisdom as caution, Gustavus relieved Pomerania from the Imperial troops, by the end of the year. He then took Frankfort-on-the-Oder by storm, and forced the Elector of Brandenburg to give him the use of Spandau as a fortress, until he should have relieved Magdeburg, the only German city which had forcibly resisted the "Edict of Restitution," and was now besieged by Tilly and Pappenheim. As the city was hard pressed, Gustavus demanded of John George, Elector of Saxony, permission to march through his territory: it was refused! Magdeburg was defended by 2,300 soldiers and 5,000 armed citizens against an army of 30,000 men, for more than a month; then, on the 10th of May, 1631, it was taken by storm, and given up to the barbarous fury of Tilly and his troops. The city sank in blood and ashes: 30,000 of the inhabitants perished by the sword, or in the flames, or crushed under falling walls, or drowned in the waters of the Elbe. Only 4,000, who had taken refuge in the Cathedral, were spared. Tilly wrote to the Emperor: "Since the fall of Troy and Jerusalem, such a victory has never been seen; and I am sincerely sorry that the ladies of your imperial family could not have been present as spectators!"

Gustavus Adolphus has been blamed, especially by the admirers and defenders of the houses of Brandenburg and Saxony, for not having saved Magdeburg. This he might have done, had he disregarded the neutrality asserted by John George; but he had been bitterly disappointed at his reception by the Protestant princes, he could not trust them, and was not strong enough to fight Tilly with possible enemies in his rear. In fact, George William of Brandenburg immediately ordered him to give up Spandau and leave his territory. Then Gustavus did what he should have done at first: he planted his cannon before Berlin, and threatened to lay the city in ashes. This brought[Pg 301] George William to his senses; he agreed that his fortresses should be used by the Swedes, and contributed 30,000 dollars a month towards the expenses of the war. So many recruits flocked to the Swedish standard that both Mecklenburgs were soon cleared of the Imperial troops, the banished Dukes restored, and an attack by Tilly upon the fortified camp of Gustavus was repulsed with heavy losses.


Landgrave William of Hesse Cassel was the first Protestant prince who voluntarily allied himself with the Swedish king. He was shortly followed by the unwilling but helpless John George of Saxony, whose territory was invaded and wasted by Tilly's army. Ferdinand II. had given this order, meaning that the Elector should at least support his troops. Tilly took possession of Halle, Naumburg and other cities, plundered and levied heavy contributions, and at last entered Leipzig, after bombarding it for four days. Then John George united his troops with those of Gustavus Adolphus, who now commanded an army of 35,000 men.

Tilly and Pappenheim had an equal force to oppose him. After a good deal of cautious manœuvring, the two armies stood face to face near Leipzig, on the 17th of September, 1631. The Swedes were without armor, and Gustavus distributed musketeers among the cavalry and pikemen. Banner, one of his generals, commanded his right, and Marshal Horn his left, where the Saxons were stationed. The army of Tilly was drawn up in a long line, and the troops wore heavy cuirasses and helmets: Pappenheim commanded the left, opposite Gustavus, while Tilly undertook to engage the Saxons. The battle-cry of the Protestants was "God with us!"—that of the Catholics "Jesu Maria!" Gustavus, wearing a white hat and green feather, and mounted on a white horse, rode up and down the lines, encouraging his men. The Saxons gave way before Tilly, and began to fly; but the Swedes, after repelling seven charges of Pappenheim's cavalry, broke the enemy's right wing, captured the cannon and turned them against Tilly. The Imperial army, thrown into confusion, fled in disorder, pursued by the Swedes, who cut them down until night put an end to the slaughter. Tilly, severely wounded, narrowly escaped death, and reached Halle with only a few hundred men.


This splendid victory restored the hopes of the Protestants everywhere. Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar had joined Gustavus before the battle: in his zeal for the cause,[Pg 302] his honesty and bravery, he resembled the king, whose chief reliance as a military leader, he soon became. John George of Saxony consented, though with evident reluctance, to march into Bohemia, where the crushed Protestants were longing for help, while the Swedish army advanced through Central Germany to the Rhine. Tilly gathered together the scattered Imperial forces left in the North, followed, and vainly endeavored to check Gustavus. The latter took Würzburg, defeated 17,000 men under Charles of Lorraine, who had crossed the Rhine to oppose him, and entered Frankfort in triumph. Here he fixed his winter-quarters, and allowed his faithful Swedish troops the rest which they so much needed.

The territory of the Archbishop of Mayence, and of other Catholic princes, which he overran, was not plundered or laid waste: Gustavus proclaimed everywhere religious freedom, not retaliation for the barbarities inflicted on the Protestants. He soon made himself respected by his enemies, and his influence spread so rapidly that the idea of becoming Emperor of Germany was a natural consequence of his success. His wife, Queen Eleanor, had joined him; he held a splendid court at Frankfort, and required the German princes whom he had subjected to acknowledge themselves his dependents. The winter of 1631—32 was given up to diplomacy, rather than war. Richelieu began to be jealous of the increasing power of the Swedish king, and entered into secret negotiations with Maximilian of Bavaria. The latter also corresponded with Gustavus Adolphus, who by this time had secured the neutrality of the States along the Rhine, and the support of a large majority of the population of the Palatinate, Baden and Würtemberg.

In the early spring of 1632, satisfied that no arrangement with Maximilian was possible, Gustavus reorganized his army and set out for Bavaria. The city of Nuremberg received him with the wildest rejoicing: then he advanced upon Donauwörth, drove out Maximilian's troops and restored Protestant worship in the churches. Tilly, meanwhile, had added Maximilian's army to his own, and taken up a strong position on the eastern bank of the river Lech, between Augsburg and the Danube. Gustavus marched against him, cannonaded his position for three days from the opposite bank, and had partly crossed under cover of the smoke before his plan was discovered. On the 15th of April Tilly was mortally wounded, and[Pg 303] his army fled in the greatest confusion: he died a few days afterwards, at Ingolstadt, 73 years old.


The city of Augsburg opened its gates to the conqueror and acknowledged his authority. Then, after attacking Ingolstadt without success, he marched upon Munich, which was unable to resist, but was spared, on condition of paying a heavy contribution. The Bavarians had buried a number of cannon under the floor of the arsenal, and news thereof came to the king's ears. "Let the dead arise!" he ordered; and 140 pieces were dug up, one of which contained 30,000 ducats. Maximilian, whose land was completely overrun by the Swedes, would gladly have made peace, but Gustavus plainly told him that he was not to be trusted. While the Protestant cause was so brilliantly victorious in the south, John George of Saxony, who had taken possession of Prague without the least trouble, remained inactive in Bohemia during the winter and spring, apparently as jealous of Gustavus as he was afraid of Ferdinand II.

The Emperor had long before ceased to laugh at the "Snow King." He was in the greatest strait of his life: he knew that his trampled Austrians would rise at the approach of the Swedish army, and then the Catholic cause would be lost. Before this he had appealed to Wallenstein, who was holding a splendid court at Znaim, in Moravia; but the latter refused, knowing that he could exact better terms for his support by waiting a little longer. The danger, in fact, increased so rapidly that Ferdinand II. was finally compelled to subscribe to an agreement which practically made Wallenstein the lord and himself the subject. He gave the Duchies of Mecklenburg to Wallenstein, and promised him one of the Hapsburg States in Austria; he gave him the entire disposal of all the territory he should conquer, and agreed to pay the expenses of his army. Moreover, all appointments were left to Wallenstein, and the Emperor pledged himself that neither he nor his son should ever visit the former's camp.

Having thus become absolute master of his movements, Wallenstein offered a high rate of payment and boundless chances of plunder to all who might enlist under him, and in two or three months stood at the head of an army of 40,000 men, many of whom were demoralized Protestants. He took possession of Prague, which John George vacated at his approach, and then waited quietly until Maximilian should be forced by necessity to give him also the command of the[Pg 304] Bavarian forces. This soon came to pass, and then Wallenstein, with 60,000 men, marched against Gustavus Adolphus, who fell back upon Nuremberg, which he surrounded with a fortified camp. Instead of attacking him, Wallenstein took possession of the height of Zirndorf, in the neighborhood of the city, and strongly intrenched himself. Here the two commanders lay for nine weeks, watching each other, until Gustavus, whose force amounted to about 35,000, grew impatient of the delay, and troubled for the want of supplies.


He attacked Wallenstein's camp, but was repulsed with a loss of 2,000 men; then, after waiting two weeks longer, he marched out of Nuremberg, with the intention of invading Bavaria. Maximilian followed him with the Bavarian troops, and Wallenstein, whose army had been greatly diminished by disease and desertion, moved into Franconia. Then, wheeling suddenly, he crossed the Thuringian Mountains into Saxony, burning and pillaging as he went, took Leipzig, and threatened Dresden. John George, who was utterly unprepared for such a movement, again called upon Gustavus for help, and the latter, leaving Bavaria, hastened to Saxony by forced marches. On the 27th of October he reached Erfurt, where he took leave of his wife, with a presentiment that he should never see her again.

As he passed on through Weimar to Naumburg, the country-people flocked to see him, falling on their knees, kissing his garments, and expressing such other signs of faith and veneration, that he exclaimed: "I pray that the wrath of the Almighty may not be visited upon me, on account of this idolatry towards a weak and sinful mortal!" Wallenstein's force being considerably larger than his own, he halted in Naumburg, to await the former's movements. As the season was so far advanced, Wallenstein finally decided to send Pappenheim with 10,000 men into Westphalia, and then go into winter-quarters. As soon as Gustavus heard of Pappenheim's departure he marched to the attack, and the battle began on the morning of November 6th, 1632, at Lützen, between Naumburg and Leipzig.

On both sides the troops had been arranged with great military skill. Wallenstein had 25,000 men and Gustavus 20,000. The latter made a stirring address to his Swedes, and then the whole army united in singing Luther's grand hymn: "Our Lord He is a Tower of Strength." For several hours the battle raged furiously, without any marked advantage[Pg 305] on either side; then the Swedes broke Wallenstein's left wing and captured the artillery. The Imperialists rallied and retook it, throwing the Swedes into some confusion. Gustavus rode forward to rally them and was carried by his horse among the enemy. A shot, fired at close quarters, shattered his left arm, but he refused to leave the field, and shortly afterwards a second shot struck him from his horse. The sight of the steed, covered with blood and wildly galloping to and fro, told the Swedes what had happened; but, instead of being disheartened, they fought more furiously than before, under the command of Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar.


At this juncture Pappenheim, who had been summoned from Halle the day before, arrived on the field. His first impetuous charge drove the Swedes back, but he also fell, mortally wounded, his cavalry began to waver, and the lost ground was regained. Night put an end to the conflict, and before morning Wallenstein retreated to Leipzig, leaving all his artillery and colors on the field. The body of Gustavus Adolphus was found after a long search, buried under a heap of dead, stripped, mutilated by the hoofs of horses, and barely recognizable. The loss to the Protestant cause seemed irreparable, but the heroic king, in falling, had so crippled the power of its most dangerous enemy that its remaining adherents had a little breathing-time left them, to arrange for carrying on the struggle.

Wallenstein was so weakened that he did not even remain in Saxony, but retired to Bohemia, where he vented his rage on his own soldiers. The Protestant princes felt themselves powerless without the aid of Sweden, and when the Chancellor of the kingdom, Oxenstierna, decided to carry on the war, they could not do otherwise than accept him as the head of the Protestant Union, in the place of Gustavus Adolphus. A meeting was held at Heilbronn, in the spring of 1633, at which the Suabian, Franconian and Rhenish princes formally joined the new league. Duke Bernard and the Swedish Marshal Horn were appointed commanders of the army. Electoral Saxony and Brandenburg, as before, hesitated and half drew back, but they finally consented to favor the movement without joining it, and each accepted 100,000 thalers a year from France, to pay them for the trouble. Richelieu had an ambassador at Heilbronn, who promised large subsidies to the Protestant side: it was in[Pg 306] the interest of France to break the power of the Hapsburgs, and there was also a chance, in the struggle, of gaining another slice of German territory.


Hostilities were renewed, and for a considerable time the Protestant armies were successful everywhere. William of Hesse and Duke George of Brunswick defeated the Imperialists and held Westphalia; Duke Bernard took Bamberg and moved against Bavaria; Saxony and Silesia were delivered from the enemy, and Marshal Horn took possession of Alsatia. Duke Bernard and Horn were only prevented from overrunning all Bavaria by a mutiny which broke out in their armies, and deprived them of several weeks of valuable time.

While these movements were going on, Wallenstein remained idle at Prague, in spite of the repeated and pressing entreaties of the Emperor that he would take the field. He seems to have considered his personal power secured, and was only in doubt as to the next step which he should take in his ambitious career. Finally, in May, he marched into Silesia, easily out-generaled Arnheim, who commanded the Protestant armies, but declined to follow up his advantage, and concluded an armistice. Secret negotiations then began between Wallenstein, Arnheim and the French ambassador: the project was that Wallenstein should come over to the Protestant side, in return for the crown of Bohemia. Louis XIII. of France promised his aid, but Chancellor Oxenstierna, distrusting Wallenstein, refused to be a party to the plan. There is no positive evidence, indeed, that Wallenstein consented: it rather seems that he was only courting offers from the Protestant side, in order to have a choice of advantages, but without binding himself in any way.

Ferdinand II., in his desperation, summoned a Spanish army from Italy to his aid. This was a new offence to Wallenstein, since the new troops were not placed under his command. In the autumn of 1633, however, he felt obliged to make some movement. He entered Silesia, defeated a Protestant army under Count Thurn, overran the greater part of Saxony and Brandenburg, and threatened Pomerania. In the meantime the Spanish and Austrian troops in Bavaria had been forced to fall back, Duke Bernard had taken Ratisbon, and the road to Vienna was open to him. Ferdinand II. and Maximilian of Bavaria sent messenger[Pg 307] after messenger to Wallenstein, imploring him to return from the North without delay. He moved with the greatest slowness, evidently enjoying their anxiety and alarm, crossed the northern frontier of Bavaria, and then, instead of marching against Duke Bernard, he turned about and took up his winter-quarters at Pilsen, in Bohemia.


Here he received an order from the Emperor, commanding him to march instantly against Ratisbon, and further, to send 6,000 of his best cavalry to the Spanish army. This step compelled him, after a year's hesitation, to act without further delay. He was already charged, at Vienna, with being a traitor to the Imperial cause: he now decided to become one, in reality. He first confided his design to his brothers-in-law, Counts Kinsky and Terzky, and one of his Generals, Illo. Then a council of war, of all the chief officers of his army, was called on the 11th of January, 1634; Wallenstein stated what Ferdinand II. had ordered, and in a cunning speech commented on the latter's ingratitude to the army which had saved him, ending by declaring that he should instantly resign his command. The officers were thunderstruck: they had boundless faith in Wallenstein's military genius, and they saw themselves deprived of glory, pay and plunder by his resignation. He and his associates skilfully made use of their excitement: at a grand banquet, the next day, all of them, numbering 42, signed a document pledging their entire fidelity to Wallenstein.

General Piccolomini, one of the signers, betrayed all this to the Emperor, who, twelve days afterwards, appointed General Gallas, another of the signers, commander in Wallenstein's stead. At the same time a secret order was issued for the seizure of Wallenstein, Illo and Terzky, dead or alive. Both sides were now secretly working against each other, but Wallenstein's former delay told against him. He could not go over to the Protestant side, unless certain important conditions were secured in advance, and while his agents were negotiating with Duke Bernard, his own army, privately worked upon by Gallas and other agents of the Emperor, began to desert him. What arrangement was made with Duke Bernard, is uncertain; the chief evidence is that he, and Wallenstein with the few thousand troops who still stood by him, moved rapidly towards each other, as if to join their forces.


On the 24th of February, 1634, Wallenstein reached the[Pg 308] town of Eger, near the Bohemian frontier: only two or three more days were required, to consummate his plan. Then Colonel Butler, an Irishman, and two Scotch officers, Gordon and Leslie, conspired to murder him and his associates—no doubt in consequence of instructions received from Vienna. Illo, Terzky and Kinsky accepted an invitation to a banquet in the citadel, the following evening; but Wallenstein, who was unwell, remained in his quarters in the Burgomaster's house. Everything had been carefully prepared, in advance: at a given signal, Gordon and Leslie put out the lights, dragoons entered the banquet-hall, and the three victims were murdered in cold blood. Then a Captain Devereux, with six soldiers, forced his way into the Burgomaster's house, on pretence of bearing important dispatches, cut down Wallenstein's servant and entered the room where he lay. Wallenstein, seeing that his hour had come, made no resistance, but silently received his death-blow.

When Duke Bernard arrived, a day or two afterwards, he found Eger defended by the Imperialists. Ferdinand II. shed tears when he heard of Wallenstein's death, and ordered 3,000 masses to be said for his soul; but, at the same time, he raised the assassins, Butler and Leslie, to the rank of Count, and rewarded them splendidly for the deed. Wallenstein's immense estates were divided among the officers who had sworn to support him, and had then secretly gone over to the Emperor.




  • The Battle of Nördlingen.
  • —Aid furnished by France.
  • —Treachery of Protestant Princes.
  • —Offers of Ferdinand II.
  • —Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar visits Paris.
  • —His Agreement with Louis XIII.
  • —His Victories.
  • —Death of Ferdinand II.
  • —Ferdinand III. succeeds.
  • —Duke Bernard's Bravery, Popularity and Death.
  • —Banner's Successes.
  • —Torstenson's Campaigns.
  • —He threatens Vienna.
  • —The French victorious in Southern Germany.
  • —Movements for Peace.
  • —Wrangel's Victories.
  • —Capture of Prague by the Swedes.
  • —The Peace of Westphalia.
  • —Its Provisions.
  • —The Religious Settlement.
  • —Defeat of the Church of Rome.
  • —Desolation of Germany.
  • —Sufferings and Demoralization of the People.
  • —Practical Overthrow of the Empire.
  • —A Multitude of Independent States.

The Austrian army, composed chiefly of Wallenstein's troops and commanded nominally by the Emperor's son, the Archduke Ferdinand, but really by General Gallas, marched upon Ratisbon and forced the Swedish garrison to surrender before Duke Bernard, hastening back from Eger, could reach the place. Then, uniting with the Spanish and Bavarian forces, the Archduke took Donauwörth and began the siege of the fortified town of Nördlingen, in Würtemberg. Duke Bernard effected a junction with Marshal Horn, and, with his usual daring, determined to attack the Imperialists at once. Horn endeavored to dissuade him, but in vain: the battle was fought on the 6th of September, 1634, and the Protestants were terribly defeated, losing 12,000 men, beside 6,000 prisoners, and nearly all their artillery and baggage-wagons. Marshal Horn was among the prisoners, and Duke Bernard barely succeeded in escaping with a few followers.

The result of this defeat was that Würtemberg and the Palatinate were again ravaged by Catholic armies. Oxenstierna, who was consulting with the Protestant princes in Frankfort, suddenly found himself nearly deserted: only Hesse-Cassel, Würtemberg and Baden remained on his side.[Pg 310] In this crisis he turned to France, which agreed to assist the Swedes against the Emperor, in return for more territory in Lorraine and Alsatia. For the first time, Richelieu found it advisable to give up his policy of aiding the Protestants with money, and now openly supported them with French troops. John George of Saxony, who had driven the Imperialists from his land and invaded Bohemia, cunningly took advantage of the Emperor's new danger, and made a separate treaty with him, at Prague, in May, 1635. The latter gave up the "Edict of Restitution" so far as Saxony was concerned, and made a few other concessions, none of which favored the Protestants in other lands. On the other hand, he positively refused to grant religious freedom to Austria, and excepted Baden, the Palatinate and Würtemberg from the provision which allowed other princes to join Saxony in the treaty.


Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Anhalt, and many free cities followed the example of Saxony. The most important, and—apparently for the Swedes and South-German Protestants—fatal provision of the treaty was that all the States which accepted it should combine to raise an army to enforce it, the said army to be placed at the Emperor's disposal. The effect of this was to create a union of the Catholics and German Lutherans against the Swedish Lutherans and German Calvinists—a measure which gave Germany many more years of fire and blood. Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel scorned to be parties to such a compact: the Swedes and South-Germans were outraged and indignant: John George was openly denounced as a traitor, as, on the Catholic side, the Emperor was also denounced, because he had agreed to yield anything whatever to the Protestants. France, only, enjoyed the miseries of the situation.

Ferdinand II. was evidently weary of the war, which had now lasted nearly eighteen years, and he made an effort to terminate it by offering to Sweden three and a half millions of florins and to Duke Bernard a principality in Franconia, provided they would accept the treaty of Prague. Both refused: the latter took command of 12,000 French troops and marched into Alsatia, while the Swedish General Banner defeated the Saxons, who had taken the field against him, in three successive battles. The Imperialists, who had meanwhile retaken Alsatia and invaded France, were[Pg 311] recalled to Germany by Banner's victories, and Duke Bernard, at the same time, went to Paris to procure additional support. During the years 1636 and 1637 nearly all Germany was wasted by the opposing armies; the struggle had become fiercer and more barbarous than ever, and the last resources of many States were so exhausted that famine and disease carried off nearly all of the population whom the sword had spared.


Duke Bernard made an agreement with Louis XIII. whereby he received the rank of Marshal of France, and a subsidy of four million livres a year, to pay for a force of 18,000 men, which he undertook to raise in Germany. After the death of Gustavus Adolphus, the hope of the Protestants was centred on him; soldiers flocked to his standard at once, and his fortunes suddenly changed. The Swedes were driven from Northern Germany, with the aid of the Elector of Brandenburg, who surrendered to the Emperor the most important of his rights as reigning prince: by the end of 1637, Banner was compelled to retreat to the Baltic coast, and there await reinforcements. At the same time, Duke Bernard entered Alsatia, routed the Imperialists, took their commander prisoner, and soon gained possession of all the territory with the exception of the fortress of Breisach, to which he laid siege.

On the 15th of February, 1637, the Emperor Ferdinand II. died, in the fifty-ninth year of his age, after having occasioned, by his policy, the death of 10,000,000 of human beings. Yet the responsibility of his fatal and terrible reign rests not so much upon himself, personally, as upon the Jesuits who educated him. He appears to have sincerely believed that it was better to reign over a desert than a Protestant people. As a man he was courageous, patient, simple in his tastes, and without personal vices. But all the weaknesses and crimes of his worst predecessors, added together, were scarcely a greater curse to the German people than his devotion to what he considered the true faith. His son, Ferdinand III., was immediately elected to succeed him. The Protestants considered him less subject to the Jesuits and more kindly disposed towards themselves, but they were mistaken: he adopted all the measures of his father, and carried on the war with equal zeal and cruelty.


More than one army was sent to the relief of Breisach, but Duke Bernard defeated them all, and in December, 1638,[Pg 312] the strong fortress surrendered to him. His compact with France stipulated that he should possess the greater part of Alsatia as his own independent principality, after conquering it, relinquishing to France the northern portion, bordering on Lorraine. But now Louis XIII. demanded Breisach, making its surrender to him the condition of further assistance. Bernard refused, gave up the French subsidy, and determined to carry on the war alone. His popularity was so great that his chance of success seemed good: he was a brave, devout and noble-minded man, whose strong personal ambition was always controlled by his conscience. The people had entire faith in him, and showed him the same reverence which they had manifested towards Gustavus Adolphus; yet their hope, as before, only preceded their loss. In the midst of his preparations Duke Bernard died suddenly, on the 18th of July, 1639, only thirty-six years old. It was generally believed that he had been poisoned by a secret agent of France, but there is no evidence that this was the case, except that a French army instantly marched into Alsatia and held the country.

Duke Bernard's successes, nevertheless, had drawn a part of the Imperialists from Northern Germany, and in 1638 Banner, having recruited his army, marched through Brandenburg and Saxony into the heart of Bohemia, burning and plundering as he went, with no less barbarity than Tilly or Wallenstein. Although repulsed in 1639, near Prague, by the Archduke Leopold (Ferdinand III.'s brother), he only retired as far as Thuringia, where he was again strengthened by Hessian and French troops. In this condition of affairs, Ferdinand III. called a Diet, which met at Ratisbon in the autumn of 1640. A majority of the Protestant members united with the Catholics in their enmity to Sweden and France, but they seemed incapable of taking any measures to put an end to the dreadful war: month after month went by and nothing was done.

Then Banner conceived the bold design of capturing the Emperor and the Diet. He made a winter march, with such skill and swiftness, that he appeared before the walls of Ratisbon at the same moment with the first news of his movement. Nothing but a sudden thaw, and the breaking up of the ice in the Danube, prevented him from being successful. In May, 1641, he died, his army broke up, and the Emperor began to recover some of the lost ground. Several of the[Pg 313] Protestant princes showed signs of submission, and ambassadors from Austria, France and Sweden met at Hamburg to decide where and how a Peace Congress might be held.


In 1642 the Swedish army was reorganized under the command of Torstenson, one of the greatest of the many distinguished generals of the time. Although he was a constant sufferer from gout and had to be carried in a litter, he was no less rapid than daring and successful in all his military operations. His first campaign was through Silesia and Bohemia, almost to the gates of Vienna; then, returning through Saxony, towards the close of the year, he almost annihilated the army of Piccolomini before the walls of Leipzig. The Elector John George, fighting on the Catholic side, was forced to take refuge in Bohemia.

Denmark having declared war against Sweden, Torstenson made a campaign in Holstein and Jutland in 1643, in conjunction with a Swedish fleet on the coast, and soon brought Denmark to terms. The Imperialist general, Gallas, followed him, but was easily defeated, and then Torstenson, in turn, followed him back through Bohemia into Austria. In March, 1645, the Swedish army won such a splendid victory near Tabor, that Ferdinand III. had scarcely any troops left to oppose their march. Again Torstenson appeared before Vienna, and was about commencing the siege of the city, when a pestilence broke out among his troops and compelled him to retire, as before, through Saxony. Worn out with the fatigues of his marches, he died before the end of the year, and the command was given to General Wrangel.

During this time the French, under the famous Marshals, Turenne and Condé, had not only maintained themselves in Alsatia, but had crossed the Rhine and ravaged Baden, the Palatinate, Würtemberg and part of Franconia. Although badly defeated by the Bavarians in the early part of 1645, they were reinforced by the Swedes and Hessians, and, before the close of the year, won such a victory over the united Imperialist forces, not far from Donauwörth, that all Bavaria lay open to them. The effect of these French successes, and of those of the Swedes under Torstenson, was to deprive Ferdinand III. of nearly his whole military strength. John George of Saxony concluded a separate armistice with the Swedes, thus violating the treaty of Prague, which had[Pg 314] cost his people ten years of blood. He was followed by Frederick William, the young Elector of Brandenburg; and then Maximilian of Bavaria, in March, 1647, also negotiated a separate armistice with France and Sweden. Ferdinand III. was thus left with a force of only 12,000 men, the command of which, as he had no Catholic generals left, was given to a renegade Calvinist named Melander von Holzapfel.


The chief obstacle to peace—the power of the Hapsburgs—now seemed to be broken down. The wanton and tremendous effort made to crush out Protestantism in Germany, although helped by the selfishness, the cowardice or the miserable jealousy of so many Protestant princes, had signally failed, owing to the intervention of three foreign powers, one of which was Catholic. Yet the Peace Congress, which had been agreed upon in 1643, had accomplished nothing. It was divided into two bodies: the ambassadors of the Emperor were to negotiate at Osnabrück with Sweden, as the representative of the Protestant powers, and at Münster with France, as the representative of the Catholic powers which desired peace. Two more years elapsed before all the ambassadors came together, and then a great deal of time was spent in arranging questions of rank, title and ceremony, which seem to have been considered much more important than the weal or woe of a whole people. Spain, Holland, Venice, Poland and Denmark also sent representatives, and about the end of 1645 the Congress was sufficiently organized to commence its labors. But, as the war was still being waged with as much fury as ever, one side waited and then the other for the result of battles and campaigns; and so two more years were squandered.

After the armistice with Maximilian of Bavaria, the Swedish general, Wrangel, marched into Bohemia, where he gained so many advantages that Maximilian finally took sides again with the Emperor and drove the Swedes into Northern Germany. Then, early in 1648, Wrangel effected a junction with Marshal Turenne, and the combined Swedish and French armies overran all Bavaria, defeated the Imperialists in a bloody battle, and stood ready to invade Austria. At the same time Königsmark, with another Swedish army, entered Bohemia, stormed and took half the city of Prague, and only waited the approach of Wrangel and Turenne to join them in a combined movement upon[Pg 315] Vienna. But before this movement could be executed, Ferdinand III. had decided to yield. His ambassadors at Osnabrück and Münster had received instructions, and lost no time in acting upon them: the proclamation of peace, after such heartless delays, came suddenly and put an end to thirty years of war.


The Peace of Westphalia, as it is called, was concluded on the 24th of October, 1648. Inasmuch as its provisions extended not to Germany alone, but fixed the political relations of Europe for a period of nearly a hundred and fifty years, they must be briefly stated. France and Sweden, as the military powers which were victorious in the end, sought to draw the greatest advantages from the necessities of Germany, but France opposed any settlement of the religious questions (in order to keep a chance open for future interference), and Sweden demanded an immediate and final settlement, which was agreed to. France received Lorraine, with the cities of Metz, Toul and Verdun, which she had held nearly a hundred years, all Southern Alsatia with the fortress of Breisach, the right of appointing the governors of ten German cities, and other rights which practically placed nearly the whole of Alsatia in her power. Sweden received the northern half of Pomerania, with the cities of Wismar and Stettin, and the coast between Bremen and Hamburg, together with an indemnity of 5,000,000 thalers. Electoral Saxony received Lusatia and part of the territory of Magdeburg. Brandenburg received the other half of Pomerania, the archbishopric of Magdeburg, the bishoprics of Minden and Halberstadt, and other territory which had belonged to the Roman Church. Additions were made to the domains of Mecklenburg, Brunswick, and Hesse-Cassel, and the latter was also awarded an indemnity of 600,000 thalers. Bavaria received the Upper Palatinate (north of the Danube), and Baden, Würtemberg and Nassau were restored to their banished rulers. Other petty States were confirmed in the position which they had occupied before the war, and the independence of Switzerland and Holland was acknowledged.

In regard to Religion, the results were much more important to the world. Both Calvinists and Lutherans received entire freedom of worship and equal civil rights with the Catholics. Ferdinand II.'s "Edict of Restitution" was withdrawn, and the territories which had been secularized[Pg 316] up to the year 1624 were not given back to the Church. Universal amnesty was decreed for everything which had happened during the war, except for the Austrian Protestants, whose possessions were not restored to them. The Emperor retained the authority of deciding questions of war and peace, taxation, defences, alliances, &c. with the concurrence of the Diet: he acknowledged the absolute sovereignty of the several Princes in their own States, and conceded to them the right of forming alliances among themselves or with foreign powers! A special article of the treaty prohibited all persons from writing, speaking or teaching anything contrary to its provisions.


The Pope (at that time Innocent X.) declared the Treaty of Westphalia null and void, and issued a bull against its observance. The parties to the treaty, however, did not allow this bull to be published in Germany. The Catholics in all parts of the country (except Austria, Styria and the Tyrol) had suffered almost as severely as the Protestants, and would have welcomed the return of peace upon any terms which simply left their faith free.

Nothing shows so conclusively how wantonly and wickedly the Thirty Years' War was undertaken than the fact that the Peace of 1648, in a religious point of view, yielded even more to the Protestants than the Religious Peace of Augsburg, granted by Charles V. in 1555. After a hundred years, the Church of Rome, acting through its tools, the Hapsburg Emperors, was forced to give up the contest: the sword of slaughter was rusted to the hilt by the blood it had shed, and yet religious freedom was saved to Germany. It was not zeal for the spread of Christian truth which inspired this fearful Crusade against twenty-five millions of Protestants, for the Catholics equally acknowledged the authority of the Bible: it was the despotic determination of the Roman Church to rule the minds and consciences of all men, through its Pope and its priesthood.

Thirty years of war! The slaughters of Rome's worst Emperors, the persecution of the Christians under Nero and Diocletian, the invasions of the Huns and Magyars, the long struggle of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, left no such desolation behind them. At the beginning of the century, the population of the German Empire was about thirty millions: when the Peace of Westphalia was declared, it was scarcely more than twelve millions! Electoral Saxony, alone, lost[Pg 317] 900,000 lives in two years. The population of Augsburg had diminished from 80,000 to 18,000, and out of 500,000 inhabitants, Würtemberg had but 48,000 left. The city of Berlin contained but three hundred citizens, the whole of the Palatinate of the Rhine but two hundred farmers. In Hesse-Cassel seventeen cities, forty-seven castles and three hundred villages were entirely destroyed by fire: thousands of villages, in all parts of the country, had but four or five families left out of hundreds, and landed property sank to about one-twentieth of its former value. Franconia was so depopulated that an Assembly held in Nuremberg ordered the Catholic priests to marry, and permitted all other men to have two wives. The horses, cattle and sheep were exterminated in many districts, the supplies of grain were at an end, even for sowing, and large cultivated tracts had relapsed into a wilderness. Even the orchards and vineyards had been wantonly destroyed wherever the armies had passed. So terrible was the ravage that in a great many localities, the same amount of population, cattle, acres of cultivated land and general prosperity, was not restored until the year 1848, two centuries afterwards!


This statement of the losses of Germany, however, was but a small part of the suffering endured. Only two commanders, Gustavus Adolphus and Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, preserved rigid discipline among their troops, and prevented them from plundering the people. All others allowed, or were powerless to prevent, the most savage outrages. During the last ten or twelve years of the war both Protestants and Catholics vied with each other in deeds of barbarity; the soldiers were nothing but highway robbers, who maimed and tortured the country people to make them give up their last remaining property, and drove hundreds of thousands of them into the woods and mountains to die miserably or live as half-savages. Multitudes of others flocked to the cities for refuge, only to be visited by fire and famine. In the year 1637, when Ferdinand II. died, the want was so great that men devoured each other, and even hunted down human beings like deer or hares, in order to feed upon them. Great numbers committed suicide, to avoid a slow death by hunger: on the island of Rügen many poor creatures were found dead, with their mouths full of grass, and in some districts attempts were made to knead earth into bread. Then followed a pestilence which carried[Pg 318] off a large proportion of the survivors. A writer of the time exclaims: "A thousand times ten thousand souls, the spirits of innocent children butchered in this unholy war, cry day and night unto God for vengeance, and cease not: while those who have caused all these miseries live in peace and freedom, and the shout of revelry and the voice of music are heard in their dwellings!"


In character, in intelligence and in morality, the German people were set back two hundred years. All branches of industry had declined, commerce had almost entirely ceased, literature and the arts were suppressed, and except the astronomical discoveries of Copernicus and Kepler there was no contribution to human knowledge. Even the modern High-German language, which Luther had made the classic tongue of the land, seemed to be on the point of perishing. Spaniards and Italians on the Catholic, Swedes and French on the Protestant side, flooded the country with foreign words and expressions, the use of which soon became an affectation with the nobility, who did their best to destroy their native language. Wallenstein's letters to the Emperor were a curious mixture of German, French, Spanish, Italian and Latin.

Politically, the change was no less disastrous. The ambition of the house of Hapsburg, it is true, had brought its own punishment; the imperial dignity was secured to it, but henceforth the head of the "Holy Roman Empire" was not much more than a shadow. Each petty State became, practically, an independent nation, with power to establish its own foreign relations, make war and contract alliances. Thus Germany, as a whole, lost her place among the powers of Europe, and could not possibly regain it under such an arrangement: the Emperor and the Princes, together, had skilfully planned her decline and fall. The nobles who, in former centuries, had maintained a certain amount of independence, were almost as much demoralized as the people, and when every little prince began to imitate Louis XIV. and set up his own Versailles, the nobles in his territory became his courtiers and government officials. As for the mass of the people, their spirit was broken: for a time they gave up even the longing for rights which they had lost, and taught their children abject obedience in order that they might simply live.


After the Thirty Years' War, Germany was composed[Pg 319] of nine Electorates, twenty-four Religious Principalities (Catholic), nine princely Abbots, ten princely Abbesses, twenty-four Princes with seat and vote in the Diet, thirteen Princes without seat and vote, sixty-two Counts of the Empire, fifty-one Cities of the Empire, and about one thousand Knights of the Empire. These last, however, no longer possessed any political power. But, without them, there were two hundred and three more or less independent, jealous and conflicting States, united by a bond which was more imaginary than real; and this confused, unnatural state of things continued until Napoleon came to put an end to it.




  • Contemporary History.
  • —Germany in the Seventeenth Century.
  • —Influence of Louis XIV.
  • —Leopold I. of Austria.
  • —Petty Despotisms.
  • —The Great Elector.
  • —Invasions of Louis XIV.
  • —The Elector Aids Holland.
  • —War with France.
  • —Battle of Fehrbellin.
  • —French Ravages in Baden.
  • —The Peace of Nymwegen.
  • —The Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns.
  • —Louis XIV. seizes Strasburg.
  • —Vienna besieged by the Turks.
  • —Sobieski's Victory.
  • —Events in Hungary.
  • —Prince Eugene of Savoy.
  • —Victories over the Turks.
  • —French Invasion of Germany.
  • —French Barbarity.
  • —Death of the Great Elector.
  • —The War with France.
  • —Peace of Ryswick.
  • —Position of the German States.
  • —The Diet.
  • —The Imperial Court.
  • —State of Learning and Literature.

The Peace of Westphalia coincides with the beginning of great changes throughout Europe. The leading position on the Continent, which Germany had preserved from the treaty of Verdun until the accession of Charles V.—nearly 700 years—was lost beyond recovery: it had passed into the hands of France, where Louis XIV. was just commencing his long and brilliant reign. Spain, after a hundred years of supremacy, was in a rapid decline; the new Republic of Holland was mistress of the seas, and Sweden was the great power of Northern Europe. In England, Charles I. had lost his throne, and Cromwell was at work, laying the foundation of a broader and firmer power than either the Tudors or the Stuarts had ever built. Poland was still a large and strong kingdom, and Russia was only beginning to attract the notice of other nations. The Italian Republics had seen their best days: even the power of Venice was slowly crumbling to pieces. The coast of America, from Maine to Virginia, was dotted with little English, Dutch and Swedish settlements, only a few of which had safely passed through their first struggle for existence.


The history of Germany, during the remainder of the[Pg 321] seventeenth century, furnishes few events upon which the intelligent and patriotic German of to-day can look back with any satisfaction. Austria was the principal power, through her territory and population, as well as the Imperial dignity, which was thenceforth accorded to her as a matter of habit. The provision of religious liberty had not been extended to her people, who were now forcibly made Catholic; the former legislative assemblies, even the privileges of the nobles, had been suppressed, and the rule of the Hapsburgs was as absolute a despotism as that of Louis XIV. When Ferdinand III. died, in 1657, the "Great Monarch," as the French call him, made an attempt to be elected his successor: he purchased the votes of the Archbishops of Mayence, Treves and Cologne, and might have carried the day but for the determined resistance of the Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony. Even had he been successful, it is doubtful whether his influence over the most of the German Princes would have been greater than it was in reality.

Ferdinand's son, Leopold I., a stupid, weak-minded youth of eighteen, was chosen Emperor in 1658. Like his ancestor, Frederick III., whom he most resembled, his reign was as long as it was useless. Until the year 1705 he was the imaginary ruler of an imaginary Empire: Vienna was a faint reflection of Madrid, as every other little capital was of Paris. The Hapsburgs and the Bourbons being absolute, all the ruling princes, even the best of them, introduced the same system into their territories, and the participation of the other classes of the people in the government ceased. The cities followed this example, and their Burgomasters and Councillors became a sort of aristocracy, more or less arbitrary in character. The condition of the people, therefore, depended entirely on the princes, priests, or other officials who governed them: one State or city might be orderly and prosperous, while another was oppressed and checked in its growth. A few of the rulers were wise and humane: Ernest the Pious of Gotha was a father to his land, during his long reign; in Hesse, Brunswick and Anhalt learning was encouraged, and Frederick William of Brandenburg set his face against the corrupting influences of France. These small States were exceptions, yet they kept alive what of hope and strength and character was left to Germany, and were the seeds of her regeneration in the present century.[Pg 322]


Throughout the greater part of the country the people relapsed into ignorance and brutality, and the higher classes assumed the stiff, formal, artificial manners which nearly all Europe borrowed from the court of Louis XIV. Public buildings, churches and schools were allowed to stand as ruins, while the petty sovereign built his stately palace, laid out his park in the style of Versailles, and held his splendid and ridiculous festivals. Although Saxony had been impoverished and almost depopulated, the Elector, John George II., squandered all the revenues of the land on banquets, hunting-parties, fireworks and collections of curiosities, until his treasury was hopelessly bankrupt. Another prince made his Italian singing-master prime minister, and others again surrendered their lives and the happiness of their people to influences which were still more disastrous.

The one historical character among the German rulers of this time is Frederick William of Brandenburg, who is generally called "The Great Elector." In bravery, energy and administrative ability, he was the first worthy successor of Frederick of Hohenzollern. No sooner had peace been declared than he set to work to restore order to his wasted and disturbed territory: he imitated Sweden in organizing a standing army, small at first, but admirably disciplined; he introduced a regular system of taxation, of police and of justice, and encouraged trade and industry in all possible ways. In a few years a war between Sweden and Poland gave him the opportunity of interfering, in the hope of obtaining the remainder of Pomerania. He first marched to Königsberg, the capital of the Duchy of Prussia, which belonged to Brandenburg, but under the sovereignty of Poland. Allying himself first with the Swedes, he participated in a great victory at Warsaw in July, 1656, and then found it to his advantage to go over to the side of John Casimir, king of Poland, who offered him the independence of Prussia. This was his only gain from the war; for, by the peace of 1660, he was forced to give up Western Pomerania, which he had in the mean time conquered from Sweden.


Louis XIV. of France was by this time aware that his kingdom had nothing to fear from any of its neighbors, and might easily be enlarged at their expense. In 1667, he began his wars of conquest, by laying claim to Brabant, and instantly sending Turenne and Condé over the frontier. A[Pg 323] number of fortresses, unprepared for resistance, fell into their hands; but Holland, England and Sweden formed an alliance against France, and the war terminated in 1668 by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. Louis's next step was to ally himself with England and Sweden against Holland, on the ground that a Republic, by furnishing a place of refuge for political fugitives, was dangerous to monarchies. In 1672 he entered Holland with an army of 118,000 men, took Geldern, Utrecht and other strongly-fortified places, and would soon have made himself master of the country, if its inhabitants had not shown themselves capable of the sublimest courage and self-sacrifice. They were victorious over France and England on the sea, and defended themselves stubbornly on the land. Even the German Archbishop of Cologne and Bishop of Münster furnished troops to Louis XIV. and the Emperor Leopold promised to remain neutral. Then Frederick William of Brandenburg allied himself with Holland, and so wrought upon the Emperor by representing the danger to Germany from the success of France, that the latter sent an army under General Montecuccoli to the Rhine. But the Austrian troops remained inactive; Louis XIV. purchased the support of the Archbishops of Mayence and Treves; Westphalia was invaded by the French, and in 1673 Frederick William was forced to sign a treaty of neutrality.

About this time Holland was strengthened by the alliance of Spain, and the Emperor Leopold, alarmed at the continual invasions of German territory on the Upper Rhine, ordered Montecuccoli to make war in earnest. In 1674 the Diet formally declared war against France, and Frederick William marched with 16,000 men to the Palatinate, which Marshal Turenne had ravaged with fire and sword. The French were driven back and even out of Alsatia for a time; but they returned the following year, and were successful until the month of July, when Turenne found his death on the soil which he had turned into a desert. Before this happened, Frederick William had been recalled in all haste to Brandenburg, where the Swedes, instigated by France, were wasting the land with a barbarity equal to Turenne's. His march was so swift that he found the enemy scattered: dividing and driving them before him, on the 18th of June, 1675, at Fehrbellin, with only 7,000 men, he attacked the main Swedish army, numbering more than double that number.[Pg 324] For three hours the battle raged with the greatest fury; Frederick William fought at the head of his troops, who more than once cut him out from the ranks of the enemy, and the result was a splendid victory. The fame of this achievement rang through all Europe, and Brandenburg was thenceforth mentioned with the respect due to an independent power.


Frederick William continued the war for two years longer, gradually acquiring possession of all Swedish Pomerania, including Stettin and the other cities on the coast. He even built a small fleet, and undertook to dispute the supremacy of Sweden on the Baltic. During this time the war with France was continued on the Upper Rhine, with varying fortunes. Though repulsed and held in check after Turenne's death, the French burned five cities and several hundred villages west of the Rhine, and in 1677 captured Freiburg in Baden. But Louis XIV. began to be tired of the war, especially as Holland proved to be unconquerable. Negotiations for peace were commenced in 1678, and on the 5th of February, 1679, the "Peace of Nymwegen" was concluded with Holland, Spain and the German Empire—except Brandenburg! Leopold I. openly declared that he did not mean to have a Vandal kingdom in the North.

Frederick William at first determined to carry on the war alone, but the French had already laid waste Westphalia, and in 1679 he was forced to accept a peace which required that he should restore nearly the whole of Western Pomerania to Sweden. Austria, moreover, took possession of several small principalities in Silesia, which had fallen to Brandenburg by inheritance. Thus the Hapsburgs repaid the support which the Hohenzollerns had faithfully rendered to them for four hundred years: thenceforth the two houses were enemies, and they were soon to become irreconcilable rivals. Leopold I. again betrayed Germany in the peace of Nymwegen, by yielding the city and fortress of Freiburg to France.


Louis XIV., nevertheless, was not content with this acquisition. He determined to possess the remaining cities of Alsatia which belonged to Germany. The Catholic Bishop of Strasburg was his secret agent, and three of the magistrates of the city were bribed to assist. In the autumn of 1681, when nearly all the merchants were absent, attending the fair at Frankfort, a powerful French army, which had[Pg 325] been secretly collected in Lorraine, suddenly appeared before Strasburg. Between force outside and treachery within the walls, the city surrendered: on the 23d of October Louis XIV. made his triumphant entry, and was hailed by the Bishop with the blasphemous words: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for his eyes have seen thy Saviour!" The great Cathedral, which had long been in the possession of the Protestants, was given up to this Bishop: all Protestant functionaries were deprived of their offices, and the clergymen driven from the city. French names were given to the streets, and the inhabitants were commanded, under heavy penalties, to lay aside their German costume, and adopt the fashions of France. No official claim or declaration of war preceded this robbery; but the effect which it produced throughout Germany was comparatively slight. The people had been long accustomed to violence and outrage, and the despotic independence of each State suppressed anything like a national sentiment.

Leopold I. called upon the Princes of the Empire to declare war against France, but met with little support. Frederick William positively refused, as he had been shamefully excepted from the Peace of Nymwegen. He gave as a reason, however, the great danger which menaced Germany from a new Turkish invasion, and offered to send an army to the support of Austria. The Emperor, equally stubborn and jealous, declined this offer, although his own dominions were on the verge of ruin.


The Turks had remained quiet during the whole of the Thirty Years' War, when they might easily have conquered Austria. In the early part of Leopold's reign they recommenced their invasions, which were terminated, in 1664, by a truce of twenty years. Before the period came to an end, the Hungarians, driven to desperation by Leopold's misrule, especially his persecution of the Protestants, rose in rebellion. The Turks came to an understanding with them, and early in 1683, an army of more than 200,000 men, commanded by the Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha, marched up the Danube, carrying everything before it, and encamped around the walls of Vienna. There is good evidence that the Sultan, Mohammed IV., was strongly encouraged by Louis XIV. to make this movement. Leopold fled at the approach of the Turks, leaving his capital to its fate. For[Pg 326] two months Count Stahremberg, with only 7,000 armed citizens and 6,000 mercenary soldiers under his command, held the fortifications against the overwhelming force of the enemy; then, when further resistance was becoming hopeless, help suddenly appeared. An army commanded by Duke Charles of Lorraine, another under the Elector of Saxony, and a third, composed of 20,000 Poles, headed by their king, John Sobieski, reached Vienna about the same time. The decisive battle was fought on the 12th of September, 1683, and ended with the total defeat of the Turks, who fled into Hungary, leaving their camp, treasures and supplies to the value of 10,000,000 dollars in the hands of the conquerors.

The deliverance of Vienna was due chiefly to John Sobieski, yet, when Leopold I. returned to the city which he had deserted, he treated the Polish king with coldness and haughtiness, never once thanking him for his generous aid. The war was continued, in the interest of Austria, by Charles of Lorraine and Max Emanuel of Bavaria, until 1687, when a great victory at Mohacs in Hungary forced the Turks to retreat beyond the Danube. Then Leopold I. took brutal vengeance on the Hungarians, executing so many of their nobles that the event is called "the Shambles of Eperies," from the town where it occurred. The Jesuits were allowed to put down Protestantism in their own way; the power and national pride of Hungary were trampled under foot, and a Diet held at Presburg declared that the crown of the country should thenceforth belong to the house of Hapsburg. This episode of the history of the time, the taking of Strasburg by Louis XIV., the treatment of Frederick William of Brandenburg, and other contemporaneous events, must be borne in mind, since they are connected with much that has taken place in our own day.

In spite of the defeat of the Turks in 1687, they were encouraged by France to continue the war. Max Emanuel took Belgrade in 1689, the Margrave Ludwig of Baden won an important victory, and Prince Eugene of Savoy (a grandnephew of Cardinal Mazarin, whom Louis XIV. called, in derision, the "Little Abbé," and refused to give a military command) especially distinguished himself as a soldier. After ten years of varying fortune, the war was brought to an end by the magnificent victory of Prince Eugene at Zenta,[Pg 327] in 1697. It was followed by the Treaty of Carlowitz, in 1699, in which Turkey gave up Transylvania and the Slavonic provinces to Austria, Morea and Dalmatia to Venice, and agreed to a truce of twenty-five years.


While the best strength of Germany was engaged in this Turkish war, Louis XIV. was busy in carrying out his plans of conquest. He claimed the Palatinate of the Rhine for his brother, the Duke of Orleans, and also attempted to make one of his agents Archbishop of Cologne. In 1686, an alliance was formed between Leopold I., several of the German States, Holland, Spain and Sweden, to defend themselves against the aggressions of France, but nothing was accomplished by the negotiations which followed. Finally, in 1688, two powerful French armies suddenly appeared upon the Rhine: one took possession of the territory of Treves and Cologne, the other marched through the Palatinate into Franconia and Würtemberg. But the demands of Louis XIV. were not acceded to; the preparation for war was so general on the part of the allied countries that it was evident his conquests could not be held; so he determined, at least, to ruin the territory before giving it up.

No more wanton and barbarous deed was ever perpetrated. The "Great Monarch," the model of elegance and refinement for all Europe, was guilty of brutality beyond what is recorded of the most savage chieftains. The vines were pulled up by the roots and destroyed; the fruit-trees were cut down, the villages burned to the ground, and 400,000 persons were made beggars, besides those who were slain in cold blood. The castle of Heidelberg, one of the most splendid monuments of the Middle Ages in all Europe, was blown up with gunpowder; the people of Mannheim were compelled to pull down their own fortifications, after which their city was burned, Speyer, with its grand and venerable Cathedral, was razed to the ground, and the bodies of the Emperors buried there were exhumed and plundered. While this was going on, the German Princes, with a few exceptions (the "Great Elector" being the prominent one), were copying the fashions of the French Court, and even trying to unlearn their native language!


Frederick William of Brandenburg, however, was spared the knowledge of the worst features of this outrage. He died the same year, after a reign of forty-eight years, at the age of sixty-eight. The latter years of his reign were devoted to the[Pg 328] internal development of his State. He united the Oder and Elbe by a canal, built roads and bridges, encouraged agriculture and the mechanic arts, and set a personal example of industry and intelligence to his people while he governed them. His possessions were divided and scattered, reaching from Königsberg to the Rhine, but, taken collectively, they were larger than any other German State at the time, except Austria. None of the smaller German rulers before him took such a prominent part in the intercourse with foreign nations. He was thoroughly German, in his jealousy of foreign rule; but this did not prevent him from helping to confirm Louis XIV. in his robbery of Strasburg, out of revenge for his own treatment by Leopold I. When personal pride or personal interest was concerned, the Hohenzollerns were hardly more patriotic than the Hapsburgs.

The German Empire raised an army of about 60,000 men, to carry on the war with France; but its best commanders, Max Emanuel and Prince Eugene, were fighting the Turks, and the first campaigns were not successful. The other allied powers, Holland, England and Spain, were equally unfortunate, while France, compact and consolidated under one despotic head, easily held out against them. In 1693, finally, the Margrave Ludwig of Baden obtained some victories in Southern Germany which forced the French to retreat beyond the Rhine. The seat of war was then gradually transferred to Flanders, and the task of conducting it fell upon the foreign allies. At the same time there were battles in Spain and Savoy, and sea-fights in the British Channel. Although the fortunes of Germany were influenced by these events, they belong properly to the history of other countries. Victory inclined sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other; the military operations were so extensive that there could be no single decisive battle.

All parties became more or less weary and exhausted, and the end of it all was the Treaty of Ryswick, concluded on the 20th of September, 1697. By its provisions France retained Strasburg and the greater part of Alsatia, but gave up Freiburg and her other conquests east of the Rhine, in Baden. Lorraine was restored to its Duke, but on conditions which made it practically a French province. The most shameful clause of the Treaty was one which ordered that the districts which had been made Catholic by force during the invasion were to remain so.[Pg 329]


Nearly every important German State, at this time, had some connection or alliance which subjected it to foreign influence. The Hapsburg possessions in Belgium were more Spanish than German; Pomerania and the bishoprics of Bremen and Verden were under Sweden; Austria and Hungary were united; Holstein was attached to Denmark, and in 1697 Augustus the Strong of Saxony, after the death of John Sobieski, purchased his election as king of Poland by enormous bribes to the Polish nobles. Augustus the Strong, of whom Carlyle says that "he lived in this world regardless of expense," outdid his predecessor, John George II., in his monstrous imitation of French luxury. For a time he not only ruined but demoralized Saxony, starving the people by his exactions, and living in a style which was infamous as well as reckless.

The National German Diet, from this time on, was no longer attended by the Emperor and ruling Princes, but only by their official representatives. It was held, permanently, in Ratisbon, and its members spent their time mostly in absurd quarrels about forms. When any important question arose, messengers were sent to the rulers to ask their advice, and so much time was always lost that the Diet was practically useless. The Imperial Court, established by Maximilian I., was now permanently located at Wetzlar, not far from Frankfort, and had become as slow and superannuated as the Diet. The Emperor, in fact, had so little concern with the rest of the Empire, that his title was only honorary; the revenues it brought him were about 13,000 florins annually. The only change which took place in the political organization of Germany, was that in 1692 Ernest Augustus of Hannover (the father of George I. of England) was raised to the dignity of Elector, which increased the whole number of Electors, temporal and spiritual, to nine.


During the latter half of the seventeenth century, learning, literature and the arts received little encouragement in Germany. At the petty courts there was more French spoken than German, and the few authors of the period—with the exception of Spener, Francke, and other devout religious writers—produced scarcely any works of value. The philosopher, Leibnitz, stands alone as the one distinguished intellectual man of his age. The upper classes were too French and too demoralized to assist in the better development of[Pg 330] Germany, and the lower classes were still too poor, oppressed and spiritless to think of helping themselves. Only in a few States, chief among them Brunswick, Hesse, Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar, were the Courts on a moderate scale, the government tolerably honest, and the people prosperous.




  • New European Troubles.
  • —Intrigues at the Spanish Court.
  • —Leopold I. declares War against France.
  • —Frederick I. of Brandenburg becomes King of Prussia.
  • —German States allied with France.
  • —Prince Eugene in Italy.
  • —Operations on the Rhine.
  • —Marlborough enters Germany.
  • —Battle of Blenheim.
  • —Joseph I. Emperor.
  • —Victory of Ramillies.
  • —Battle of Turin.
  • —Victories in Flanders.
  • —Louis XIV. asks for Peace.
  • —Battle of Malplaquet.
  • —Renewed Offer of France.
  • —Stupidity of Joseph I.
  • —Recall of Marlborough.
  • —Karl VI. Emperor.
  • —Peace of Utrecht.
  • —Karl VI.'s Obstinacy.
  • —Prince Eugene's Appeal.
  • —Final Peace.
  • —Loss of Alsatia.
  • —The Kingdom of Sardinia.

The beginning of the new century brought with it new troubles for all Europe, and Germany—since it was settled that her Emperors must be Hapsburgs—was compelled to share in them. In the North, Charles XII. of Sweden and Peter the Great of Russia were fighting for "the balance of power"; in Spain king Charles II. was responsible for a new cause of war, simply because he was the last of the Hapsburgs in a direct line, and had no children! Louis XIV. had married his elder sister and Leopold I. his younger sister; and both claimed the right to succeed him. The former, it is true, had renounced all claim to the throne of Spain when he married, but he put forth his grandson, Duke Philip of Anjou, as the candidate. There were two parties at the Court of Madrid,—the French, at the head of which was Louis XIV.'s ambassador, and the Austrian, directed by Charles II.'s mother and wife. The other nations of Europe were opposed to any division of Spain between the rival claimants, since the possession of even half her territory (which still included Naples, Sicily, Milan and Flanders, besides her enormous colonies in America) would have made either France or Austria too powerful. Charles II., however, was persuaded to make a will appointing Philip of Anjou his successor, and[Pg 332] when he died, in 1700, Louis XIV. immediately sent his grandson over the Pyrenees and had him proclaimed as king Philip V. of Spain.


Leopold I. thereupon declared war against France, in the hope of gaining the crown of Spain for his son, the Archduke Karl. England and Holland made alliances with him, and he was supported by most of the German States. The Elector, Frederick III. of Brandenburg (son of "the Great Elector"), who was a very proud and ostentatious prince, furnished his assistance on condition that he should be authorized by the Emperor to assume the title of King. Since the traditional customs of the German Empire did not permit another king than that of Bohemia among the Electors, Frederick was obliged to take the name of his detached Duchy of Prussia, instead of Brandenburg. On the 18th of January, 1701, he crowned himself and his wife at Königsberg, and was thenceforth called king Frederick I. of Prussia. But his capital was still Berlin, and thus the names of "Prussia" and "the Prussians"—which came from a small tribe of mixed Slavonic blood—were gradually transferred to all his other lands and their population, German, and especially Saxon, in character. Prince Eugene of Savoy saw the future with a prophetic glance when he declared: "the Emperor, in his own interest, ought to have hanged the Ministers who counselled him to make this concession to the Elector of Brandenburg!"

The Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria and his brother, the Archbishop of Cologne, openly espoused the cause of France. Several smaller princes were also bribed by Louis XIV., but one of them, the Duke of Brunswick, after raising 12,000 men for France, was compelled by the Elector of Hannover to add them to the German army. With such miserable disunion at home, Germany would have gone to pieces and ceased to exist, but for the powerful participation of England and Holland in the war. The English Parliament, it is true, only granted 10,000 men at first, but as soon as Louis XIV. recognized the exiled Stuart, Prince James, as rightful heir to the throne of England, the grant was enlarged to 40,000 soldiers and an equal number of sailors. The value of this aid was greatly increased by the military genius of the English commander, the famous Duke of Marlborough.


The war was commenced by Louis XIV. who suddenly[Pg 333] took possession of a number of fortified places in Flanders, which Max Emanuel of Bavaria, then governor of the province, had purposely left unguarded. While the recovery of this territory was left to England and Holland, Prince Eugene undertook to drive the French out of Northern Italy. He made a march across the Alps as daring as that of Napoleon, transporting cannon and supplies by paths only known to the chamois-hunters. For nearly a year he was entirely successful; then, having been recalled to Vienna, the French were reinforced and recovered their lost ground. An important result of the campaign, however, was that Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy (ancestor of the present king of Italy), quarrelled with the French, with whom he had been allied, and joined the German side.

The struggle now became more and more confused, and we cannot undertake to follow all its entangled episodes. France encouraged a rebellion in Hungary; the Archbishop of Cologne laid waste the Lower Rhine; Max Emanuel seized Ulm and held it for France; Marshal Villars, in 1703, pressed back Ludwig of Baden (who had up to that time been successful in the Palatinate and Alsatia), marched through the Black Forest and effected a junction with the Bavarian army. His plan was to cross the Alps and descend into Italy in the rear of the German forces which Prince Eugene had left there; but the Tyrolese rose against him and fought with such desperation that he was obliged to fall back on Bavaria.

Marshal Villars and Max Emanuel now commanded a combined army of 60,000 men, in the very heart of Germany. They had defeated the Austrian commander, and Ludwig of Baden's army was too small to take the field against them. But the Duke of Marlborough had been brilliantly victorious in Belgium and on the Lower Rhine, and he was thus able to march on towards the Danube. Prince Eugene hastened from Hungary with such troops as he could collect, and the two, with Ludwig of Baden, were strong enough to engage the French and Bavarians. They met on the 13th of August, 1704, on the plain of the Danube, near the little village of Blenheim. After a long and furious battle, the French left 14,000 men upon the field, lost 13,000 prisoners, and fled towards the Rhine in such haste that scarcely one-third of their army reached the river. Marlborough and Eugene were made Princes of the German Empire, and all[Pg 334] Europe rang with songs celebrating the victory, in which Marlborough's name appeared as "Malbrook." His proposal to follow up the victory with an invasion of France was rejected by the Emperor, and the war, which might then have been pressed to a termination, continued for ten years longer.


In 1705 Leopold I. relieved Germany, by his death, of the dead weight of his incapacity. He was succeeded by his son, Joseph I., who possessed, at least, a little ordinary common sense. He manifested it at once by making Prince Eugene his counsellor, instead of surrounding him with spies, as his jealous and spiteful father had done. Both sides were preparing for new movements, and the principal event for the year took place in Spain, where the Archduke, who had been conveyed to Barcelona by an English fleet, obtained possession of Catalonia and Aragon, and threatened Philip V. with the loss of his crown. The previous year, 1704, the English had taken Gibraltar.

In 1706 operations were recommenced, on a larger scale, and with results which were very disastrous to the plans of France. Marlborough's great victory at Ramillies, on the 23d of May, gave him the Spanish Netherlands, and enabled the Emperor to declare Max Emanuel and the Archbishop of Cologne outlawed. The city of Turin, held by an Austrian garrison, was besieged, about the same time, by the Duke of Orleans, with 38,000 men. Then Prince Eugene hastened across the Alps with an army of 24,000, was reinforced by 13,000 more under Victor Amadeus of Savoy, and on the 7th of September attacked the French with such impetuosity that they were literally destroyed. Among the spoils were 211 cannon, 80,000 barrels of powder, and a great amount of money, horses and provisions. By this victory Prince Eugene became also a hero to the German people, and many of their songs about him are sung at this day. The "Prussian" troops, under Prince Leopold of Dessau, especially distinguished themselves: their commander was afterwards one of Frederick the Great's most famous generals.

The first consequence of this victory was an armistice with Louis XIV., so far as Italian territory was concerned: nevertheless, a part of the Austrian army was sent to Naples in 1707, to take possession of the country in the name of Spain. The Archduke Karl, after some temporary successes over Philip V., was driven back to Barcelona, and Louis XIV.[Pg 335] then offered to treat for peace. Austria and England refused: in 1708 Marlborough and Prince Eugene, again united, won another victory over the French at Oudenarde, and took the stronghold of Lille, which had been considered impregnable. The road to Paris was apparently open to the allies, and Louis XIV. offered to give up his claim, on behalf of Philip V., to Spain, Milan, the Spanish-American colonies and the Netherlands, provided Naples and Sicily were left to his grandson. Marlborough and Prince Eugene required, in addition, that he should expel Philip from Spain, in case the latter refused to conform to the treaty. Louis XIV.'s pride was wounded by this demand, and the negotiations were broken off.


With great exertion a new French army was raised, and Marshal Villars placed in command. But the two famous commanders, Marlborough and Eugene, achieved such a new and crushing victory in the battle of Malplaquet, fought on the 11th of September, 1709, that France made a third attempt to conclude peace. Louis XIV. now offered to withdraw his claim to the Spanish succession, to restore Alsatia and Strasburg to Germany, and to pay one million livres a month towards defraying the expenses of expelling Philip V. from Spain. It will scarcely be believed that this proposal, so humiliating to the extravagant pride of France, and which conceded more than Germany had hoped to obtain, was rejected! The cause seems to have been a change in the fortunes of the Archduke Karl in Spain: he was again victorious, and in 1710 held his triumphal entry in Madrid. Yet it is difficult to conceive what further advantages Joseph I. expected to secure, by prolonging the war.

Germany was soon punished for this presumptuous refusal of peace. A Court intrigue, in England, overthrew the Whig Ministry and gave the power into the hands of the Tories: Marlborough was at first hampered and hindered in carrying out his plans, and then recalled. While keeping up the outward forms of her alliance with Holland and Germany, England began to negotiate secretly with France, and thus the chief strength of the combination against Louis XIV. was broken. In 1711 the Emperor Joseph I. died, leaving no direct heirs, and the Archduke Karl became his successor to the throne. The latter immediately left Spain, was elected before he reached Germany, and crowned in Mayence on the 22d of September, as Karl[Pg 336] VI. Although, by deserting Spain, he had seemed to renounce his pretension to the Spanish crown, there was a general fear that the success of Germany would unite the two countries, as in the time of Charles V., and Holland's interest in the war began also to languish. Prince Eugene, without English aid, was so successful in the early part of 1712 that even Paris seemed in danger; but Marshal Villars, by cutting off all his supplies, finally forced him to retreat.


During this same year negotiations were carried on between France, England, Holland, Savoy and Prussia. They terminated, in 1713, in the Peace of Utrecht, by which the Bourbon, Philip V., was recognized as king of Spain and her colonies, on condition that the crowns of Spain and France should never be united. England received Gibraltar and the island of Minorca from Spain, Acadia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Hudson's Bay Territory from France, and the recognition of her Protestant monarchy. Holland obtained the right to garrison a number of strong frontier fortresses in Belgium, and Prussia received Neufchatel in Switzerland, some territory on the Lower Rhine, and the acknowledgment of Frederick I.'s royal dignity.

Karl VI. refused to recognize his rival, Philip V., as king of Spain, and therefore rejected the Treaty of Utrecht. But the other princes of Germany were not eager to prolong the war for the sake of gratifying the Hapsburg pride. Prince Eugene, who was a devoted adherent of Austria, in vain implored them to be united and resolute. "I stand," he wrote, "like a sentinel (a watch!) on the Rhine; and as mine eye wanders over these fair regions, I think to myself how happy, and beautiful, and undisturbed in the enjoyment of Nature's gifts they might be, if they possessed courage to use the strength which God hath given them. With an army of 200,000 men I would engage to drive the French out of Germany, and would forfeit my life if I did not obtain a peace which should gladden our hearts for the next twenty years." With such forces as he could collect he carried on the war along the Upper Rhine, but he lost the fortresses of Landau and Freiburg. Louis XIV., however, who was now old and infirm, was very tired of the war, and after these successes, he commissioned Marshal Villars to treat for peace with Prince Eugene. The latter was authorized by the Emperor to negotiate: the two commanders met at Rastatt,[Pg 337] in Baden, and in spite of the unreasonable stubbornness of Karl VI. a treaty was finally concluded on the 7th of March, 1714.


Austria received the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan, Mantua and the Island of Sardinia. Freiburg, Old-Breisach and Kehl were restored to Germany, but France retained Landau, on the west bank of the Rhine, as well as all Alsatia and Strasburg. Thus the recovery of the latter territory, which Joseph I. refused to accept in 1710, was lost to Germany until the year 1870.

By the Treaty of Utrecht, Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy had received Sicily as an independent kingdom. A few years afterwards he made an exchange with Austria, giving Sicily for Sardinia: thus originated the Kingdom of Sardinia, which continued to exist until the year 1860, when Victor Emanuel became king of Italy.




  • Wars of Charles XII. of Sweden.
  • —Invasion of Saxony.
  • —Enlargement of Prussia and Hannover.
  • —The "Pragmatic Sanction."
  • —Sacrifices of Austria.
  • —Battle of Peterwardein.
  • —Treaty of Passarowitz.
  • —War in Italy.
  • —Frederick I. of Prussia.
  • —Frederick William I.
  • —His Character and Habits.
  • —His Policy as a Ruler.
  • —His Giant Body-Guards.
  • —The Tobacco College.
  • —Decay of Austria.
  • —The other German States.
  • —First Emigration to America.
  • —War of the Polish Succession.
  • —French Invasion.
  • —German Disunion.
  • —The Treaty of Vienna.
  • —Marriage of Maria Theresa.
  • —Disastrous War with Turkey.
  • —Prussia at the Death of Frederick William I.
  • —Austria at the Death of Karl VI.

While the War of the Spanish Succession raged along the Rhine, in Bavaria and the Netherlands, the North of Germany was convulsed by another and very different struggle. The ambitious designs of Charles XII. of Sweden, who succeeded to the throne in 1697, aroused the jealousy and renewed the old hostility, of Denmark, Russia and Poland, and in 1700 they formed an alliance against Sweden. Denmark began the war, the same year, by invading Holstein-Gottorp, the Duke of which was the brother-in-law of Charles XII. The latter immediately attacked Copenhagen, and conquered a peace. A few months afterwards he crushed the power of Peter the Great, in the battle of Narva, and was then free to march against Poland. Augustus the Strong was no match for the young Northern hero, who compelled the Polish nobles to depose him and elect Stanislas Lesczinsky in his stead, then marched through Silesia into Saxony, in the year 1706, and from his camp near Leipzig dictated his own terms to Augustus.

A year later, having exhausted what resources were left to the people after the outrageous exactions of their own Electors, Charles XII. evacuated Saxony with an army of 40,000 men, many of them German recruits, and marched through Poland on his way to the fatal field of Pultowa.[Pg 339] The immediate consequences of his terrible defeat there, in 1709, were that Peter the Great took possession of the Baltic provinces, and prepared to found his new capital of St. Petersburg on the Neva. Then Denmark and Saxony entered into an alliance with Russia, Augustus the Strong was again placed on the throne of Poland, and the Swedish-German provinces on the Baltic and the North Sea were overrun and ravaged by the Danish and Russian armies. Towards the end of the year 1714, after peace had been concluded with France, Charles XII. suddenly appeared in Stralsund, having escaped from his long exile in Turkey and travelled day and night on horseback across Europe, from the shores of the Black Sea. Then Prussia and Hannover, both eager to enlarge their dominions at the expense of Sweden, united against him. He had not sufficient military strength to resist them, and after his death at Frederickshall, in 1718, Sweden was compelled to make peace on conditions which forever destroyed her supremacy among the northern powers.


By the Treaties of Stockholm, made in 1719 and 1720, Prussia acquired Stettin and all of Pomerania except a strip of the coast with Wismar, Stralsund and the island of Rügen, paying 2,000,000 thalers to Sweden: Hannover acquired the territories of Bremen and Verden, paying 1,000,000 thalers: Denmark received Schleswig, and Russia all of her conquests except Finland. The power of Poland, already weakened by the corruptions and dissensions of her nobles, began steadily to decline after this long and exhausting war.

The collective history of the German States,—for we can hardly say "History of Germany" when there really was no Germany—at this time, is a continuous succession of wars and diplomatic intrigues, which break out in one direction before they are settled in another. In 1713, Frederick I. of Prussia died, and was succeeded by his son, Frederick William I.: in 1714, George I., Elector of Hannover, was made king of England, and about the same time the Emperor Karl VI. issued a decree called the "Pragmatic Sanction," establishing the order of succession to the throne, for his dynasty. He was led to this step by the example of Spain, where the failure of the direct line had given rise to thirteen years of European war, and by the circumstance that he himself had neither sons nor brothers. A daughter, Maria Theresa, was born in 1717, and thus the provision of the[Pg 340] Pragmatic Sanction that the crown should descend to female heirs in the absence of male, preserved the succession in his own family, and forestalled the claim of the Elector of Bavaria and other princes who were more or less distantly related to the Hapsburgs.


The Pragmatic Sanction was accepted in Austria without difficulty, as there was no power to dispute the Emperor's will, but it was not recognized by the other States of Germany and other nations of Europe until after twenty years of diplomatic negotiations and serious sacrifices on the part of Austria. Prussia received more territory on the Lower Rhine, the Duchies of Parma and Piacenza in Italy were given to Spain, and the claims of Augustus III. of Saxony and Poland were so strenuously supported that in 1733 the so-called "War of the Polish Succession" broke out. In the meantime, however, two other wars had occurred, and, although both of them affected Austria rather than the German Empire, they must be briefly described.

In 1714 the Emperor Karl VI. formed an alliance with the Venetians against the Turks, who had taken the Morea from Venice. The command was given to Prince Eugene, who marched against his old enemy, determined to win back what remaining Hungarian or Slavonic territory was still held by Turkey. The Grand-Vizier, Ali, opposed him with a powerful force, and after various minor engagements a great battle was fought at Peterwardein, in August, 1716. Eugene was completely victorious: the Turks were driven beyond the Save and sheltered themselves behind the strong walls of Belgrade. Eugene followed, and, after a siege which is famous in military annals, took Belgrade by storm. The victory is celebrated in a song which the German people are still in the habit of singing. The war ended with the Treaty of Passarowitz, in 1718, by which Turkey was compelled to surrender to Austria the Banat, Servia, including Belgrade, and a part of Wallachia, Bosnia and Croatia.

Before this treaty was concluded, a new war had broken out in Italy. Philip V. of Spain, incensed at not being recognized by Karl VI., took possession of Sardinia and Sicily, with the intention of conquering Naples from Austria. England, France, Holland and Austria then formed the "Quadruple Alliance," as it was called, for the purpose of enforcing the Treaty of Utrecht, and Spain was compelled to yield.[Pg 341]


The power of Prussia, during these years, was steadily increasing. Frederick I., it is true, was among the imitators of Louis XIV.: he built stately palaces, and spent a great deal of money on showy Court festivals, but he did not completely exhaust the resources of the country, like the Electors of Saxony and the rulers of many smaller States. On the other hand, he founded the University of Halle in 1694, and commissioned the philosopher Leibnitz to draw up a plan for an Academy of Science, which was established in Berlin, in 1711. He was a zealous Protestant, and gave welcome to all who were exiled from other States on account of their faith. As a ruler, however, he was equally careless and despotic, and his government was often entrusted to the hands of unworthy agents. Frederick the Great said of him: "He was great in small matters, and little in great matters."

His son, Frederick William I., was a man of an entirely different nature. He disliked show and ceremony: he hated everything French with a heartiness which was often unreasonable, but which was honestly provoked by the enormous, monkey-like affectation of the manners of Versailles by some of his fellow-rulers. While Augustus of Saxony spent six millions of thalers on a single entertainment, he set to work to reduce the expenses of his royal household. While the court of Austria supported 40,000 officials and hangers-on, and half of Vienna was fed from the Imperial kitchen, he was employed in examining the smallest details of the receipts and expenditures of his State, in order to economize and save. He was miserly, fierce, coarse and brutal; he aimed at being a German, but he went back almost to the days of Wittekind for his ideas of German culture and character; he was a tyrant of the most savage kind,—but, after all has been said against him, it must be acknowledged that without his hard practical sense in matters of government, his rigid, despotic organization of industry, finance and the army, Frederick the Great would never have possessed the means to maintain himself in that struggle which made Prussia a great power.

Some illustrations of his policy as a ruler and his personal habits must be given, in order to show both sides of his character. He had the most unbounded idea of the rights and duties of a king, and the aim of his life, therefore, was to increase his own authority by increasing the wealth, the order and the strength of Prussia. He was no friend of[Pg 342] science, except when it could be shown to have some practical use, but he favored education, and one of his first measures was to establish four hundred schools among the people, by the money which he saved from the expenditures of the royal household. His personal economy was so severe that the queen was only allowed to have one waiting-woman. At this time the Empress of Germany had several hundred attendants, received two hogsheads of Tokay, daily, for her parrots, and twelve barrels of wine for her baths! Frederick William I. protected the industry of Prussia by imposing heavy duties upon all foreign products; he even went so far as to prohibit the people from wearing any but Prussian-made cloth, setting them the example himself. He also devoted much attention to agriculture, and when 17,000 Protestants were driven out of Upper Austria by the Archbishop of Salzburg, after the most shocking and inhuman persecutions, he not only furnished them with land but supported them until they were settled in their new homes.


The organization of the Prussian army was entrusted to Prince Leopold of Dessau, who distinguished himself at Turin, under Prince Eugene. Although during the greater part of Frederick William's reign peace was preserved, the military force was kept upon a war footing, and gradually increased until it amounted to 84,000 men. The king had a singular mania for giant soldiers: miserly as he was in other respects, he was ready to go to any expense to procure recruits, seven feet high, for his body-guard. He not only purchased such, but allowed his agents to kidnap them, and despotically sent a number of German mechanics to Peter the Great in exchange for an equal number of Russian giants. For forty-three such tall soldiers he paid 43,000 dollars, one of them, who was unusually large, costing 9,000. The expense of keeping these guardsmen was proportionately great, and much of the king's time was spent in inspecting them. Sometimes he tried to paint their portraits, and if the likeness was not successful, an artist was employed to paint the man's face until it resembled the king's picture.

Frederick William's regular evening recreation was his "Tobacco College," as he called it. Some of his ministers and generals, foreign ambassadors, and even ordinary citizens, were invited to smoke and drink beer with him in a plain room, where he sat upon a three-legged stool, and they upon wooden benches. Each was obliged to smoke, or at[Pg 343] least to have a clay pipe in his mouth and appear to smoke. The most important affairs of State were discussed at these meetings, which were conducted with so little formality that no one was allowed to rise when the king entered the room. He was not so amiable upon his walks through the streets of Berlin or Potsdam. He always carried a heavy cane, which he would apply without mercy to the shoulders of any who seemed to be idle, no matter what their rank or station. Even his own household was not exempt from blows; and his son Frederick was scarcely treated better than any of his soldiers or workmen.


This manner of government was rude, but it was also systematic and vigorous, and the people upon whom it was exercised did not deteriorate in character, as was the case in almost all other parts of Germany. Austria, in spite of the pomp of the Emperor's court, was in a state of moral and intellectual decline. Karl VI. was a man of little capacity, an instrument in the hands of the Jesuits, and the minds of the people whom he ruled gradually became as stolid and dead as the latter order wished to make them. Their connection with Germany was scarcely felt; they spoke of "the Empire outside" almost as a foreign country, and the strength of the house of Hapsburg was gradually transferred to the Bohemian, Hungarian and Slavonic races which occupied the greater part of its territory. The industry of the country was left without encouragement; what little education was permitted was in the hands of the priests, and all real progress came to an end. But, for this very reason, Austria became the ideal of the German nobility, nine-tenths of whom were feudalists and sighed for the return of the Middle Ages: hundreds of them took service under the Emperor, either at court or in the army, and helped to preserve the external forms of his power.

In most of the other German States the condition of affairs was not much better. Bavaria, the Palatinate, and the three Archbishops of Mayence, Treves and Cologne, were abject instruments in the hands of France: Hannover was governed by the interests of England, and Saxony by those of Poland. After George I. went to England, the government of Hannover was exercised by a council of nobles, who kept up the Court ceremonials just as if the Elector were present. His portrait was placed in a chair, and they observed the same etiquette towards it as if his real self were[Pg 344] there! In Würtemberg the Duke, Eberhard Ludwig, so oppressed the people that many of them emigrated to America between the years 1717 and 1720, and settled in Pennsylvania. This was the first German emigration to the New World.


After a peace of nineteen years, counting from the Treaty of Rastatt, or thirteen years from the Treaty of Stockholm, Germany—or rather the Emperor Karl VI.—became again involved in war. The Pragmatic Sanction was at the bottom of it. Karl's endless diplomacy to insure the recognition of this decree led him into an alliance with Russia to place Augustus III. of Saxony on the throne of Poland. Louis XV. of France, who had married the daughter of the Polish king, Stanislas Lesczinsky, took the latter's part. Prussia was induced to join Austria and Russia, but the cautious and economical Frederick William I. withdrew from the alliance as soon as he found that the expense to him would be more than the advantage. The Polish Diet was divided: the majority, influenced by France, elected Stanislas, who reached Warsaw in the disguise of a merchant and was crowned in September, 1733. The minority declared for Augustus III., in whose aid a Russian army was even then entering Poland.

France, in alliance with Spain and Sardinia, had already declared war against Germany. The plan of operations had evidently been prepared in advance, and was everywhere successful. One French army occupied Lorraine, another crossed the Rhine and captured Kehl (opposite Strasburg), and a third, under Marshal Villars, entered Lombardy. Naples and Sicily, powerless to resist, fell into the hands of Spain. Prince Eugene of Savoy, now more than seventy years of age, was sent to the Rhine with such troops as Austria, taken by surprise, was able to furnish: the other German States either sympathized with France, or were indifferent to a quarrel which really did not concern them. Frederick William of Prussia finally sent 10,000 well-disciplined soldiers; but even with this aid Prince Eugene was unable to expel the French from Lorraine. In Poland, however, the plans of France utterly failed: in June, 1734, King Stanislas fled in the disguise of a cattle-dealer. The following year, 10,000 Russians appeared on the Rhine, as allies of Austria, and Louis XV. found it prudent to negotiate for peace.


The Treaty of Vienna, concluded in October, 1735, put[Pg 345] an end to the War of the Polish Succession. Francis of Lorraine, who was betrothed to Karl VI.'s daughter, Maria Theresa, was made Grand-Duke of Tuscany, and Lorraine (now only a portion of the original territory, with Nancy as capital) was given to the Ex-King Stanislas of Poland, with the condition that it should revert to France at his death. Spain received Naples and Sicily; Tortona and Novara were added to Sardinia, and Austria was induced to consent to all these losses by the recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction, and the annexation of the Duchies of Parma and Piacenza, in Italy. Prussia got nothing; and Frederick William I., who had been expecting to add Jülich and Berg to his possessions on the Lower Rhine, was so exasperated that he entered into secret arrangements with France in order to carry out his end. The enmity of Austria and Prussia was now confirmed, and it has been the chief power in German politics from that day to this.

In 1736 Francis of Lorraine and Maria Theresa were married, and Prince Eugene of Savoy died, worn out with the hardships of his long and victorious career. The next year, the Empress Anna of Russia persuaded Karl VI. to unite with her in a war against Turkey, her object being to get possession of Azov. By this unfortunate alliance Austria lost all which she had gained by the Treaty of Passarowitz, twenty years before. There was no commander like Prince Eugene, her military strength had been weakened by useless and unsuccessful wars, and she was compelled to make peace in 1739, by yielding Belgrade and all her conquests in Servia and Wallachia to Turkey.

On the 31st of May, 1740, Frederick William I. died, fifty-two years of age. He left behind him a State containing more than 50,000 square miles, and about 2,500,000 of inhabitants. The revenues of Prussia, which were two and a half millions of thalers on his accession to the throne, had increased to seven and a half millions annually, and there were nine millions in the treasury. Berlin had a population of nearly 100,000, and Stettin, Magdeburg, Memel and other cities had been strongly fortified. An army of more than 80,000 men was perfectly organized and disciplined. There was the beginning of a system of instruction for the people, feudalism was almost entirely suppressed, and the charge of witchcraft (which, since the fifteenth century, had caused the execution of several hundred thousand victims, throughout[Pg 346] Germany!) was expunged from the pages of the law. Although the land was almost wholly Protestant, there was entire religious freedom, and the Catholic subjects could complain of no violation of their rights.


On the 24th of October, 1740, Karl VI. died, leaving a diminished realm, a disordered military organization, and a people so demoralized by the combined luxury and oppression of the government that for more than a century afterwards all hope and energy and aspiration seemed to be crushed among them. The outward show and trappings of the Empire remained with Austria, and kept alive the political superstitions of that large class of Germans who looked backward instead of forward; but the rude, half-developed strength, which cuts loose from the Past and busies itself with the practical work of its day and generation, was rapidly creating a future for Prussia.

Frederick William I. was succeeded by his son, Frederick II., called Frederick the Great. Karl VI. was succeeded by his daughter, the Empress Maria Theresa. The former was twenty-eight, the latter twenty-three years old.




  • Youth of Frederick the Great.
  • —His attempted Escape.
  • —Lieutenant von Katte's Fate.
  • —Frederick's Subjection.
  • —His Marriage.
  • —His first Measures as King.
  • —Maria Theresa in Austria.
  • —The First Silesian war.
  • —Maria Theresa in Hungary.
  • —Prussia acquires Silesia.
  • —Frederick's Alliance with France and the Emperor Karl VII.
  • —The Second Silesian war.
  • —Frederick alone against Austria.
  • —Battles of Hohenfriedberg, Sorr and Kesselsdorf.
  • —War of the Austrian Succession.
  • —Peace.
  • —Frederick as a Ruler.
  • —His Habits and Tastes.
  • —Answers to Petitions.
  • —Religious Freedom.
  • —Development of Prussia.
  • —War between England and France.
  • —Designs against Prussia.
  • —Beginning of the Seven Years' War.
  • —Battle at Prague.
  • —Defeat at Kollin.
  • —Victory of Rossbach.
  • —Battle of Leuthen.
  • —Help from England.
  • —Campaign of 1758.
  • —Victory of Zorndorf.
  • —Surprise at Hochkirch.
  • —Campaign of 1759.
  • —Battle of Kunnersdorf.
  • —Operations in 1760.
  • —Frederick victorious.
  • —Battle of Torgau.
  • —Desperate Situation of Prussia.
  • —Campaign of 1761.
  • —Alliance with Russia.
  • —Frederick's Successes.
  • —The Peace of Hubertsburg.
  • —Frederick's Measures of Relief.
  • —His arbitrary Rule.
  • —His literary Tastes.
  • —First Division of Poland.
  • —Frederick's last Years.
  • —His Death.

Few royal princes ever had a more unfortunate childhood and youth than Frederick the Great. His mother, Sophia Dorothea of Hannover, a sister of George II. of England, was an amiable, mild-tempered woman who was devotedly attached to him, but had no power to protect him from the violence of his hard and tyrannical father. As a boy his chief tastes were music and French literature, which he could only indulge by stealth: the king not only called him "idiot!" and "puppy!" when he found him occupied with a flute or a French book, but threatened him with personal chastisement. His whole education, which was gained almost in secret, was chiefly received at the hands of French émigrés, and his taste was formed in the school of ideas which at that time ruled in France, and which was largely formed by Voltaire, whom Frederick during his boyhood greatly admired, and afterward made one of his chief[Pg 348] correspondents and intimates. The influence of this is most clearly to be traced throughout his life.


His music became almost a passion with him, though it is doubtful whether any of the praises of his proficiency that have come down to us are more than the remains of the flatteries of the time. His compositions, which were performed at his concerts, to which leading musicians were often invited, do not give any evidence of the genius claimed for him in this respect; but it is certain that he attained a considerable degree of mechanical skill in playing the flute. In after-life his musical taste continued to influence him greatly, and the establishment of the opera at Berlin was chiefly due to him. His father's persistent opposition rather fanned than suppressed the eagerness which he showed in this and other studies, as a boy; and doubtless contributed to a thoroughness which afterward stood him in good stead.

In 1728, when only sixteen years old, he accompanied his father on a visit to the court of Augustus the Strong, at Dresden, and was for a time led astray by the corrupt society into which he was there thrown. The wish of his mother, that he should marry the Princess Amelia, the daughter of George II., was thwarted by his father's dislike of England; the tyranny to which he was subjected became intolerable, and in 1730, while accompanying his father on a journey to Southern Germany, he determined to run away.

His accomplice was a young officer, Lieutenant von Katte, who had been his bosom-friend for two or three years. A letter written by Frederick to the latter fell by accident into the hands of another officer of the same name, who sent it to the king, and the plot was thus discovered. Frederick had already gone on board of a vessel at Frankfort, and was on the point of sailing down the Rhine, when his father followed, beat him until his face was covered with blood, and then sent him as a prisoner of State to Prussia. Katte was arrested before he could escape, tried by a court-martial and sentenced to several years' imprisonment. Frederick William annulled the sentence and ordered him to be immediately executed. To make the deed more barbarous, it was done before the window of the cell in which Frederick was confined. The young Prince fainted, and lay so long senseless that it was feared he would never recover.[Pg 349] He was then watched, allowed no implements except a wooden spoon, lest he might commit suicide, and only permitted to read a Bible and hymn-book. The officer who had him in charge could only converse with him by means of a hole bored through the ceiling of his cell.


The king insisted that he should be formally tried; but the court-martial, while deciding that "Colonel Fritz" was guilty, as an officer, asserted that it had no authority to condemn the Crown-Prince. The king overruled the decision, and ordered his son to be executed. This course excited such horror and indignation among the officers that Frederick was pardoned, but not released from imprisonment until his spirit was broken and he had promised to obey his father in all things. For a year he was obliged to work as a clerk in the departments of the Government, beginning with the lowest position and rising as he acquired practical knowledge. He did not appear at Court until November, 1731, when his sister Wilhelmine was married to the Margrave of Baireuth. The ceremony had already commenced when Frederick, dressed in a plain suit of grey, without any order or decoration, was discovered among the servants. The King pulled him forth, and presented him to the Queen with these words: "Here, Madam, our Fritz is back again!"

In 1732 Frederick was forced to marry the Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, whom he disliked, and with whom he lived but a short time. His father gave him the castle of Rheinsberg, near Potsdam, and there, for the first time, he enjoyed some independence: his leisure was devoted to philosophical studies, and to correspondence with Voltaire and other distinguished French authors. During the war of the Polish Succession he served for a short time under Prince Eugene of Savoy, but had no opportunity to test or develop his military talent. Until his father's death he seemed to be more of a poet and philosopher than anything else: only the few who knew him intimately perceived that his mind was occupied with plans of government and conquest.

When Frederick William I. died, the people rejoiced in the prospect of a just and peaceful rule. Frederick II. declared to his ministers, on receiving their oath of allegiance, that no distinction should be allowed between the interests of the country and the king, since they were identical; but[Pg 350] if any conflict of the two should arise, the interests of the country must have the preference. Then he at once corrected the abuses of the game and recruiting laws, disbanded his father's body-guard of giants, abolished torture in criminal cases, reformed the laws of marriage, and established a special Ministry for Commerce and Manufactures. When he set out for Königsberg to receive the allegiance of Prussia proper, his whole Court travelled in three carriages. On arriving, he dispensed with the ceremony of coronation, as being unnecessary, and then succeeded in establishing a much closer political union between Prussia and Brandenburg, which, in many respects, had been independent of each other up to that time.


The death of the Emperor Karl VI. was the signal for a general disturbance. Maria Theresa, as the events of her reign afterwards proved, was a woman of strong, even heroic, character; stately, handsome and winning in her personal appearance, and morally irreproachable. No Hapsburg Emperor before her inherited the crown under such discouraging circumstances, and none could have maintained himself more bravely and firmly than she did. The ministers of Karl VI. flattered themselves that they would now have unlimited sway over the Empire, but they were mistaken. Maria Theresa listened to their counsels, but decided for herself: even her husband, Francis of Lorraine and Tuscany, was unable to influence her judgment. The Elector Karl Albert of Bavaria, whose grandmother was a Hapsburg, claimed the crown, and was supported by Louis XV. of France, who saw another opportunity of weakening Germany. The reigning Archbishops on the Rhine were of course on the side of France. Poland and Saxony, united under Augustus III., at the same time laid claim to some territory along the northern frontier of Austria.

Frederick II. saw his opportunity, and was first in the field. His pretext was the right of Brandenburg to four principalities in Silesia, which had been relinquished to Austria under the pressure of circumstances. The real reason was, as he afterwards confessed, his determination to strengthen Prussia by the acquisition of more territory. The kingdom was divided into so many portions, separated so widely from each other, that it could not become powerful and permanent unless they were united. He had secretly raised his military force to 100,000 men, and in December,[Pg 351] 1740, he marched into Silesia, almost before Austria suspected his purpose. His army was kept under strict discipline; the people were neither plundered nor restricted in their religious worship, and the capital, Breslau, soon opened its gates. Several fortresses were taken during the winter, and in April, 1741, a decisive battle was fought at Mollwitz. The Austrian army had the advantage of numbers and its victory seemed so certain that Marshal Schwerin persuaded Frederick to leave the field; then, gathering together the remainder of his troops, he made a last and desperate charge which turned defeat into victory. All Lower Silesia was now in the hands of the Prussians.


France, Spain, Bavaria and Saxony immediately united against Austria. A French army crossed the Rhine, joined the Bavarian forces, and marched to Linz, on the Danube, where Karl Albert was proclaimed Arch-Duke of Austria. Maria Theresa and her Court fled to Presburg, where the Hungarian nobles were already convened, in the hope of recovering the rights they had lost under Leopold I. She was forced to grant the most of their demands; after which she was crowned with the crown of St. Stephen, galloped up "the king's hill," and waved her sword towards the four quarters of the earth, with so much grace and spirit that the Hungarians were quite won to her side. Afterwards, when she appeared before the Diet in their national costume, with her son Joseph in her arms, and made an eloquent speech, setting forth the dangers which beset her, the nobles drew their sabres and shouted: "We will die for our King, Maria Theresa!"

While the support of Hungary and Austria was thus secured, the combined German and French force did not advance upon Vienna, but marched to Prague, where Karl Albert was crowned King of Bohemia. This act was followed, in February, 1742, by his coronation in Frankfort as Emperor, under the name of Karl VII. Before this took place, Austria had been forced to make a secret treaty with Frederick II. The latter, however, declared that the conditions of it had been violated, and in the spring of 1742 he marched into Bohemia. He was victorious in the first great battle: England then intervened, and persuaded Maria Theresa to make peace by yielding to Prussia both Upper and Lower Silesia and the principality of Glatz. Thus ended the First Silesian War, which gave Prussia an addition[Pg 352] of 1,200,000 to her population, with 150 large and small cities, and about 5,000 villages.


The most dangerous enemy of Austria being thus temporarily removed, the fortunes of Maria Theresa speedily changed, especially since England, Holland and Hannover entered into an alliance to support her against France. George II. of England took the field in person, and was victorious over the French in the battle of Dettingen (not far from Frankfort), in June, 1743. After this Saxony joined the Austrian alliance, and the Landgrave of Hesse, who cared nothing for the war, but was willing to make money, sold an equal number of soldiers to France and to England. Frederick II. saw that France would not be able to stand long against such a coalition, and he knew that the success of Austria would probably be followed by an attempt to regain Silesia; therefore, regardless of appearances, he entered into a compact with France and the Emperor Karl VII., and prepared for another war.

In the summer of 1744 he marched into Bohemia with an army of 80,000 men, took Prague on the 16th of September, and conquered the greater part of the country. But the Bohemians were hostile to him, the Hungarians rose again in defence of Austria, and an army under Charles of Lorraine, which was operating against the French in Alsatia, was recalled to resist his advance. He was forced to retreat in the dead of winter, leaving many cannon behind him, and losing a large number of soldiers on the way. On the 20th of January, 1745, Karl VII. died, and his son, Max Joseph, gave up his pretensions to the Imperial crown, on condition of having Bavaria (which Austria had meanwhile conquered) restored to him. France thereupon practically withdrew from the struggle, leaving Prussia in the lurch. Frederick stood alone, with Austria, Saxony and Poland united against him, and a prospect of England and Russia being added to the number: the tables had turned, and he was very much in the condition of Maria Theresa, four years before.

In May, 1745, Silesia was invaded with an army of 100,000 Austrians and Saxons. Frederick marched against them with a much smaller force, met them at Hohenfriedberg, and gave battle on the 4th of June. He began with a furious charge of Prussian cavalry at dawn, and by nine o'clock the enemy was utterly routed, leaving sixty-six standards,[Pg 353] 5,000 dead and wounded, and 7,000 prisoners. This victory produced a great effect throughout Europe. England intervened in favor of peace, and Frederick declared that he would only fight until the possession of Silesia was firmly guaranteed to him; but Maria Theresa (who hated Frederick intensely, as she had good reason to do) answered that she would sooner part with the clothes on her body than give up Silesia.


Frederick entered Bohemia with 18,000 men, and on the 30th of September was attacked, at a village called Sorr, by a force of 40,000. Nevertheless he managed his cavalry so admirably, that he gained the victory. Then, learning that the Saxons were preparing to invade Prussia in his rear, he garrisoned all the passes leading from Bohemia into Silesia, and marched into Saxony with his main force. The "Old Dessauer," as Prince Leopold was called, took Leipzig, and, pressing forwards, won another great victory on the 15th of December, at Kesselsdorf. Frederick, who arrived on the field at the close of the fight, embraced the old veteran in the sight of the army. The next day, the Prussians took possession of Dresden: the capital was not damaged, but, like the other cities of Saxony, was made to pay a heavy contribution. Peace was concluded with Austria ten days afterwards: Prussia was confirmed in the possession of all Silesia and Glatz, and Frederick agreed to recognize Francis of Lorraine, Maria Theresa's husband, who had already been crowned Emperor at Frankfort, as Francis I. Thus ended the Second Silesian War. Frederick was first called "the Great," on his return to Berlin, where he was received with boundless popular rejoicings.

The "War of the Austrian Succession," as it was called, lasted three years longer, but its character was changed. Its field was shifted to Italy and Flanders: in the latter country Maurice of Saxony (better known as Marshal de Saxe), one of the many sons of Augustus the Strong, was signally successful. He conquered the greater part of the Netherlands for France, in the year 1747. Then Austria, although she had regained much of her lost ground in Northern Italy, formed an alliance with the Empress Elizabeth of Russia, who furnished an army of 40,000 men. The money of France was exhausted, and Louis XV. found it best to make peace, which was concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle in October, 1748. He gave up all the conquests which[Pg 354] France had made during the war. Austria yielded Parma and Piacenza to Spain, a portion of Lombardy to Sardinia, and again confirmed Frederick the Great in the possession of Silesia.


After the Peace of Dresden, in 1745, Prussia enjoyed a rest of nearly eleven years. Frederick's first care was to heal the wounds which his two Silesian wars had made in the population and the industry of his people. He called himself "the first official servant of the State," and no civil officer under him labored half so earnestly and zealously. He looked upon his kingdom as a large estate, the details of which must be left to agents, while the general supervision devolved upon him alone. Therefore he insisted that all questions which required settlement, all changes necessary to be made, even the least infractions of the laws, should be referred directly to himself, so that his secretaries had much more to do than his ministers. While he claimed the absolute right to govern, he accepted all the responsibility which it brought upon him. He made himself acquainted with every village and landed estate in his kingdom, watched, as far as possible, over every official, and personally studied the operation of every reform. He rose at four or five o'clock, labored at his desk for hours, reading the multitude of reports and letters of complaint or appeal, which came simply addressed "to the King," and barely allowed himself an hour or two towards evening for a walk with his greyhounds, or a little practise on his beloved flute. His evenings were usually spent in conversation with men of culture and intelligence. His literary tastes, however, remained French all his life: his many works were written in that language, he preferred to speak it, and he sneered at German literature at a time when authors like Lessing, Klopstock, Herder and Goethe were gradually lifting it to such a height of glory as few other languages have ever attained.

His rough, practical common-sense as a ruler is very well illustrated by his remarks upon the documents sent for his inspection, many of which are still preserved. On the back of the "Petition from the merchant Simon of Stettin, to be allowed to purchase an estate for 40,000 thalers," he wrote: "40,000 thalers invested in commerce will yield eight per cent., in landed property only four per cent.; this man does not understand his own business." On the "Petition from the city of Frankfort-on-Oder, against the quartering[Pg 355] of troops upon them," he wrote: "Why, it cannot be otherwise. Do they think I can put the regiment in my pocket? But the barracks shall be rebuilt." And finally, on the "Petition of the Chamberlain, Baron Müller, for leave to visit the baths of Aix-la-Chapelle," he wrote: "What would he do there? He would gamble away the little money he has left, and come back like a beggar." The expenses of Frederick's own Court were restricted to about 100,000 dollars a year, at a time when nearly every petty prince in Germany was spending from five to ten times that sum.


In the administration of justice and the establishment of entire religious liberty, Prussia rapidly became a model which put to shame and disturbed the most of the other German States. Frederick openly declared: "I mean that every man in my kingdom shall have the right to be saved in his own way:" in Silesia, where the Protestants had been persecuted under Austria, the Catholics were now free and contented. This course gave him a great popularity outside of Prussia among the common people, and for the first time in two hundred years, the hope of better times began to revive among them. Frederick was as absolute a despot as any of his fellow-rulers of the day; but his was a despotism of intelligence, justice and conscience, opposed to that of ignorance, bigotry and selfishness.

Frederick's rule, however, was not without its serious faults. He favored the education of his people less than his father, and was almost equally indifferent to the encouragement of science. The Berlin Academy was neglected, and another in which the French language was used, and French theories discussed, took its place. Prussian students were for a while prohibited from visiting Universities outside of the kingdom. On the other hand, agriculture was favored in every possible way: great tracts of marshy land, which had been uninhabited, were transformed into fertile and populous regions; canals, roads and bridges were built, and new markets for produce established. The cultivation of the potato, up to that time unknown in Germany as an article of food, was forced upon the unwilling farmers. In return for all these advantages, the people were heavily taxed, but not to such an extent as to impoverish them, as in Saxony and Austria. The army was not only kept up, but largely increased, for Frederick knew that the peace which Prussia enjoyed could not last long.[Pg 356]


The clouds of war slowly gathered on the political horizon. The peace of Europe was broken by the quarrel between England and France, in 1755, in regard to the boundaries between Canada and the English Colonies. This involved danger to Hannover, which was not yet disconnected from England, and the latter power proposed to Maria Theresa an alliance against France. The minister of the Empress was at this time Count Kaunitz, who fully shared her hatred of Frederick II., and determined, with her, to use this opportunity to recover Silesia. She therefore refused England's proposition, and wrote a flattering letter to Madame de Pompadour, the favorite of Louis XV., to prepare the way for an alliance between Austria and France. At the same time secret negotiations were carried on with Elizabeth of Russia, who was mortally offended with Frederick II., on account of some disparaging remarks he had made about her. Louis XV., nevertheless, hesitated until Maria Theresa promised to give him the Austrian (the former Spanish) Netherlands, in return for his assistance: then the compact between the three great military powers of the Continent was concluded, and everything was quietly arranged for commencing the war against Prussia in the spring of 1757. So sure were they of success that they agreed beforehand on the manner in which the Prussian kingdom should be cut up and divided among themselves and the other States.

Through his paid agents at the different courts, and especially through the Crown Prince Peter of Russia, who was one of his most enthusiastic admirers, Frederick was well-informed of these plans. He saw that the coalition was too powerful to be defeated by diplomacy: his ruin was determined upon, and he could only prevent it by accepting war against such overwhelming odds. England was the only great power which could assist him, and Austria's policy left her no alternative: she concluded an alliance with Prussia in January, 1756, but her assistance, afterwards, was furnished in the shape of money rather than troops. The small States of Brunswick, Hesse-Cassel and Saxe-Gotha were persuaded to join Prussia, but they added very little to Frederick's strength, because Bavaria and all the principalities along the Rhine were certain to go with France, in a general German war.


Knowing when the combined movement against him[Pg 357] was to be made, Frederick boldly determined to anticipate it. Disregarding the neutrality of Saxony, he crossed its frontier on the 29th of August, 1756, with an army of 70,000 men. Ten days afterwards he entered Dresden, besieged the Saxon army of 17,000 in their fortified camp on the Elbe, and pushed a column forwards into Bohemia. Maria Theresa collected her forces, and sent an army of nearly 70,000 in all haste against him. Frederick met them with 20,000 men at Lobositz, on the 1st of October, and after hard fighting gained a victory by the use of the bayonet. He wrote to Marshal Schwerin: "Never have my Prussians performed such miracles of bravery, since I had the honor to command them." The Saxons surrendered soon afterwards, and Frederick went into winter-quarters, secure against any further attack before the spring.

This was a severe check to the plans of the allied powers, and they made every effort to retrieve it. Sweden was induced to join them, and "the German Empire," through its almost forgotten Diet, declared war against Prussia. All together raised an armed force of 430,000 men, while Frederick, with the greatest exertion, could barely raise 200,000: England sent him an utterly useless general, the Duke of Cumberland, but no soldiers. He dispatched a part of his army to meet the Russians and Swedes, marched with the rest into Bohemia, and on the 6th of May won a decided but very bloody victory before the walls of Prague. The old hero, Schwerin, charging at the head of his troops, was slain, and the entire loss of the Prussians was 18,000 killed and wounded. But there was still a large Austrian army in Prague: the city was besieged with the utmost vigor for five weeks, and was on the very point of surrendering when Frederick heard that another Austrian army, commanded by Daun, was marching to its rescue.

He thereupon raised the siege, hastened onwards and met Daun at Kollin, on the Elbe, on the 18th of June. He had 31,000 men and the Austrians 54,000: he prepared an excellent plan of battle, then deviated from it, and commenced the attack against the advice of General Zieten, his chief commander. His haste and stubbornness were well nigh proving his ruin; he tried to retrieve the fortunes of the day by personally leading his soldiers against the Austrian batteries, but in vain,—they were repulsed, with a loss[Pg 358] of 14,000 dead and wounded. That evening Frederick was found alone, seated on a log, drawing figures in the sand with his cane. He shed tears on hearing of the slaughter of all his best guardsmen; then, after a long silence, said: "It is a day of sorrow for us, my children, but have patience, for all will yet be well."


The defeat at Kollin threw Frederick's plans into confusion: it was now necessary to give up Bohemia, and simply act on the defensive, on Prussian soil. Here he was met by the news of fresh disasters. His other army had been defeated by a much superior Russian force, and the useless Duke of Cumberland had surrendered Hannover to the French. But the Russians had retreated after their victory, instead of advancing, and Frederick's general, Lehwald, then easily repulsed the Swedes, who had invaded Pomerania. By this time a combined French and German array of 60,000 men, under Marshal Soubise, was approaching from the west, confident of an easy victory and comfortable winter-quarters in Berlin. Frederick united his scattered and diminished forces: they only amounted to 22,000, and great was the amusement of the French when they learned that he meant to dispute their advance.

After some preliminary manœuvring the two armies approached each other, on the 5th of November, at Rossbach, not far from Naumburg. When Marshal Soubise saw the Prussian camp, he said to his officers: "It is only a breakfast for us!" and ordered his forces to be spread out so as to cut off the retreat of the enemy. Frederick was at dinner when he received the news of the approaching attack: he immediately ordered General Seidlitz to charge with his cavalry, broke up his camp and marshalled his infantry in the rear of a range of low hills which concealed his movements. The French, supposing that he was retreating, pressed forwards with music and shouts of triumph; then, suddenly, Seidlitz burst upon them with his 8,000 cavalry, and immediately afterwards Frederick's cannon began to play upon their ranks from a commanding position. They were thrown into confusion by this surprise: Frederick and his brother, Prince Henry, led the infantry against them, and in an hour and a half from the commencement of the battle they were flying from the field in the wildest panic, leaving everything behind them. Nine generals, 320 other officers and 7,000 men were made prisoners, and all[Pg 359] the artillery, arms and stores captured. The Prussian loss was only 91 dead and 274 wounded.


The remnant of the French army never halted until it reached the Rhine. All danger from the west was now at an end, and Frederick hastened towards Silesia, which had in the mean time been occupied by a powerful Austrian army under Charles of Lorraine. By making forced marches, in three weeks Frederick effected a junction near Breslau with his retreating Prussians, and found himself at the head of an army of about 32,000 men. Charles of Lorraine and Marshal Daun had united their forces, taken Breslau, and opposed him with a body of more than 80,000; but, instead of awaiting his attack, they moved forward to meet him. Near the little town of Leuthen, the two came together. Frederick summoned his generals, and addressed them in a stirring speech: "Against all the rules of military science," he said, "I am going to engage an army nearly three times greater than my own. We must beat the enemy, or all together make for ourselves graves before his batteries. This I mean, and thus will I act: remember that you are Prussians. If one among you fears to share the last danger with me, he may resign now, without hearing a word of reproof from me."

The king's heroic courage was shared by his officers and soldiers. At dawn, on the 5th of December, the troops sang a solemn hymn, after which shouts of "It is again the 5th!" and "Rossbach!" rang through the army. Frederick called General Zieten to him, and said: "I am going to expose myself more than ordinarily, to-day. Should I fall, cover my body with your cloak, and say nothing to any one. The fight must go on and the enemy must be beaten." He concealed the movement of his infantry behind some low hills, as at Rossbach, and surprised the left flank of the Austrian army, while his cavalry engaged its right flank. Both attacks were so desperate that the Austrians struggled in vain to recover their ground: after several hours of hard fighting they gave way, then broke up and fled in disorder, losing more than 20,000 in killed, wounded and prisoners. The Prussian loss was about 5,000. The cold winter night came down on the battle-field, still covered with wounded and dying and resounding with cries of suffering. All at once a Prussian grenadier began to sing the hymn: "Now let all hearts thank God;" the regiment nearest him presently[Pg 360] joined, then the military bands, and soon the entire army united in the grand choral of thanksgiving. Thus gloriously for Prussia closed the second year of this remarkable war.


Frederick immediately took Breslau, with its garrison of 17,000 Austrians, and all of Silesia except the fortress of Schweidnitz. During the winter Maria Theresa made vigorous preparations for a renewal of the war, and urged Russia and France to make fresh exertions. The reputation which Frederick had gained, however, brought him also some assistance: after the victories of Rossbach and Leuthen, there was so much popular enthusiasm for him in England that the Government granted him a subsidy of 4,000,000 thalers annually, and allowed him to appoint a commander for the troops of Hannover and the other allied States. Frederick selected Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, who operated with so much skill and energy that by the summer of 1758 he had driven the French from all Northern Germany.

Frederick, as usual, resumed his work before the Austrians were ready, took Schweidnitz, re-established his rule over Silesia, penetrated into Moravia and laid siege to Olmütz. But the Austrian Marshal Laudon cut off his communications with Silesia and forced him to retreat across the frontier, where he established himself in a fortified camp near Landshut. The Russians by this time had conquered the whole of the Duchy of Prussia, invaded Pomerania, which they plundered and laid waste, and were approaching the river Oder. On receiving this news, Frederick left Marshal Keith in command of his camp, took what troops could be spared and marched against his third enemy, whom he met on the 25th of August, 1758, near the village of Zorndorf, in Pomerania. The battle lasted from nine in the morning until ten at night. Frederick had 32,000 men, mostly new recruits, the Russian General Fermor 50,000. The Prussian lines were repeatedly broken, but as often restored by the bravery of General Seidlitz, who finally won the battle by daring to disobey Frederick's orders. The latter sent word to him that he must answer for his disobedience with his head, but Seidlitz replied: "Tell the king he may have my head when the battle is over, but until then I must use it in his service." When, late at night, the Russians were utterly defeated, leaving 20,000 dead upon the field—for the[Pg 361] Prussians gave them no quarter—Frederick embraced Seidlitz, crying out: "I owe the victory to you!"


The three great powers had been successively repelled, but the strength of Austria was not yet broken. Marshal Daun marched into Saxony and besieged the fortified camp of Prince Henry, thus obliging Frederick to hasten to his rescue. The latter's confidence in himself had been so exalted by his victories, that he and his entire army would have been lost but for the prudent watchfulness of Zieten. All except the latter and his hussars were quietly sleeping at Hochkirch, on the night of the 13th of October, when the camp was suddenly attacked by Daun, in overwhelming force. The village was set on fire, the Prussian batteries captured, and a terrible fight ensued. Prince Francis of Brunswick and Marshal Keith were killed and Prince Maurice of Dessau severely wounded: the Prussians defended themselves heroically, but at nine o'clock on the morning of the 14th they were compelled to retreat, leaving all their artillery and camp equipage behind them. This was the last event of the campaign of 1758, and it was a bad omen for the following year.

Frederick tried to negotiate for peace, but in vain. The strength of his army was gone; his victories had been dearly bought with the loss of all his best regiments. Austria and Russia reinforced their armies and planned, this time, to unite in Silesia, while the French, who defeated the Duke of Brunswick in April, 1759, regained possession of Hannover. Frederick was obliged to divide his troops and send an army under General Wedel against the Russians, while he, with a very reduced force, attempted to check the Austrians in Silesia. Wedel was defeated, and the junction of his two enemies could no longer be prevented; they marched against him, 70,000 strong, and took up a position at Kunnersdorf, opposite Frankfort-on-Oder. Frederick had but 48,000 men, after calling together almost the entire military strength of his kingdom, and many of these were raw recruits who had never smelt powder.

On the 12th of August, 1759, after the good news arrived that Ferdinand of Brunswick had defeated the French at Minden, Frederick gave battle. At the end of six hours the Russian left wing gave way; then Frederick, against the advice of Seidlitz, ordered a charge upon the right wing, which occupied a very strong position and was supported by[Pg 362] the Austrian army. Seidlitz twice refused to make the charge; and then when he yielded, was struck down, severely wounded, after his cavalry had been cut to pieces. Frederick himself led the troops to fresh slaughter, but all in vain: they fell in whole battalions before the terrible artillery fire, until 20,000 lay upon the field. The enemy charged in turn, and the Prussian army was scattered in all directions, only about 3,000 accompanying the king in his retreat. For some days after this Frederick was in a state of complete despair, listless, helpless, unable to decide or command in anything.


Prussia was only saved by a difference of opinion between Marshal Daun and the Russian general, Soltikoff. The latter refused to advance on Berlin, but fell back upon Silesia to rest his troops: Daun marched into Saxony, took Dresden, which the Prussians had held up to that time, and made 12,000 prisoners. Thus ended this unfortunate year. Prussia was in such an exhausted condition that it seemed impossible to raise more men or more money, to carry on the war. Frederick tried every means to break the alliance of his enemies, or to acquire new allies for himself, even appealing to Spain and Turkey, but without effect. In the spring of 1760, the armies of Austria, "the German Empire," Russia and Sweden amounted to 280,000, to meet which he was barely able, by making every sacrifice, to raise 90,000. In Hannover Ferdinand of Brunswick had 75,000, opposed by a French army of 115,000.

Silesia was still the bone of contention, and it was planned that the Austrian and Russian armies should unite there, as before, while Frederick was equally determined to prevent their junction, and to hold the province for himself. But he first sent Prince Henry and General Fouqué to Silesia, while he undertook to regain possession of Saxony. He bombarded Dresden furiously, without success, and was then called away by the news that Fouqué with 7,000 men had been defeated and taken prisoners near Landshut. All Silesia was overrun by the Austrians, except Breslau, which was heroically defended by a small force. Marshal Laudon was in command, and as the Russians had not yet arrived, he effected a junction with Daun, who had followed Frederick from Saxony. On the 15th of August, 1760, they attacked him at Liegnitz with a combined force of 95,000 men. Although he had but 35,000, he won such[Pg 363] a splendid victory that the Russian army turned back on hearing of it, and in a short time Silesia, except the fortress of Glatz, was restored to Prussia.


Nevertheless, while Frederick was engaged in following up his victory, the Austrians and Russians came to an understanding, and moved suddenly upon Berlin,—the Russians from the Oder, the Austrians and Saxons combined from Lusatia. The city defended itself for a few days, but surrendered on the 9th of October: a contribution of 1,700,000 thalers was levied by the conquerors, the Saxons ravaged the royal palace at Charlottenburg, but the Russians and Austrians committed few depredations. Four days afterwards, the news that Frederick was hastening to the relief of Berlin compelled the enemy to leave. Without attempting to pursue them, Frederick turned and marched back to Silesia, where, on the 3d of November, he met the Austrians, under Daun, at Torgau. This was one of the bloodiest battles of the Seven Years' War: the Prussian army was divided between Frederick and Zieten, the former undertaking to storm the Austrian position in front, while the latter attacked their flank. But Frederick, either too impetuous or mistaken in the signals, moved too soon: a terrible day's fight followed, and when night came 10,000 of his soldiers, dead or wounded, lay upon the field. He sat all night in the village church, making plans for the morrow; then, in the early dawn, Zieten came and announced that he had been victorious on the Austrian flank, and they were in full retreat. After which, turning to his soldiers, Zieten cried: "Boys, hurrah for our King!—he has won the battle!" The men answered: "Hurrah for Fritz, our King, and hurrah for Father Zieten, too!" The Prussian loss was 13,000, the Austrian 20,000.

Although Prussia had been defended with such astonishing vigor and courage during the year 1760, the end of the campaign found her greatly weakened. The Austrians held Dresden and Glatz, two important strategic points, Russia and France were far from being exhausted, and every attempt of Frederick to strengthen himself by alliance—even with Turkey and with Cossack and Tartar chieftains—came to nothing. In October, 1760, George II. of England died, there was a change of ministry, and the four, millions of thalers which Prussia had received for three years were cut off. The French, under Marshals Broglie[Pg 364] and Soubise, had been bravely met by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, but he was not strong enough to prevent them from quartering themselves for the winter in Cassel and Göttingen. Under these discouraging aspects the year 1761 opened.


The first events were fortunate. Prince Ferdinand moved against the French in February and drove them back nearly to the Rhine; the army of "the German Empire" was expelled from Thuringia by a small detachment of Prussians, and Prince Henry, Frederick's brother, maintained himself in Saxony against the much stronger Austrian army of Marshal Daun. These successes left Frederick free to act with all his remaining forces against the Austrians in Silesia, under Laudon, and their Russian allies who were marching through Poland to unite with them a third time. But their combined force was 140,000 men, his barely 55,000. By the most skilful military tactics, marching rapidly back and forth, threatening first one and then the other, he kept them asunder until the middle of August, when they effected a junction in spite of him. Then he entrenched himself so strongly in a fortified camp near Schweidnitz, that they did not dare to attack him immediately. Marshal Laudon and the Russian commander, Buturlin, quarrelled, in consequence of which a large part of the Russian army left, and marched northwards into Pomerania. Then Frederick would have given battle, but on the 1st of October, Laudon took Schweidnitz by storm and so strengthened his position thereby that it would have been useless to attack him.

Frederick's prospects were darker than ever when the year 1761 came to a close. On the 16th of December, the Swedes and Russians took the important fortress of Colberg, on the Baltic coast: half Pomerania was in their hands, more than half of Silesia in the hands of the Austrians, Prince Henry was hard pressed in Saxony, and Ferdinand of Brunswick was barely able to hold back the French. On all sides the allied enemies were closing in upon Prussia, whose people could no longer furnish soldiers or pay taxes. For more than a year the country had been hanging on the verge of ruin, and while Frederick's true greatness had been illustrated in his unyielding courage, his unshaken energy, his determination never to give up, he was almost powerless to plan any further measures of defence.[Pg 365] With four millions of people, he had for six years fought powers which embraced eighty millions; but now half his territory was lost to him and the other half utterly exhausted.


Suddenly, in the darkest hour, light came. In January, 1762, Frederick's bitter enemy, the Empress Elizabeth of Russia, died, and was succeeded by Czar Peter III., who was one of his most devoted admirers. The first thing Peter did was to send back all the Prussian prisoners of war; an armistice was concluded, then a peace, and finally an alliance, by which the Russian troops in Pomerania and Silesia were transferred from the Austrian to the Prussian side. Sweden followed the example of Russia, and made peace, and the campaign of 1762 opened with renewed hopes for Prussia. In July, 1762, Peter III. was dethroned and murdered, whereupon his widow and successor, Catharine II., broke off the alliance with Frederick; but she finally agreed to maintain peace, and Frederick made use of the presence of the Russian troops in his camp to win a decided victory over Daun, on the 21st of July.

Austria was discouraged by this new turn of affairs; the war was conducted with less energy on the part of her generals, while the Prussians were everywhere animated with a fresh spirit. After a siege of several months Frederick took the fortress of Schweidnitz on the 9th of October; on the 29th of the same month Prince Henry defeated the Austrians at Freiberg, in Saxony, and on the 1st of November Ferdinand of Brunswick drove the French out of Cassel. After this Frederick marched upon Dresden, while small detachments were sent into Bohemia and Franconia, where they levied contributions on the cities and villages and kept the country in a state of terror.

In the meantime negotiations for peace had been carried on between England and France. The preliminaries were settled at Fontainebleau on the 3d of November, and, although the Tory Ministry of George II. would have willingly seen Prussia destroyed, Frederick's popularity was so great in England that the Government was forced to stipulate that the French troops should be withdrawn from Germany. The "German Empire," represented by its superannuated Diet at Ratisbon, became alarmed at its position and concluded an armistice with Prussia; so that, before the year closed, Austria was left alone to carry on the war.[Pg 366] Maria Theresa's personal hatred of Frederick, which had been the motive power in the combination against him, had not been gratified by his ruin: she could only purchase peace with him, after all his losses and dangers, by giving up Silesia forever. It was a bitter pill for her to swallow, but there was no alternative; she consented, with rage and humiliation in her heart. On the 15th of February, 1763, peace was signed at Hubertsburg, a little hunting-castle near Leipzig, and the Seven Years' War was over.


Frederick was now called "the Great" throughout Europe, and Prussia was henceforth ranked among the "Five Great Powers," the others being England, France, Austria and Russia. His first duty, as after the Second Silesian War, was to raise the kingdom from its weak and wasted condition. He distributed among the farmers the supplies of grain which had been hoarded up for the army, gave them as many artillery and cavalry horses as could be spared, practised the most rigid economy in the expenses of the Government, and bestowed all that could be saved upon the regions which had most suffered. The nobles derived the greatest advantage from this support, for he considered them the main pillar of his State, and took all his officers from their ranks. In order to be prepared for any new emergency, he kept up his army, and finally doubled it, at a great cost; but, as he only used one-sixth of his own income and gave the rest towards supporting this burden, the people, although often oppressed by his system of taxation, did not openly complain.

Frederick continued to be sole and arbitrary ruler. He was unwilling to grant any participation in the Government to the different classes of the people, but demanded that everything should be trusted to his own "sense of duty." Since the people did honor and trust him,—since every day illustrated his desire to be just towards all, and his own personal devotion to the interests of the kingdom,—his policy was accepted. He never reflected that the spirit of complete submission which he was inculcating weakened the spirit of the people, and might prove to be the ruin of Prussia if the royal power should fall into base or ignorant hands. In fact, the material development of the country was seriously hindered by his admiration of everything French. He introduced a form of taxation borrowed from France, appointed French officials who oppressed the people,[Pg 367] granted monopolies to manufacturers, prohibited the exportation of raw material, and in other ways damaged the interests of Prussia, by trying to force a rapid growth.


The intellectual development of the country was equally hindered. In 1750 Frederick invited Voltaire to Berlin, and the famous French author remained there nearly three years, making many enemies by his arrogance and intolerance of German habits, until a bitter quarrel broke out and the two parted, never to resume their intimacy. It is doubtful whether Frederick had the least consciousness of the swift and splendid rise of German Literature during the latter years of his reign. Although he often declared that he was perfectly willing his subjects should think and speak as they pleased, provided they obeyed, he maintained a strict censorship of the press, and was very impatient of all opinions which conflicted with his own. Thus, while he possessed the clearest sense of justice, the severest sense of duty, his policy was governed by his own personal tastes and prejudices, and therefore could not be universally just. What strength he possessed became a part of his government, but what weakness also.

One other event, of a peaceful yet none the less of a violent character, marks Frederick's reign. Within a year after the Peace of Hubertsburg Augustus III. of Poland died, and Catharine of Russia persuaded the Polish nobles to elect Prince Poniatowsky, her favorite, as his successor. The latter granted equal rights to the Protestant sects, which brought on a civil war, as the Catholics were in a majority in Poland. A long series of diplomatic negotiations followed, in which Prussia, Austria, and indirectly France, were involved: the end was, that on the 5th of August, 1772, Frederick the Great, Catharine II. and Maria Theresa (the latter most unwillingly) united in taking possession of about one-third of the kingdom of Poland, containing 100,000 square miles and 4,500,000 inhabitants, and dividing it among them. Prussia received the territory between Pomerania and the former Duchy of Prussia, except only the cities of Dantzig and Thorn, with about 700,000 inhabitants. This was the region lost to Germany in 1466, when the incapable Emperor Frederick III. failed to assist the German Order: its population was still mostly German, and consequently scarcely felt the annexation as a wrong, yet this does not change the character of the act.[Pg 368]


The last years of Frederick the Great were peaceful. He lived to see the American Colonies independent of England, and to send a sword of honor to Washington: he lived when Voltaire and Maria Theresa were dead, preserving to the last his habits of industry and constant supervision of all affairs. Like his father, he was fond of walking or riding through the parks and streets of Berlin and Potsdam, talking familiarly with the people and now and then using his cane upon an idler. His Court was Spartan in its simplicity, and nothing prevented the people from coming personally to him with their complaints. On one occasion, in the streets of Potsdam, he met a company of school-boys, and roughly addressed them with: "Boys, what are you doing here? Be off to your school!" One of the boldest answered: "Oh, you are king, are you, and don't know that there is no school to-day!" Frederick laughed heartily, dropped his uplifted cane, and gave the urchins a piece of money that they might better enjoy their holiday. The windmill at Potsdam, which stood on some ground he wanted for his park, but could not get because the miller would not sell and defied him to take it arbitrarily, stands to this day, as a token of his respect for the rights of a poor man.

When Frederick died, on the 17th of August, 1786, at the age of seventy-four, he left a kingdom of 6,000,000 inhabitants, an army of more than 200,000 men, and a sum of 72 millions of thalers in the treasury. But, what was of far more consequence to Germany, he left behind him an example of patriotism, of order, economy and personal duty, which was already followed by other German princes, and an example of resistance to foreign interference which restored the pride and revived the hopes of the German people.




  • Maria Theresa and her Government.
  • —Death of Francis I.
  • —Character of Joseph II.
  • —The Partition of Poland.
  • —The Bavarian Succession.
  • —Last Days of Maria Theresa.
  • —Republican Ideas in Europe.
  • —Joseph II. as a Revolutionist.
  • —His Reforms.
  • —Visit of Pope Pius VI.
  • —Alarm of the Catholics.
  • —Joseph among the People.
  • —The Order of Jesuits dissolved by the Pope.
  • —Joseph II's Disappointments.
  • —His Death.
  • —Progress in Germany.
  • —A German-Catholic Church proposed by four Archbishops.
  • —"Enlightened Despotism."
  • —The small States.
  • —Influence of the great German Authors.

In the Empress Maria Theresa, Frederick the Great had an enemy whom he was bound to respect. Since the death of Maximilian II., in 1576, Austria had no male ruler so prudent, just and energetic as this woman. One of her first acts was to imitate the military organization of Prussia: then she endeavored to restore the finances of the country, which had been sadly shattered by the luxury of her predecessors. Her position during the two Silesian Wars and the Seven Years' War was almost the same as that of her opponent: she fought to recover territory, part of which had been ceded to Austria and part of which she had held by virtue of unsettled claims. The only difference was that the very existence of Austria did not depend on the result, as was the case with Prussia.

Maria Theresa, like all the Hapsburgs after Ferdinand I., had grown up under the influence of the Jesuits, and her ideas of justice were limited by her religious bigotry. In other respects she was wise and liberal: she effected a complete reorganization of the government, establishing special departments of justice, industry and commerce; she sought to develop the resources of the country, abolished torture, introduced a new criminal code,—in short, she neglected scarcely any important interests of the people, except their[Pg 370] education and their religious freedom. Nevertheless, she was always jealous of the assumptions of Rome, and prevented, as far as she was able, the immediate dependence of the Catholic clergy upon the Pope.


In 1765, her husband, Francis I. (of Lorraine and Tuscany) suddenly died, and was succeeded, as German Emperor, by her eldest son, Joseph II., who was then twenty-four years of age. He was an earnest, noble-hearted, aspiring man, who had already taken his mother's enemy, Frederick the Great, as his model for a ruler. Maria Theresa, therefore, kept the Government of the Austrian dominions in her own hands, and the title of "Emperor" was not much more than an empty dignity while she lived. In August, 1769, Joseph had an interview with Frederick at Neisse, in Silesia, at which the Polish question was discussed. The latter returned the visit, at Neustadt in Moravia, the following year, and the terms of the partition of Poland appear to have been then agreed upon between them. Nevertheless, after the treaty had been formally drawn up and laid before Maria Theresa for her signature, she added these words: "Long after I am dead, the effects of this violation of all which has hitherto been considered right and holy will be made manifest." Joseph, with all his liberal ideas, had no such scruples of conscience. He was easily controlled by Frederick the Great, who, notwithstanding, never entirely trusted him.

In 1777 a new trouble arose, which for two years held Germany on the brink of internal war. The Elector Max Joseph of Bavaria, the last of the house of Wittelsbach in a direct line, died without leaving brother or son, and the next heir was the Elector Karl Theodore of the Palatinate. The latter was persuaded by Joseph II. to give up about half of Bavaria to Austria, and Austrian troops immediately took possession of the territory. This proceeding created great alarm among the German princes, who looked upon it as the beginning of an attempt to extend the Austrian sway over all the other States. Another heir to Bavaria, Duke Karl of Zweibrücken (a little principality on the French frontier), was brought forward and presented by Frederick the Great, who, in order to support him, sent two armies into the field. Saxony and some of the smaller States took the same side; even Maria Theresa desired peace, but Joseph II. persisted in his plans until both France and Russia intervened. The[Pg 371] matter was finally settled in May, 1779, by giving Bavaria to the Elector Karl Theodore, and annexing a strip of territory along the river Inn, containing about 900 square miles and 139,000 inhabitants, to Austria.


Maria Theresa had long been ill of an incurable dropsy, and on the 29th of November, 1780, she died, in the sixty-fourth year of her age. A few days before her death she had herself lowered by ropes and pulleys into the vault where the coffin of Francis I. reposed. On being drawn up again, one of the ropes parted, whereupon she exclaimed: "He wishes to keep me with him, and I shall soon come!" She wrote in her prayer-book that in regard to matters of justice, the Church, the education of her children, and her obligations towards the different orders of her people, she found little cause for self-reproach; but that she had been a sinner in making war from motives of pride, envy and anger, and in her speech had shown too little charity for others. She left Austria in a condition of order and material prosperity such as the country had not known for centuries.

When Frederick the Great heard of her death, he said to one of his ministers: "Maria Theresa is dead; now there will be a new order of things!" He evidently believed that Joseph II. would set about indulging his restless ambition for conquest. But the latter kept the peace, and devoted himself to the interests of Austria, establishing, indeed, a new and most astonishing order of things, but of a totally different nature from what Frederick had expected. Joseph II. was filled with the new ideas of human rights which already agitated Europe. The short but illustrious history of the Corsican Republic, the foundation of the new nation of the United States of America, the works of French authors advocating democracy in society and politics, were beginning to exercise a powerful influence in Germany, not so much among the people as among the highly educated classes. Thus at the very moment when Frederick and Maria Theresa were exercising the most absolute form of despotism, and the smaller rulers were doing their best to imitate them, the most radical theories of republicanism were beginning to be openly discussed, and the great Revolution which they occasioned was only a few years off.


Joseph II. was scarcely less despotic in his habits of government than Frederick the Great, and he used his power to force new liberties upon a people who were not intelligent[Pg 372] enough to understand them. He stands almost alone among monarchs, as an example of a Revolutionist upon the throne, not only granting far more than was ever demanded of his predecessors, but compelling his people to accept rights which they hardly knew how to use. He determined to transform Austria, by a few bold measures, into a State which should embody all the progressive ideas of the day, and be a model for the world. The plan was high and noble, but he failed because he did not perceive that the condition of a people cannot be so totally changed, without a wise and gradual preparation for it.

He began by reforming the entire civil service of Austria; but, as he took the reform into his own hands and had little practical knowledge of the position and duties of the officials, many of the changes operated injuriously. In regard to taxation, industry and commerce, he followed the theories of French writers, which, in many respects, did not apply to the state of things in Austria. He abolished the penalty of death, put an end to serfdom among the peasantry, cut down the privileges of the nobles, and tried, for a short time, the experiment of a free press. His boldest measure was in regard to the Church, which he endeavored to make wholly independent of Rome. He openly declared that the priests were "the most dangerous and most useless class in every country"; he suppressed seven hundred monasteries and turned them into schools or asylums, granted the Protestants freedom of worship and all rights enjoyed by Catholics, and continued his work in so sweeping a manner that the Pope, Pius VI., hastened to Vienna in 1782, in the greatest alarm, hoping to restore the influence of the Church. Joseph II. received him with external politeness, but had him carefully watched and allowed no one to visit him without his own express permission. After a stay of four weeks during which he did not obtain a single concession of any importance, the Pope returned to Rome.

Not content with what he had accomplished, Joseph now went further. He gave equal rights to Jews and members of the Greek Church, ordered German hymns to be sung in the Catholic Churches and the German Bible to be read, and prohibited pilgrimages and religious processions. These measures gave the priesthood the means of alarming the ignorant people, who were easily persuaded that the Emperor intended to abolish the Christian religion. They became[Pg 373] suspicious and hostile towards the one man who was defying the Church and the nobles in his efforts to help them. Only the few who came into direct contact with him were able to appreciate his sincerity and goodness. He was fond of going about alone, dressed so simply that few recognized him, and almost as many stories of his intercourse with the lower classes are told of him in Austria as of Frederick the Great in Prussia. On one occasion he attended a poor sick woman whose daughter took him for a physician: on another he took the plough from the hands of a peasant, and ploughed a few furrows around the field. If his reign had been longer, the Austrian people would have learned to trust him, and many of his reforms might have become permanent; but he was better understood and loved after his death than during his life.


One circumstance must be mentioned, in explanation of the sudden and sweeping character of Joseph II.'s measures towards the Church. The Jesuits, by their intrigues and the demoralizing influence which they exercised, had made themselves hated in all Catholic countries, and were only tolerated in Bavaria and Austria. France, Spain, Naples and Portugal, one after the other, banished the Order, and Pope Clement XIV. was finally induced, in 1773, to dissolve its connection with the Church of Rome. The Jesuits were then compelled to leave Austria, and for a time they found refuge only in Russia and Prussia, where, through a most mistaken policy, they were employed by the governments as teachers. Their expulsion was the sign of a new life for the schools and universities, which were released from their paralyzing sway, and Joseph II. evidently supposed that the Church of Rome itself had made a step in advance. The Archbishop of Mayence and the Bishop of Treves were noted liberals; the latter even favored a reformation of the Catholic Church, and the Emperor had reason to believe that he would receive at least a moral support throughout Germany. He neither perceived the thorough demoralization which two centuries of Jesuit rule had produced in Austria, nor the settled determination of the Papal power to restore the Order as soon as circumstances would permit.

Joseph II.'s last years were disastrous to all his plans. In Flanders, which was still a dependency of Austria, the priests incited the people to revolt; in Hungary the nobles were bitterly hostile to him, on account of the abolition of[Pg 374] serfdom, and an alliance with Catharine II. of Russia against Turkey, into which he entered in 1788,—chiefly, it seems, in the hope of achieving military renown—was in every way unfortunate. At the head of an army of 200,000 men, he marched against Belgrade, but was repelled by the Turks, and finally returned to Vienna with the seeds of a fatal fever in his frame. Russia made peace with Turkey before the fortunes of war could be retrieved; Flanders declared itself independent of Austria, and a revolution in Hungary was only prevented by his taking back most of the decrees which had been issued for the emancipation of the people. Disappointed and hopeless, Joseph II. succumbed to the fever which hung upon him: he died on the 20th of February, 1790, only forty-nine years of age. He ordered these words to be engraved upon his tomb-stone: "Here lies a prince, whose intentions were pure, but who had the misfortune to see all his plans shattered!" History has done justice to his character, and the people whom he tried to help learned to appreciate his efforts when it was too late.


The condition of Germany, from the end of the Seven Years' War to the close of the eighteenth century, shows a remarkable progress, when we contrast it with the first half of the century. The stern, heroic character of Frederick the Great, the strong, humane aspirations of Joseph II., and the rapid growth of democratic ideas all over the world, affected at last many of the smaller German States. Their imitation of the pomp and state of Louis XIV., which they had practised for nearly a hundred years, came to an end; the princes were now possessed with the idea of "an enlightened despotism"—that is, while retaining their absolute power, they endeavored to exercise it for the good of the people. There were some dark exceptions to this general change for the better. The rulers of Hesse-Cassel and Würtemberg, for example, sold whole regiments of their subjects to England, to be used against the American Colonies in the War of Independence. Although many of these soldiers remained in the United States, and encouraged, by their satisfaction with their new homes, the later German emigration to America, the princes who sold them covered their own memories with infamy, and deservedly so.


There was a remarkable movement, about the same time, among the Catholic Archbishops, who were also temporal rulers, in Germany. The dominions of these priestly princes,[Pg 375] especially along the Rhine, showed what had been the character of such a form of government. There were about 1,000 inhabitants, fifty of whom were priests and two hundred and sixty beggars, to every twenty-two square miles! The difference between the condition of their States and that of the Protestant territories adjoining them was much more strongly marked than it now is between the Protestant and Catholic Cantons of Switzerland. By a singular coincidence, the chief Catholic Archbishops were at this time men of intelligence and humane aspirations, who did their best to remedy the scandalous misrule of their predecessors. In the year 1786, the Archbishops of Mayence, Treves, Cologne and Salzburg came together at Ems, and agreed upon a plan of founding a national German-Catholic Church, independent of Rome. The priests, in their incredible ignorance and bigotry, opposed the movement, and even Joseph II., who had planned the very same thing for Austria, most inconsistently refused to favor it; therefore the plan failed.

It must be admitted, as an apology for the theory of "an enlightened despotism," that there was no representative government in Europe at the time, where there was greater justice and order than in Prussia or in Austria under Joseph II. The German Empire had become a mere mockery; its perpetual Diet at Ratisbon was little more than a farce. Poland, Holland and Sweden, where there was a Legislative Assembly, were in a most unfortunate condition: the Swiss Republic was far from being republican, and even England, under George III., did not present a fortunate model of parliamentary government. The United States of America were too far off and too little known, to exercise much influence. Some of the smaller German States, which were despotisms in the hands of wise and humane rulers, thus played a most beneficent part in protecting, instructing and elevating the people.

Baden, Brunswick, Anhalt-Dessau, Holstein, Saxe-Gotha, and especially Saxe-Weimar, became cradles of science and literature. Karl Augustus, of the last-named State, called Herder, Wieland, Goethe, Schiller and other illustrious authors to his court, and created such a distinguished circle in letters and the arts that Weimar was named "the German Athens." The works of these great men, which had been preceded by those of Lessing and Klopstock, gave an immense impetus to the intellectual development of Germany.[Pg 376] It was the first great advance made by the people since the days of Luther, and its effect extended gradually to the courts of less intelligent and humane princes. Even the profligate Duke Karl Eugene of Würtemberg reformed in a measure, established the Karl's-School where Schiller was educated, and tried, so far as he knew how, to govern justly. Frederick Augustus of Saxony refrained from imitating his dissolute and tyrannical ancestors, and his land began to recover from its long sufferings. As for the scores of petty States, which contained—as was ironically said—"twelve subjects and one Jew," and were not much larger than an average Illinois farm, they were mostly despotic and ridiculous; but they were too weak to impede the general march of progress.


Among the greater States, only Bavaria remained in the background. Although temporarily deprived of his beloved Jesuits, the Elector held fast to all the prejudices they had inculcated, and kept his people in ignorance.




  • The Crisis in Europe.
  • —Frederick William II. in Prussia.
  • —Leopold II. in Austria.
  • —His short Reign.
  • —Francis II. succeeds.
  • —French Claims in Alsatia.
  • —War declared against Austria.
  • —The Prussian and Austrian Invasion of France.
  • —Valmy and Jemappes.
  • The First Coalition.
  • —Campaign of 1793.
  • —French Successes.
  • —Hesitation of Prussia.
  • —The Treaty of Basel.
  • —Catharine II.'s Designs.
  • —Second Partition of Poland.
  • —Kosciusko's Defeat.
  • —Suwarrow takes Warsaw.
  • —End of Poland.
  • —French Invasion of Germany.
  • —Success of the Republic.
  • —Bonaparte in Italy.
  • —Campaign of 1796.
  • —Austrian Successes.
  • —Bonaparte victorious.
  • —Peace of Campo Formio.
  • —New Demands of France.
  • The Second Coalition.
  • —Suwarrow in Italy and Switzerland.
  • —Bonaparte First Consul.
  • —Victories at Marengo and Hohenlinden.
  • —Peace of Luneville.
  • —The German States reconstructed.
  • —Character of the political Changes.
  • —Supremacy of France.
  • —Hannover invaded.
  • —Bonaparte Emperor.
  • The Third Coalition.
  • —French march to Vienna.
  • —Austerlitz.
  • —Treaty of Presburg.
  • —End of the "Holy Roman Empire."

The mantles of both Frederick the Great and Joseph II. fell upon incompetent successors, at a time when all Europe was agitated by the beginning of the French Revolution, and when, therefore, the greatest political wisdom was required of the rulers of Germany. It was a crisis, the like of which never before occurred in the history of the world, and probably never will occur again; for, at the time when it came, the people enjoyed fewer rights than they had possessed during the Middle Ages, and the monarchs exercised more power than they had claimed for at least fifteen hundred years before, while general intelligence and the knowledge of human rights were increasing everywhere. The fabrics of society and government were ages behind the demands of the time: a change was inevitable, and because no preparation had been made, it came through violence.


Frederick the Great was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick William II., whom, with unaccountable neglect, he[Pg 378] had not instructed in the duties of government. The latter, nevertheless, began with changes which gave him a great popularity. He abolished the French system of collecting duties, the monopolies which were burdensome to the people, and lightened the weight of their taxes. But, by unnecessary interference in the affairs of Holland (because his sister was the wife of William V. of Orange), he spent all the surplus which Frederick had left in the Prussian treasury; he was weak, dissolute and fickle in his character; he introduced the most rigid measures in regard to the press and religious worship, and soon taught the people the difference between a bigoted and narrow-minded and an intelligent and conscientious king.

Joseph II. was succeeded by his brother, Leopold II., who for twenty-five years had been Grand-Duke of Tuscany, where he had governed with great mildness and prudence. His policy had been somewhat similar to that of Joseph II., but characterized by greater caution and moderation. When he took the crown of Austria, and immediately afterwards that of the German Empire, he materially changed his plan of government. He was not rigidly oppressive, but he checked the evidences of a freer development among the people, which Joseph II. had fostered. He limited, at once, the pretensions of Austria, cultivated friendly relations with Prussia, which was then inclined to support the Austrian Netherlands in their revolt, and took steps to conclude peace with Turkey. He succeeded, also, in reconciling the Hungarians to the Hapsburg rule, and might, possibly, have given a fortunate turn to the destinies of Austria, if he had lived long enough. But he died on the 1st of March, 1792, after a reign of exactly two years, and was succeeded by his son, Francis II., who was elected Emperor of Germany on the 5th of July, in Frankfort.

By this time the great changes which had taken place in France began to agitate all Europe. The French National Assembly very soon disregarded the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia (in 1648), which had only ceded the possessions of Austria in Alsatia to France, allowing various towns and districts on the West bank of the Upper Rhine to be held by German Princes. The entire authority over these scattered possessions was now claimed by France, and neither Prussia, under Frederick William II., nor Austria under Leopold II. resisted the act otherwise than by a protest[Pg 379] which had no effect. Although the French queen, Marie Antoinette, was Leopold II.'s sister, his policy was to preserve peace with the Revolutionary party which controlled France. Frederick William's minister, Hertzberg, pursued the same policy, but so much against the will of the king, who was determined to defend the cause of absolute monarchy by trying to rescue Louis XVI. from his increasing dangers, that before the close of 1791 Hertzberg was dismissed from office. Then Frederick William endeavored to create a "holy alliance" of Prussia, Austria, Russia and Sweden against France, but only succeeded far enough to provoke a bitter feeling of hostility to Germany in the French National Assembly.


The nobles who had been driven out of France by the Revolution were welcomed by the Archbishops of Mayence and Treves, and the rulers of smaller States along the Rhine, who allowed them to plot a counter-revolution. An angry diplomatic intercourse between France and Austria followed, and in April, 1792, the former country declared war against "the king of Bohemia and Hungary," as Francis II. was styled by the French Assembly. In fact, war was inevitable; for the monarchs of Europe were simply waiting for a good chance to intervene and crush the republican movement in France, which, on its side, could only establish itself through military successes. Although neither party was prepared for the struggle, the energy and enthusiasm of the new men who governed France gained an advantage, at the start, over the lumbering slowness of the German governments. It was not the latter, this time, but their enemy, who profited by the example of Frederick the Great.

Prussia and Austria, supported by some but not by all of the smaller States, raised two armies, one of 110,000 men under the Duke of Brunswick, which was to march through Belgium to Paris, while the other, 50,000 strong, was to take possession of Alsatia. The movement of the former was changed, and then delayed by differences of opinion among the royal and ducal commanders. It started from Mayence, and consumed three weeks in marching to the French frontier, only ninety miles distant. Longwy and Verdun were taken without much difficulty, and then the advance ceased. The French under Dumouriez and Kellermann united their forces, held the Germans in check at[Pg 380] Valmy, on the 20th of September, 1792, and then compelled them to retrace their steps towards the Rhine. While the Prussians were retreating through storms of rain, their ranks thinned by disease, Dumouriez wheeled upon Flanders, met the Austrian army at Jemappes, and gained such a decided victory that by the end of the year all Belgium, and even the city of Aix-la-Chapelle, fell into the hands of the French.


At the same time another French army, under General Custine, marched to the Rhine, took Speyer, Worms and finally Mayence, which city was made the head-quarters of a republican movement intended to influence Germany. But these successes were followed, on the 21st of January, 1793, by the execution of Louis XVI., and on the 16th of October of Marie Antoinette,—acts which alarmed every reigning family in Europe and provoked the most intense enmity towards the French Republic. An immediate alliance—called the First Coalition—was made by England, Holland, Prussia, Austria, "the German Empire," Sardinia, Naples and Spain, against France. Only Catharine II. of Russia declined to join, not because she did not favor the design of crushing France, but because she would thus be left free to carry out her plans of aggrandizing Russia at the expense of Turkey and Poland.

The greater part of the year 1793 was on the whole favorable to the allied powers. An Austrian victory at Neerwinden, on the 18th of March, compelled the French to evacuate Belgium: in July the Prussians reconquered Mayence, and advanced into Alsatia; and a combined English and Spanish fleet took possession of Toulon. But there was no unity of action among the enemies of France; even the German successes were soon neutralized by the mutual jealousy and mistrust of Prussia and Austria, and the war became more and more unpopular. Towards the close of the year the French armies were again victorious in Flanders and along the Rhine: their generals had discovered that the rapid movements and rash, impetuous assaults of their new troops were very effectual against the old, deliberate, scientific tactics of the Germans. Spain, Holland and Sardinia proved to be almost useless as allies, and the strength of the Coalition was reduced to England, Prussia and Austria.


In 1794 a fresh attempt was made. Prussia furnished[Pg 381] 50,000 men, who were paid by England, and were hardly less mercenaries than the troops sold by Hesse-Cassel twenty years before. In June, the French under Jourdan were victorious at Fleurus, and Austria decided to give up Belgium: the Prussians gained some advantages in Alsatia, but showed no desire to carry on the war as the hirelings of another country. Frederick William II. and Francis II. were equally suspicious of each other, equally weak and vacillating, divided between their desire of overturning the French Republic on the one side, and securing new conquests of Polish territory on the other. Thus the war was prosecuted in the most languid and inefficient manner, and by the end of the year the French were masters of all the territory west of the Rhine, from Alsatia to the sea. During the following winter they assisted in overturning the former government of Holland, where a new "Batavian Republic" was established. Frederick William II. thereupon determined to withdraw from the Coalition, and make a separate peace with France. His minister, Hardenberg, concluded a treaty at Basel, on the 5th of April, 1795, by which Cleves and other Prussian territory west of the Lower Rhine was relinquished to France, and all of Germany north of a line drawn from the river Main eastward to Silesia, was declared to be in a state of peace during the war which France still continued to wage with Austria.

The chief cause of Prussia's change of policy seems to have been her fear that Russia would absorb the whole of Poland. This was probably the intention of Catharine II., for she had vigorously encouraged the war between Germany and France, while declining to take part in it. The Poles themselves, now more divided than ever, soon furnished her with a pretext for interference. They had adopted an hereditary instead of an elective monarchy, together with a Constitution similar to that of France; but a portion of the nobility rose in arms against these changes, and were supported by Russia. Then Frederick William II. insisted on being admitted as a partner in the business of interference, and Catharine II. reluctantly consented. In January, 1793, the two powers agreed to divide a large portion of Polish territory between them, Austria taking no active part in the matter. Prussia received the cities of Thorn and Dantzig, the provinces of Posen, Gnesen and Kalisch, and other territory, amounting to more than 20,000 square miles, with[Pg 382] 1,000,000 inhabitants. The only resistance made to the entrance of the Russian army into Poland, was headed by Kosciusko, one of the heroes of the American war of Independence. Although defeated at Dubienka, where he fought with 4,000 men against 16,000, the hopes of the Polish patriots centred upon him, and when they rose in 1794 to prevent the approaching destruction of their country, they made him Dictator. Russia was engaged in a war with Turkey, and had not troops enough to quell the insurrection, so Prussia was called upon to furnish her share. In June, 1794, Frederick William himself marched to Warsaw, where a Russian army arrived about the same time: the city was besieged, but not attacked, owing to quarrels and differences of opinion among the commanders. At the end of three months, the king got tired and went back to Berlin; several small battles were fought, in which the Poles had the greater advantage, but nothing decisive happened until the end of October, when the Russian General Suwarrow arrived, after a forced march, from the seat of war on the Danube.


He first defeated Kosciusko, who was taken prisoner, and then marched upon Warsaw. On the 4th of November the suburb of Praga was taken by storm, with terrible slaughter, and three days afterwards Warsaw fell. This was the end of Poland, as an independent nation. Although Austria had taken no part in the war, she now negotiated for a share in the Third (and last) Partition, which had been decided upon by Russia and Prussia, even before the Polish revolt furnished a pretext for it. Catharine II. favored the Austrian claims, and even concluded a secret agreement with Francis II. without consulting Prussia. When this had been made known, in August, 1795, Prussia protested violently against it, but without effect: Russia took more than half the remaining territory, Austria nearly one-quarter, and Prussia received about 20,000 square miles more, including the city of Warsaw.

After the Treaty of Basel, which secured peace to the northern half of Germany, Catharine II., victorious over Turkey and having nothing more to do in Poland, united with England and Austria against France. It was agreed that Russia should send both an army and a fleet, Austria raise 200,000 men, and England contribute 4,000,000 pounds sterling annually towards the expenses of the war. During[Pg 383] the summer of 1795, however, little was done. The French still held everything west of the Rhine, and the Austrians watched them from the opposite bank: the strength of both was nearly equal. Suddenly, in September, the French crossed the river, took Düsseldorf and Mannheim, with immense quantities of military stores, and completely laid waste the country in the neighborhood of these two cities, treating the people with the most inhuman barbarity. Then the Austrians rallied, repulsed the French, in their turn, and before winter recovered possession of nearly all the western bank.


In January, 1796, an armistice was declared: Spain and Sardinia had already made peace with France, and Austria showed signs of becoming weary of the war. The French Republic, however, found itself greatly strengthened by its military successes: its minister of war, Carnot, and its ambitious young generals, Bonaparte, Moreau, Massena, &c., were winning fame and power by the continuance of hostilities, and the system of making the conquered territory pay all the expenses of the war (in some cases much more), was a great advantage to the French national treasury. Thus the war, undertaken by the Coalition for the destruction of the French Republic, had only strengthened the latter, which was in the best condition for continuing it at a time when the allies (except, perhaps, England) were discouraged, and ready for peace.

The campaign of 1796 was most disastrous to Austria. France had an army under Jourdan on the Lower Rhine, another under Moreau—who had replaced General Pichegru—on the Upper Rhine, and a third under Bonaparte in Italy. The latter began his movement early in April; he promised his unpaid, ragged and badly-fed troops that he would give them Milan in four weeks, and he kept his word. Plunder and victory heightened their faith in his splendid military genius: he advanced with irresistible energy, passing the Po, the Adda at Lodi, subjecting the Venetian Republic, forming new republican States out of the old Italian Duchies, and driving the Austrians everywhere before him. By the end of the year the latter held only the strong fortress of Mantua.


The French armies on the Rhine were opposed by an Austrian army of equal strength, commanded by the Archduke Karl, a general of considerable talent, but still governed[Pg 384] by the military ideas of a former generation. Instead of attacking, he waited to be attacked; but neither Jourdan nor Moreau allowed him to wait long. The former took possession of the Eastern bank of the Lower Rhine: when the Archduke marched against him, Moreau crossed into Baden and seized the passes of the Black Forest. Then the Archduke, having compelled Jourdan to fall back, met the latter and was defeated. Jourdan returned a second time, Moreau advanced, and all Baden, Würtemberg, Franconia, and the greater part of Bavaria fell into the hands of the French. These States not only submitted without resistance, but used every exertion to pay enormous contributions to their conquerors. One-fourth of what they gave would have prevented the invasion, and changed the subsequent fate of Germany. Frankfort paid ten millions of florins, Nuremberg three, Bavaria ten, and the other cities and principalities in proportion, besides furnishing enormous quantities of supplies to the French troops. All these countries purchased the neutrality of France, by allowing free passage to the latter, and agreeing further to pay heavy monthly contributions towards the expenses of the war. Even Saxony, which had not been invaded, joined in this agreement.

Towards the end of summer the Archduke twice defeated Jourdan and forced him to retreat across the Rhine. This rendered Moreau's position in Bavaria untenable: closely followed by the Austrians, he accomplished without loss that famous retreat through the Black Forest which is considered a greater achievement than many victories in the annals of war. Thus, at the close of the year 1796, all Germany east of the Rhine, plundered, impoverished and demoralized, was again free from the French. This defeated Bonaparte's plan, which was to advance from Italy through the Tyrol, effect a junction with Moreau in Bavaria, and then march upon Vienna. Nevertheless, he determined to carry out his portion of it, regardless of the fortunes of the other French armies. On the 2d of February, 1797, Mantua surrendered; the Archduke Karl, who had been sent against him, was defeated, and Bonaparte followed with such daring and vigor that by the middle of April he had reached the little town of Leoben, in Styria, only a few days' march from Vienna. Although he had less than 50,000 men, while the Archduke still had about 25,000,[Pg 385] and the Austrians, Styrians and Tyrolese, now thoroughly aroused, demanded weapons and leaders, Francis II., instead of encouraging their patriotism and boldly undertaking a movement which might have cut off Bonaparte, began to negotiate for peace. Of course the conqueror dictated his own terms: the preliminaries were settled at once, an armistice followed, and on the 17th of October, 1797, peace was concluded at Campo Formio.


Austria gave Lombardy and Belgium to France, to both of which countries she had a tolerable claim; but she also gave all the territory west of the Rhine, which she had no right to do, even under the constitution of the superannuated "German Empire." On the other hand, Bonaparte gave to Austria Dalmatia, Istria, and nearly all the territory of the Republic of Venice, to which he had not the shadow of a right. He had already conquered and suppressed the Republic of Genoa, so that these two old and illustrious States vanished from the map of Europe, only two years after Poland.

Nevertheless, the illusion of a German Empire was kept up, so far as the form was concerned. A Congress of all the States was called to meet at Rastatt, in Baden, and confirm the Treaty of Campo Formio. But France had become arrogant through her astonishing success, and in May, 1798, her ambassadors suddenly demanded a number of new concessions, including the annexation of points east of the Rhine, the levelling of the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein (opposite Coblentz), and the possession of the islands at the mouth of the river. At this time Bonaparte was absent, on his expedition to Egypt, and only England, chiefly by means of her navy, was carrying on the war with France. The new demands made at the Congress of Rastatt not only prolonged the negotiations, but provoked throughout Europe the idea of another Coalition against the French Republic. The year 1798, however, came to an end without any further action, except such as was secretly plotted at the various Courts.

Early in 1799, the Second Coalition was formed between England, Russia (where Paul I. had succeeded Catharine II. in 1796), Austria, Naples and Turkey: Spain and Prussia refused to join. An Austrian army under the Archduke defeated Jourdan in March, while another, supported by Naples, was successful against the French in[Pg 386] Italy. Meanwhile, the Congress continued to sit at Rastatt, in the foolish hope of making peace after the war had again begun. The approach of the Austrian troops finally dissolved it; but the two French ambassadors, who left for France on the evening of April 28th, were waylaid and murdered near the city by some Austrian hussars. No investigation of this outrage was ever ordered; the general belief is that the Court of Vienna was responsible for it. The act was as mad as it was infamous, for it stirred the entire French people into fury against Germany.


In the spring of 1799, a Russian army commanded by Suwarrow arrived in Italy, and in a short time completed the work begun by the Austrians. The Roman Republic was overthrown and Pope Pius VII. restored: all Northern Italy, except Genoa, was taken from the French; and then, finding his movements hampered by the jealousy of the Austrian generals, Suwarrow crossed the St. Gothard with his army, fighting his way through the terrific gorges of the Alps. To avoid the French General, Massena, who had been victorious at Zurich, he was compelled to choose the most lofty and difficult passes, and his march over them was a marvel of daring and endurance. This was the end of his campaign, for the Emperor Paul, suspicious of Austria and becoming more friendly to France, soon afterwards recalled him and his troops. During the campaign of this year, the English army under the Duke of York, had miserably failed in the Netherlands, but the Archduke, although no important battle was fought, held the French thoroughly in check along the frontier of the Rhine.

The end of the year, and of the century, brought a great change in the destinies of France. Bonaparte had returned from Egypt, and on the 9th of November, by force of arms, he overthrew the Government and established the Consulate in the place of the Republic, with himself as First Consul for ten years. Being now practically Dictator, he took matters into his own hands, and his first measure was to propose peace to the Coalition, on the basis of the Treaty of Campo Formio. This was rejected by England and Austria, who stubbornly believed that the fortune of the war was at last turning to their side. In Prussia, Frederick William II. had died in November, 1797, and was succeeded by his son, Frederick William III., who was a man of excellent personal qualities, but without either energy, ambition or clear[Pg 387] intelligence. Bonaparte's policy was simply to keep Prussia neutral, and he found no difficulty in maintaining the peace which had been concluded at Basel nearly five years before. England chiefly took part in the war by means of her navy, and by contributions of money, so that France, with the best generals in the world and soldiers flushed with victory, was only called upon to meet Austria in the field.


At this crisis, the Archduke Karl, Austria's single good general, threw up his command, on account of the interference of the Court of Vienna with his plans. His place was filled by the Archduke John, a boy of nineteen, under whom was an army of 100,000 men, scattered in a long line from the Alps to Frankfort. Moreau easily broke through this barrier, overran Baden and Würtemberg, and was only arrested for a short time by the fortifications of Ulm. While these events were occurring, another Austrian army under Melas besieged Massena in Genoa. Bonaparte collected a new force, with such rapidity and secrecy that his plan was not discovered, made a heroic march over the St. Bernard pass of the Alps in May, and came down upon Italy like an avalanche. Genoa, thousands of whose citizens perished with hunger during the siege, had already surrendered to the Austrians; but, when the latter turned to repel Bonaparte, they were cut to pieces on the field of Marengo, on the 14th of June, 1800. This magnificent victory gave all Northern Italy, as far as the river Mincio, into the hands of the French.

Again Bonaparte offered peace to Austria, on the same basis as before. An armistice was concluded, and Francis II. made signs of accepting the offer of peace, but only that he might quietly recruit his armies. When, therefore, the armistice expired, on the 25th of November, Moreau immediately advanced to attack the new Austrian army of nearly 90,000 men, which occupied a position along the river Inn. On the 3d of December, the two met at Hohenlinden, and the French, after a bloody struggle, were completely victorious. There was now, apparently, nothing to prevent Moreau from marching upon Vienna, and the Archduke Karl, who had been sent in all haste to take command of the demoralized Austrians, was compelled to ask for an armistice upon terms very humiliating to the Hapsburg pride.


After all its combined haughtiness and incompetency, the Court of Vienna gratefully accepted such terms as it[Pg 388] could get. Francis II. sent one of his ministers, Cobenzl, who met Joseph Bonaparte at Lunéville (in Lorraine), and there, on the 9th of February, 1801, peace was concluded. Its chief provisions were those of the Treaty of Campo Formio: all the territory west of the Rhine, from Basel to the sea, was given to France, together with all Northern Italy west of the Adige. The Duke of Modena received part of Baden, and the Duke of Tuscany Salzburg. Other temporal princes of Germany, who lost part or the whole of their territory by the treaty, were compensated by secularizing the dominions of the priestly rulers, and dividing them among the former. Thus the States governed by Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots or other clerical dignitaries, nearly one hundred in number, were abolished at one blow, and what little was left of the fabric of the old German Empire fell to pieces. The division of all this territory among the other States gave rise to new difficulties and disputes, which were not settled for two years longer. The Diet appointed a special Commission to arrange the matter; but, inasmuch as Bonaparte, through his Minister Talleyrand, and Alexander I. of Russia (the Emperor Paul having been murdered in 1801), intrigued in every possible way to enlarge the smaller German States and prevent the increase of Austria, the final arrangements were made quite as much by the two foreign powers as by the Commission of the German Diet.

On the 27th of April, 1803, the decree of partition was issued, suddenly changing the map of Germany. Only six free cities were left out of fifty-two,—Frankfort, Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck, Nuremberg and Augsburg: Prussia received three bishoprics (Hildesheim, Münster and Paderborn), and a number of abbeys and cities, including Erfurt, amounting to four times as much as she had lost on the left bank of the Rhine. Baden was increased to double its former size by the remains of the Palatinate (including Heidelberg and Mannheim), the city of Constance, and a number of abbeys and monasteries: a great part of Franconia, with Würzburg and Bamberg, was added to Bavaria. Würtemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau were much enlarged, and most of the other States received smaller additions. At the same time the rulers of Baden, Würtemberg, Hesse-Cassel and Salzburg were dignified by the new title of "Electors"—when they never would be called upon to elect another German Emperor![Pg 389]


An impartial study of these events will show that they were caused by the indifference of Prussia to the general interests of Germany, and the utter lack of the commonest political wisdom in Francis II. of Austria and his ministers. The war with France was wantonly undertaken, in the first place; it was then continued with stupid obstinacy after two offers of peace. But except the loss of the left bank of the Rhine, with more than three millions of German inhabitants, Germany, though humiliated, was not yet seriously damaged. The complete overthrow of priestly rule, the extinction of a multitude of petty States, and the abolition of the special privileges of nearly a thousand "Imperial" noble families, was an immense gain to the whole country. The influence which Bonaparte exercised in the partition of 1803, though made solely with a view to the political interests of France, produced some very beneficial changes in Germany. In regard to religion, the Chief Electors were now equally divided, five being Catholic and five Protestant; while the Diet of Princes, instead of having a Catholic majority of twelve, as heretofore, acquired a Protestant majority of twenty-two.

France was now the ruling power on the Continent of Europe. Prussia preserved a timid neutrality, Austria was powerless, the new Republics in Holland, Switzerland and Italy were wholly subjected to French influence, Spain, Denmark and Russia were friendly, and even England, after the overthrow of Pitt's ministry, was persuaded to make peace with Bonaparte in 1802. The same year, the latter had himself declared First Consul for life, and became absolute master of the destinies of France. A new quarrel with England soon broke out, and this gave him a pretext for invading Hannover. In May, 1803, General Mortier marched from Holland with only 12,000 men, while Hannover, alone, had an excellent army of 15,000. But the Council of Nobles, who governed in the name of George III. of England, gave orders that "the troops should not be allowed to fire, and might only use the bayonet moderately, in extreme necessity!" Of course no battle was fought; the country was overrun by the French in a few days, and plundered to the amount of 26,000,000 thalers. Prussia and the other German States quietly looked on, and—did nothing.


In March, 1804, the First Consul sent a force across the[Pg 390] Rhine into Baden, seized the Duke d'Enghien, a fugitive Bourbon Prince, carried him into France and there had him shot. This outrage provoked a general cry of indignation throughout Europe. Two months afterwards, on the 18th of May, Bonaparte assumed the title of Napoleon, Emperor of the French: the Italian Republics were changed into a Kingdom of Italy, and that period of arrogant and selfish personal government commenced which brought monarchs and nations to his feet, and finally made him a fugitive and a prisoner. On the 11th of August, 1804, Francis II. imitated him, by taking the title of "Emperor of Austria," in order to preserve his existing rank, whatever changes might afterwards come.

England, Austria and Russia were now more than ever determined to cripple the increasing power of Napoleon. Much time was spent in endeavoring to persuade Prussia to join the movement, but Frederick William III. not only refused, but sent an army to prevent the Russian troops from crossing Prussian territory, on their way to join the Austrians. By the summer of 1805, the Third Coalition, composed of the three powers already named and Sweden, was formed, and a plan adopted for bringing nearly 400,000 soldiers into the field against France. Although the secret had been well kept, it was revealed before the Coalition was quite prepared; and Napoleon was ready for the emergency. He had collected an army of 200,000 men at Boulogne for the invasion of England: giving up the latter design, he marched rapidly into Southern Germany, procured the alliance of Baden, Würtemberg and Bavaria, with 40,000 more troops, and thus gained the first advantage before the Russian and Austrian armies had united.

The fortress of Ulm, held by the Austrian General Mack, with 25,000 men, surrendered on the 17th of October. The French pressed forwards, overcame the opposition of a portion of the allied armies along the Danube, and on the 13th of November entered Vienna. Francis II. and his family had fled to Presburg: the Archduke Karl, hastening from Italy, was in Styria with a small force, and a combined Russian and Austrian army of nearly 100,000 men was in Moravia. Prussia threatened to join the Coalition, because the neutrality of her territory had been violated by Bernadotte in marching from Hannover to join Napoleon: the allies, although surprised and disgracefully defeated, were[Pg 391] far from appreciating the courage and skill of their enemy, and still believed they could overcome him. Napoleon pretended to avoid a battle and thereby drew them on to meet him in the field: on the 2d of December at Austerlitz, the "Battle of the Three Emperors" (as the Germans call it) occurred, and by the close of that day the allies had lost 15,000 killed and wounded, 20,000 prisoners and 200 cannon.


Two days after the battle Francis II. came personally to Napoleon and begged for an armistice, which was granted. The latter took up his quarters in the Palace of the Hapsburgs, at Schönbrunn, as a conqueror, and waited for the conclusion of a treaty of peace, which was signed at Presburg on the 26th of December. Austria was forced to give up Venice to France, Tyrol to Bavaria, and some smaller territory to Baden and Würtemberg; to accept the policy of France in Italy, Holland and Switzerland, and to recognize Bavaria and Würtemberg as independent kingdoms of Napoleon's creation. All that she received in return was the archbishopric of Salzburg. She also agreed to pay one hundred millions of francs to France, and to permit the formation of a new Confederation of the smaller German States, which should be placed under the protectorship of Napoleon. The latter lost no time in carrying out his plan: by July, 1806, the Rheinbund (Confederation of the Rhine) was entered into by seventeen States, which formed, in combination, a third power, independent of either Austria or Prussia.

Immediately afterwards, on the 6th of August, 1806, Francis II. laid down his title of "Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation," and the political corpse, long since dead, was finally buried. Just a thousand years had elapsed since the time of Charlemagne: the power and influence of the Empire had reached their culmination under the Hohenstaufens, but even then the smaller rulers were undermining its foundations. It existed for a few centuries longer as a system which was one-fourth fact and three-fourths tradition: during the Thirty Years' War it perished, and the Hapsburgs, after that, only wore the ornaments and trappings it left behind. The German people were never further from being a nation than at the commencement of this century; but the most of them still clung to the superstition of an Empire, until the compulsory act of Francis II. showed them, at last, that there was none.




  • Napoleon's personal Policy.
  • —The "Rhine-Bund."
  • —French Tyranny.
  • —Prussia declares War.
  • —Battles of Jena and Auerstädt.
  • —Napoleon in Berlin.
  • —Prussia and Russia allied.
  • —Battle of Friedland.
  • —Interviews of the Sovereigns.
  • —Losses of Prussia.
  • —Kingdom of Westphalia.
  • —Frederick William III.'s Weakness.
  • —Congress at Erfurt.
  • —Patriotic Movements.
  • —Revolt of the Tyrolese.
  • —Napoleon marches on Vienna.
  • —Schill's Movement in Prussia.
  • —Battles of Aspera and Wagram.
  • —The Peace of Vienna.
  • —Fate of Andreas Hofer.
  • —The Duke of Brunswick's Attempt.
  • —Napoleon's Rule in Germany.
  • —Secret Resistance in Prussia.
  • —War with Russia.
  • —The March to Moscow.
  • —The Retreat.
  • —York's Measures.
  • —Rising of Prussia.
  • —Division of Germany.
  • —Battle of Lützen.
  • —Napoleon in Dresden.
  • —The Armistice.
  • —Austria joins the Allies.
  • —Victories of Blücher and Bülow.
  • —Napoleon's Hesitation.
  • —The Battle of Leipzig.
  • —Napoleon's Retreat from Germany.
  • —Cowardice of the allied Monarchs.
  • —Blücher crosses the Rhine.

After the peace of Presburg there was nothing to prevent Napoleon from carrying out his plan of dividing the greater part of Europe among the members of his own family, and the Marshals of his armies. He gave the kingdom of Naples to his brother Joseph; appointed his step-son Eugene Beauharnais Viceroy of Italy, and married him to the daughter of Maximilian I. (formerly Elector, now King) of Bavaria; made a Kingdom of Holland, and gave it to his brother Louis; gave the Duchy of Jülich, Cleves and Berg to Murat, and married Stephanie Beauharnais, the niece of the Empress Josephine, to the son of the Grand-Duke of Baden. There was no longer any thought of disputing his will in any of the smaller German States: the princes were as submissive as he could have desired, and the people had been too long powerless to dream of resistance.


The "Rhine-Bund," therefore, was constructed just as France desired. Bavaria, Würtemberg, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau united with twelve small principalities[Pg 393]—the whole embracing a population of thirteen millions—in a Confederation, which accepted Napoleon as Protector, and agreed to maintain an army of 63,000 men, at the disposal of France. This arrangement divided the German Empire into three parts, one of which (Austria) had just been conquered, while another (Prussia) had lost all its former prestige by its weak and cowardly policy. Napoleon was now the recognized master of the third portion, the action of which was regulated by a Diet held at Frankfort. In order to make the Union simpler and more manageable, all the independent countships and baronies within its limits were abolished, and the seventeen States were thus increased by an aggregate territory of about 12,000 square miles. Bavaria took possession, without more ado, of the free cities of Nuremberg and Augsburg.

Prussia, by this time, had agreed with Napoleon to give up Anspach and Bayreuth to Bavaria, and receive Hannover instead. This provoked the enmity of England, the only remaining nation which was friendly to Prussia. The French armies were still quartered in Southern Germany, violating at will not only the laws of the land, but the laws of nations. A bookseller named Palm, in Nuremberg, who had in his possession some pamphlets opposing Napoleon's schemes, was seized by order of the latter, tried by court-martial and shot. This brutal and despotic act was not resented by the German princes, but it aroused the slumbering spirit of the people. The Prussians, especially, began to grow very impatient of their pusillanimous government; but Frederick William III. did nothing, until in August, 1806, he discovered that Napoleon was trying to purchase peace with England and Russia by offering Hannover to the former and Prussian Poland to the latter. Then he decided for war, at the very time when he was compelled to meet the victorious power of France alone!

Napoleon, as usual, was on the march before his enemy was even properly organized. He was already in Franconia, and in a few days stood at the head of an army of 200,000 men, part of whom were furnished by the Rhine-Bund. Prussia, assisted only by Saxony and Weimar, had 150,000, commanded by Prince Hohenlohe and the Duke of Brunswick, who hardly reached the bases of the Thuringian Mountains when they were met by the French and hurled back. On the table-land near Jena and Auerstädt a double[Pg 394] battle was fought on the 14th of October, 1806. In the first (Jena) Napoleon simply crushed and scattered to the winds the army of Prince Hohenlohe; in the second (Auerstädt) Marshal Davoust, after some heavy fighting, defeated the Duke of Brunswick, who was mortally wounded. Then followed a season of panic and cowardice which now seems incredible: the French overwhelmed Prussia, and almost every defence fell without resistance as they approached. The strong fortress of Erfurt, with 10,000 men, surrendered the day after the battle of Jena; the still stronger fortress-city of Magdeburg, with 24,000 men, opened its gates before a gun was fired! Spandau capitulated as soon as asked, on the 24th of October, and Davoust entered Berlin the same day. Only General Blücher, more than sixty years old, cut his way through the French with 10,000 men, and for a time gallantly held them at bay in Lübeck; and the young officers, Gneisenau and Schill, kept the fortress of Colberg, on the Baltic, where they were steadily besieged until the war was over.


When Napoleon entered Berlin in triumph, on the 27th of November, he found nearly the whole population completely cowed, and ready to acknowledge his authority; seven Ministers of the Prussian Government took the oath of allegiance to him, and agreed, at once, to give up all of the kingdom west of the Elbe for the sake of peace! Frederick William III., who had fled to Königsberg, refused to confirm their action, and entered into an alliance with Alexander I. of Russia, to continue the war. Napoleon, meanwhile, had made peace with Saxony, which, after paying heavy contributions and joining the Rhine-Bund, was raised by him to the rank of a kingdom. At the same time he encouraged a revolt in Prussian Poland, got possession of Silesia, and kept Austria neutral by skilful diplomacy. England had the power, by prompt and energetic action, of changing the face of affairs, but her government did nothing.

Pressing eastward during the winter, the French army, 140,000 strong, met the Russians and Prussians on the 8th of February, 1807, in the murderous battle of Eylau, after which, because its result was undecided, Napoleon concluded a truce of several months. Frederick William appointed a new Ministry, with the fearless and patriotic statesmen, Hardenberg and Stein, who formed a fresh alliance with[Pg 395] Russia, which was soon joined by England and Sweden. Nevertheless, it was almost impossible to reinforce the Prussian army, and Alexander I. made no great exertions to increase the Russian, while Napoleon, with all Prussia in his rear, was constantly receiving fresh troops. Early in June he resumed hostilities, and on the 14th, with a much superior force, so completely defeated the Allies in the battle of Friedland, that they were driven over the river Memel into Russian territory.


The Russians immediately concluded an armistice: Napoleon had an interview with Alexander I. on a raft in the river Memel, and acquired such an immediate influence over the enthusiastic, fantastic nature of the latter, that he became a friend and practically an ally. The next day, there was another interview, at which Frederick William III. was also present: the Queen, Louise of Mecklenburg, a woman of noble and heroic character, whom Napoleon had vilely slandered, was persuaded to accompany him, but only subjected herself to new humiliation. (She died in 1810, during Germany's deepest degradation, but her son, William I., became German Emperor in 1871.) The Peace of Tilsit was declared on the 9th of July, 1807, according to Napoleon's single will. Hardenberg had been dismissed from the Prussian Ministry, and Talleyrand gave his successor a completed document, to be signed without discussion.

Prussia lost very nearly the half of her territory: her population was diminished from 9,743,000 to 4,938,000. A new "Grand-Duchy of Warsaw" was formed by Napoleon out of her Polish acquisitions. The contributions which had been levied and which Prussia was still forced to pay amounted to a total sum of three hundred million thalers, and she was obliged to maintain a French army in her diminished territory until the last farthing should be paid over. Russia, on the other hand, lost nothing, but received a part of Polish Prussia. A new Kingdom of Westphalia was formed out of Brunswick, and parts of Prussia and Hannover, and Napoleon's brother, Jerome, was made king. The latter, whose wife was an American lady, Miss Patterson of Baltimore, was compelled to renounce her, and marry the daughter of the new king of Würtemberg, although, as a Catholic, he could not do this without a special dispensation from the Pope, and Pius VII. refused to give one.[Pg 396] Thus he became a bigamist, according to the laws of the Roman Church. Jerome was a weak and licentious individual, and made himself heartily hated by his two millions of German subjects during his six years' rule in Cassel.


Frederick William III. was at last stung by his misfortunes into the adoption of another and manlier policy. He called Stein to the head of his Ministry, and allowed the latter to introduce reforms for the purpose of assisting, strengthening and developing the character of the people. But 150,000 French troops still fed like locusts upon the substance of Prussia, and there was an immense amount of poverty and suffering. The French commanders plundered so outrageously and acted with such shameless brutality, that even the slow German nature became heated with a hate so intense that it is not yet wholly extinguished. But this was not the end of the degradation. Napoleon, at the climax of his power, having (without exaggeration) the whole Continent of Europe under his feet, demanded that Prussia should join the Rhine-Bund, reduce her standing army to 42,000 men, and, in case of necessity, furnish France with troops against Austria. The temporary courage of the king dissolved: he signed a treaty on the 8th of September, 1808, without the knowledge of Stein, granting nearly everything Napoleon claimed,—thus compelling the patriotic statesman to resign, and making what was left of Prussia tributary to the designs of France.

At the same time Napoleon held a so-called Congress at Erfurt, at which all the German rulers (except Austria) were present, but the decisions were made by himself, with the connivance of Alexander I. of Russia. The latter received Finland and the Danubian Principalities. Napoleon simply carried out his own personal policy. He made his brother Joseph king of Spain, gave Naples to his brother-in-law, Murat, and soon afterwards annexed the States of the Church, in Italy, to France, abolishing the temporal sovereignty of the Pope. Every one of the smaller German States had already joined the Rhine-Bund, and the Diet by which they were governed abjectly obeyed his will. Princes, nobles, officials, and authors vied with each other in doing homage to him. Even the battles of Jena and Friedland were celebrated by popular festivals in the capitals of the other States: the people of Southern Germany, especially, rejoiced over the shame and suffering of their brethren in[Pg 397] the North. Ninety German authors dedicated books to Napoleon, and the newspapers became contemptible in their servile praises of his rule.


Austria, always energetic at the wrong time and weak when energy was necessary, prepared for war, relying on the help of Prussia and possibly of Russia. Napoleon had been called to Spain, where a part of the people, supported by Wellington, with an English force, in Portugal, was making a gallant resistance to the French rule. A few patriotic and courageous men, all over Germany, began to consult together concerning the best means for the liberation of the country. The Prussian Ex-minister, Baron Stein, the philosopher Fichte, the statesman and poet Arndt, the Generals Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, the historian Niebuhr, and also the Austrian minister, Count Stadion, used every effort to increase and extend this movement; but there was no German prince, except the young Duke of Brunswick, ready or willing to act.

The Tyrolese, who are still the most Austrian of Austrians, and the most Catholic of Catholics, organized a revolt against the French-Bavarian rule, early in 1809. This was the first purely popular movement in Germany, which had occurred since the revolt of the Austrian peasants against Ferdinand II. nearly two hundred years before. The Tyrolese leaders were Andreas Hofer, a hunter named Speckbacher and a monk named Haspinger; their troops were peasants and mountaineers. The plot was so well organized that the Alps were speedily cleared of the enemy, and on the 13th of April, Hofer captured Innsbruck, which he held for Austria. When the French and Bavarian troops entered the mountain-passes, they were picked off by skilful riflemen or crushed by rocks and trees rolled down upon them. The daring of the Tyrolese produced a stirring effect throughout Austria; for the first time, the people came forward as volunteers, to be enrolled in the army, and the Archduke Karl, in a short time, had a force of 300,000 men at his disposal.

Napoleon returned from Spain at the first news of the impending war. As the Rhine-Bund did not dream of disobedience, as Prussia was crippled, and the sentimental friendship of Alexander I. had not yet grown cold, he raised an army of 180,000 men and entered Bavaria by the 9th of April. The Archduke was not prepared: his large force[Pg 398] had been divided and stationed according to a plan which might have been very successful, if Napoleon had been willing to respect it. He lost three battles in succession, the last, at Eckmühl on the 22d of April, obliging him to give up Ratisbon, and retreat into Bohemia. The second Austrian army, which had been victorious over the Viceroy Eugene, in Italy, was instantly recalled, but it was too late: there were only 30,000 men on the southern bank of the Danube, between the French and Vienna.


The movement in Tyrol was imitated in Prussia by Major Schill, one of the defenders of Colberg in 1807. His heroism had given him great popularity, and he was untiring in his efforts to incite the people to revolt. The secret association of patriotic men, already referred to, which was called the Tugendbund, or "League of Virtue," encouraged him so far as it was able; and when he entered Berlin at the head of four squadrons of hussars, immediately after the news of Hofer's success, he was received with such enthusiasm that he imagined the moment had come for arousing Prussia. Marching out of the city, as if for the usual cavalry exercise, he addressed his troops in a fiery speech, revealed to them his plans and inspired them with equal confidence. With his little band he took Halle, besieged Bernburg, was victorious in a number of small battles against the increasing forces of the French, but at the end of a month was compelled to retreat to Stralsund. The city was stormed, and he fell in resisting the assault; the French captured and shot twelve of his officers. The fame of his exploits helped to fire the German heart; the courage of the people returned, and they began to grow restless and indignant under their shame.

By the 13th of May, Napoleon had entered Vienna and taken up his quarters in the palace of Schönbrunn. The Archduke Karl was at the same time rapidly approaching with an army of 75,000 men, and Napoleon, who had 90,000, hastened to throw a bridge across the Danube, below the city, in order to meet him before he could be reinforced. On the 21st, however, the Archduke began the attack before the whole French army had crossed, and the desperate battle of Aspern followed. After two days of bloody fighting, the French fell back upon the island of Lobau, and their bridge was destroyed. This was Napoleon's first defeat in Germany, but it was dearly purchased: the loss on each[Pg 399] side was about 24,000. Napoleon issued flaming bulletins of victory which deceived the German people for a time, meanwhile ordering new troops to be forwarded with all possible haste. He deceived the Archduke by a heavy cannonade, rapidly constructed six bridges further down the river, crossed with his whole army, and on the 6th of July fought the battle of Wagram, which ended with the defeat and retreat of the Austrians.


An armistice followed, and the war was concluded on the 14th of October by the Peace of Vienna. Francis II. was compelled to give up Salzburg and some adjoining territory to Bavaria; Galicia to Russia and the Grand-Duchy of Warsaw; and Carniola, Croatia and Dalmatia with Trieste to the kingdom of Italy,—a total loss of 3,500,000 of population. He further agreed to pay a contribution of eighty-five millions of francs to France, and was persuaded, shortly afterwards, to give the hand of his daughter, Maria Louisa, to Napoleon, who had meanwhile divorced himself from the Empress Josephine. The Tyrolese, who had been encouraged by promises of help from Vienna, refused to believe that they were betrayed and given up. Hofer continued his struggle with success after the conclusion of peace, until near the close of the year, when the French and Bavarians returned in force, and the movement was crushed. He hid for two months among the mountains, then was betrayed by a monk, captured, and carried in chains to Mantua. Here he was tried by a French court-martial and shot on the 20th of February, 1810. Francis II. might have saved his life, but he made no attempt to do it. Thus, in North and South, Schill and Hofer perished, unsustained by their kings; yet their deeds remained, as an inspiration to the whole German people.

During the summer of 1809, the Duke of Brunswick, whose land Napoleon had added to Jerome's kingdom of Westphalia, made a daring attempt to drive the French from Northern Germany. He had joined a small Austrian army, sent to operate in Saxony, and when it was recalled after the battle of Eckmühl, he made a desperate effort to reconquer Brunswick with a force of only 2,000 volunteers. The latter dressed in black, and wore a skull and cross-bones on their caps. The Duke took Halberstadt, reached Brunswick, then cut his way through the German-French forces closing in upon him, and came to the shore of the North[Pg 400] Sea, where, it was expected, an English army would land. He and his troops escaped in small vessels: the English, 40,000 strong, landed on the island of Walcheren (on the coast of Belgium), where they lay idle until driven home by sickness.


For three years after the peace of Vienna, Napoleon was all-powerful in Germany. He was married to Maria Louisa on the 2d of April, 1810; his son, the King of Rome, was born the following March, and Austria, where Metternich was now Minister instead of Count Stadion, followed the policy of France. All Germany accepted the "Continental Blockade," which cut off its commerce with England: the standing armies of Austria and Prussia were reduced to one-fourth of their ordinary strength; the king of Prussia, who had lived for two years in Königsberg, was ordered to return to Berlin, and the French ministers at all the smaller Courts became the practical rulers of the States. In 1810, the kingdom of Holland was taken from Louis Bonaparte and annexed to the French Empire; then Northern Germany, with Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, was annexed in like manner, and the same fate was evidently intended for the States of the Rhine-Bund, if the despotic selfishness of Napoleon had not put an end to his marvellous success. The king of Prussia was next compelled to suppress the "League of Virtue": Germany was filled with French spies (many of them native Germans), and every expression of patriotic sentiment was reported as treason to France.

In the territory of the Rhine-Bund, there was, however, very little real patriotism among the people: in Austria the latter were still kept down by the Jesuitic rule of the Hapsburgs: only in the smaller Saxon Duchies, and in Prussia, the idea of resistance was fostered, though in spite of Frederick William III. Indeed, the temporary removal of the king was for awhile secretly advocated. Hardenberg and Scharnhorst did their utmost to prepare the people for the struggle which they knew would come: the former introduced new laws, based on the principle of the equality of all citizens before the law, their equal right to development, protection and official service. Scharnhorst, the son of a peasant, trained the people for military duty, in defiance of France: he kept the number of soldiers at 42,000, in accordance with the treaty, but as fast as they were well-drilled, he sent them home and put fresh recruits in their place. In this manner he gradually prepared 150,000 men for the army.[Pg 401]




[Pg 402]Alexander I. of Russia had by this time lost his sentimental friendship for Napoleon. The seizure by the latter of the territory of the Duke of Oldenburg, who was his near relation, greatly offended him: he grew tired of submitting to the Continental Blockade, and in 1811 adopted commercial laws which amounted to its abandonment. Then Napoleon showed his own overwhelming arrogance; and his course once more illustrated the abject condition of Germany. Every ruler saw that a great war was coming, and had nearly a year's time for decision; but all submitted! Early in 1812 the colossal plan was put into action: Prussia agreed to furnish 20,000 soldiers, Austria 30,000, and the Rhine-Bund, which comprised the rest of Germany, was called upon for 150,000. France furnished more than 300,000, and this enormous military force was set in motion against Russia, which was at the time unable to raise half that number of troops. In May Napoleon and Maria Louisa held a grand Court in Dresden, which a crowd of reigning princes attended, and where even Francis I. and Frederick William III. were treated rather as vassals than as equals. This was the climax of Napoleon's success. Regardless of distance, climate, lack of supplies and all the other impediments to his will, he pushed forward with an army greater than Europe had seen since the days of Attila, but from which only one man, horse and cannon out of every ten returned.

After holding a grand review on the battle-field of Friedland, he crossed the Niemen and entered Russia on the 24th of June, met the Russians in battle at Smolensk on the 16th and 17th of August, and after great losses continued his march towards Moscow through a country which had been purposely laid waste, and where great numbers of his soldiers perished from hunger and fatigue. On the 7th of September, the Russian army of 120,000 men met him on the field of Borodino, where occurred the most desperate battle of all his wars. At the close of the fight 80,000 dead and wounded (about an equal number on each side) lay upon the plain. The Russians retreated, repulsed but not conquered, and on the 14th of September Napoleon entered Moscow. The city was deserted by its inhabitants: all goods and treasures which could be speedily removed had[Pg 403] been taken away, and the next evening flames broke out in a number of places. The conflagration spread so that within a week four-fifths of the city were destroyed: Napoleon was forced to leave the Kremlin and escape through burning streets; and thus the French army was left without winter-quarters and provisions.


After offering terms of peace in vain, and losing a month of precious time in waiting, nothing was left for Napoleon but to commence his disastrous retreat. Cut off from the warmer southern route by the Russians on the 24th of October, his army, diminishing day by day, endured all the horrors of the Northern winter, and lost so many in the fearful passage of the Beresina and from the constant attacks of the Cossacks, that not more than 30,000 men, famished, frozen and mostly without arms, crossed the Prussian frontier about the middle of December. After reaching Wilna, Napoleon had hurried on alone, in advance: his passage through Germany was like a flight, and he was safe in Paris before the terrible failure of his campaign was generally known throughout Europe.

When Frederick William III. agreed to furnish 20,000 troops to France, his best generals—Blücher, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau—and three hundred officers resigned. The command of the Prussian contingent was given to General York, who was sent to Riga during the march to Moscow, and escaped the horrors of the retreat. When the fate of the campaign was decided, he left the French with his remaining 17,000 Prussian soldiers, concluded a treaty of neutrality with the Russian general Diebitsch, called an assembly of the people together in Königsberg, and boldly ordered that all men capable of bearing arms should be mustered into the army. Frederick William, in Berlin, disavowed this act, but the Prussian people were ready for it. The excitement became so great, that the men who had influence with the king succeeded in having his Court removed to Breslau, where an alliance was entered into with Alexander I., and on the 17th of March, 1813, an address was issued in the king's name, calling upon the people to choose between victory and ruin. The measures which York had adopted were proclaimed for all Prussia, and the patriotic schemes of Stein and Hardenberg, so long thwarted by the king's weakness, were thus suddenly carried into action.


The effect was astonishing, when we consider how little[Pg 404] real liberty the people had enjoyed. But they had been educated in patriotic sentiments by another power than the Government. For years, the works of the great German authors had become familiar to them: Klopstock taught them to be proud of their race and name; Schiller taught them resistance to oppression; Arndt and Körner gave them songs which stirred them more than the sound of drum and trumpet, and thousands of high-hearted young men mingled with them and inspired them with new courage and new hopes. Within five months Prussia had 270,000 soldiers under arms, part of whom were organized to repel the coming armies of Napoleon, while the remainder undertook the siege of the many Prussian fortresses which were still garrisoned by the French. All classes of the people took part in this uprising: the professors followed the students, the educated men stood side by side with the peasants, mothers gave their only sons, and the women sent all their gold and jewels to the treasury and wore ornaments of iron. The young poet, Theodor Körner, not only aroused the people with his fiery songs, but fought in the "free corps" of Lützow, and finally gave his life for his country: the Turner, or gymnasts, inspired by their teacher Jahn, went as a body into the ranks, and even many women disguised themselves and enlisted as soldiers.

With the exception of Mecklenburg and Dessau, the States of the Rhine-Bund still held to France: Saxony and Bavaria especially distinguished themselves by their abject fidelity to Napoleon. Austria remained neutral, and whatever influence she exercised was against Prussia. But Sweden, under the Crown Prince Bernadotte (Napoleon's former Marshal) joined the movement, with the condition of obtaining Norway in case of success. The operations were delayed by the slowness of the Russians, and the disagreement, or perhaps jealousy, of the various generals; and Napoleon made good use of the time to prepare himself for the coming struggle. Although France was already exhausted, he enforced a merciless conscription, taking young boys and old men, until, with the German soldiers still at his disposal, he had a force of nearly 500,000 men.

The campaign opened well for Prussia. Hamburg and Lübeck were delivered from the French, and on the 5th of April the Viceroy Eugene was defeated at Möckern (near Leipzig) with heavy losses. The first great battle was[Pg 405] fought at Lützen, on the 2d of May, on the same field where Gustavus Adolphus fell in 1632. The Russians and Prussians, with 95,000 men, held Napoleon, with 120,000, at bay for a whole day, and then fell back in good order, after a defeat which encouraged instead of dispiriting the people. The greatest loss was the death of Scharnhorst. Shortly afterwards Napoleon occupied Dresden, and it became evident that Saxony would be the principal theatre of war. A second battle of two days took place on the 20th and 21st of May, in which, although the French outnumbered the Germans and Russians two to one, they barely achieved a victory. The courage and patriotism of the people were now beginning to tell, especially as Napoleon's troops were mostly young, physically weak, and inexperienced. In order to give them rest he offered an armistice on the 4th of June, an act which he afterwards declared to have been the greatest mistake of his life. It was prolonged until the 10th of August, and gave the Germans time both to rest and recruit, and to strengthen themselves by an alliance with Austria.


Francis II. judged that the time had come to recover what he had lost, especially as England formally joined Prussia and Russia on the 14th of June. A fortnight afterwards an agreement was entered into between the two latter powers and Austria, that peace should be offered to Napoleon provided he would give up Northern Germany, the Dalmatian provinces and the Grand-Duchy of Warsaw. He rejected the offer, and so insulted Metternich during an interview in Dresden, that the latter became his bitter enemy thenceforth. The end of all the negotiations was that Austria declared war on the 12th of August, and both sides prepared at once for a final and desperate struggle. The Allies now had 800,000 men, divided into three armies, one under Schwarzenberg confronting the French centre in Saxony, one under Blücher in Silesia, and a third in the North under Bernadotte. The last of these generals seemed reluctant to act against his former leader, and his participation was of little real service. Napoleon had 550,000 men, less scattered than the Germans, and all under the government of his single will. He was still, therefore, a formidable foe.


Just sixteen days after the armistice came to an end, the old Blücher won a victory as splendid as many of Napoleon's. He met Marshal Macdonald on the banks of a[Pg 406] stream called the Katzbach, in Silesia, and defeated him with the loss of 12,000 killed and wounded, 18,000 prisoners and 103 cannon. From the circumstance of his having cried out to his men: "Forwards! forwards!" in the crisis of the battle, Blücher was thenceforth called "Marshal Forwards" by the soldiers. Five days before this the Prussian general Bülow was victorious over Oudinot at Grossbeeren, within ten miles of Berlin; and four days afterwards the French general Vandamme, with 40,000 men, was cut to pieces by the Austrians and Prussians, at Kulm on the southern frontier of Saxony. Thus, within a month, Napoleon lost one-fourth of his whole force, while the fresh hope and enthusiasm of the German people immediately supplied the losses on their side. It is true that Schwarzenberg had been severely repulsed in an attack on Dresden, on the 27th of August, but this had been so speedily followed by Vandamme's defeat, that it produced no discouragement.

The month of September opened with another Prussian victory. On the 6th, Bülow defeated Ney at Dennewitz, taking 15,000 prisoners and 80 cannon. This change of fortune seems to have bewildered Napoleon: instead of his former promptness and rapidity, he spent a month in Dresden, alternately trying to entice Blücher or Schwarzenberg to give battle. The latter two, meanwhile, were gradually drawing nearer to each other and to Bernadotte, and their final junction was effected without any serious movement to prevent it on Napoleon's part. Blücher's passage of the Elbe on the 3d of October compelled him to leave Dresden with his army and take up a new position in Leipzig, where he arrived on the 13th. The Allies instantly closed in upon him: there was a fierce but indecisive cavalry fight on the 14th, the 15th was spent in preparations on both sides, and on the 16th the great battle began.

Napoleon had about 190,000 men, the Allies 300,000: both were posted along lines many miles in extent, stretching over the open plain, from the north and east around to the south of Leipzig. The first day's fight really comprised three distinct battles, two of which were won by the French and one by Blücher. During the afternoon a terrific charge of cavalry under Murat broke the centre of the Allies, and Frederick William and Alexander I. narrowly escaped capture: Schwarzenberg, at the head of a body of Cossacks and Austrian hussars, repulsed the charge, and night came without[Pg 407] any positive result. Napoleon sent offers of peace, but they were not answered, and the Allies thereby gained a day for reinforcements. On the morning of the 18th the battle was resumed: all day long the earth trembled under the discharge of more than a thousand cannon, the flames of nine or ten burning villages heated the air, and from dawn until sunset the immense hosts carried on a number of separate and desperate battles at different points along the line. Napoleon had his station on a mound near a windmill: his centre held its position, in spite of terrible losses, but both his wings were driven back. Bernadotte did not appear on the field until four in the afternoon, but about 4,000 Saxons and other Germans went over from the French to the Allies during the day, and the demoralizing effect of this desertion probably influenced Napoleon quite as much as his material losses. He gave orders for an instant retreat, which was commenced on the night of the 18th. His army was reduced to 100,000 men: the Allies had lost, in killed and wounded, about 50,000.


All Germany was electrified by this victory; from the Baltic to the Alps, the land rang with rejoicings. The people considered, and justly so, that they had won this great battle: the reigning princes, as later events proved, held a different opinion. But, from that day to this, it is called in Germany "the Battle of the Peoples": it was as crushing a blow for France as Jena had been to Prussia or Austerlitz to Austria. On the morning of the 19th of October the Allies began a storm upon Leipzig, which was still held by Marshal Macdonald and Prince Poniatowsky to cover Napoleon's retreat. By noon the city was entered at several gates; the French, in their haste, blew up the bridge over the Elster river before a great part of their own troops had crossed, and Poniatowsky, with hundreds of others, was drowned in attempting to escape. Among the prisoners was the king of Saxony, who had stood by Napoleon until the last moment. In the afternoon Alexander I. and Frederick William entered Leipzig, and were received as deliverers by the people.

The two monarchs, nevertheless, owed their success entirely to the devotion of the German people, and not at all to their own energy and military talent. In spite of the great forces still at their disposal, they interfered with the plans of Blücher and other generals who insisted on a rapid and vigorous pursuit, and were at any time ready to accept[Pg 408] peace on terms which would have ruined Germany, if Napoleon had not been insane enough to reject them. The latter continued his march towards France, by way of Naumburg, Erfurt and Fulda, losing thousands by desertion and disease, but without any serious interference until he reached Hanau, near Frankfort. At almost the last moment (October 14), Maximilian I. of Bavaria had deserted France and joined the Allies: one of his generals, Wrede, with about 55,000 Bavarians and Austrians, marched northward, and at Hanau intercepted the French. Napoleon, not caring to engage in a battle, contented himself with cutting his way through Wrede's army, on the 25th of October. He crossed the Rhine and reached France with less than 70,000 men, without encountering further resistance.


Jerome Bonaparte fled from his kingdom of Westphalia immediately after the battle of Leipzig: Würtemberg joined the Allies, the Rhine-Bund dissolved, and the artificial structure which Napoleon had created fell to pieces. Even then, Prussia, Russia and Austria wished to discontinue the war: the popular enthusiasm in Germany was taking a national character, the people were beginning to feel their own power, and this was very disagreeable to Alexander I. and Metternich. The Rhine was offered as a boundary to Napoleon: yet, although Wellington was by this time victorious in Spain and was about to cross the Pyrenees, the French Emperor refused and the Allies were reluctantly obliged to resume hostilities. They had already wasted much valuable time: they now adopted a plan which was sure to fail, if the energies of France had not been so utterly exhausted.

Three armies were formed: one, under Bülow, was sent into Holland to overthrow the French rule there; another, under Schwarzenberg, marched through Switzerland into Burgundy, about the end of December, hoping to meet with Wellington somewhere in Central France; and the third under Blücher, which had been delayed longest by the doubt and hesitation of the sovereigns, crossed the Rhine at three points, from Coblentz to Mannheim, on the night of New-Year, 1814. The subjection of Germany to France was over: only the garrisons of a number of fortresses remained, but these were already besieged, and they surrendered one by one, in the course of the next few months.




  • Napoleon's Retreat.
  • —Halting Course of the Allies.
  • —The Treaty of Paris.
  • —The Congress of Vienna.
  • —Napoleon's Return to France.
  • —New Alliance.
  • —Napoleon, Wellington and Blücher.
  • —Battles of Ligney and Quatrebras.
  • —Battle of Waterloo.
  • —New Treaty with France.
  • —European Changes.
  • —Reconstruction of Germany.
  • —Metternich arranges a Confederation.
  • —Its Character.
  • —The Holy Alliance.
  • —Reaction among the Princes.
  • —Movement of the Students.
  • —Conference at Carlsbad.
  • —Returning Despotism.
  • —Condition of Germany.
  • —Changes in 1830.
  • —The Zollverein.
  • —Death of Francis II. and Frederick William III.
  • —Frederick William IV. as King.
  • —The German-Catholic Movement in 1844.
  • —General Dissatisfaction.

Napoleon's genius was never more brilliantly manifested than during the slow advance of the Allies from the Rhine to Paris, in the first three months of the year 1814. He had not expected an invasion before the spring, and was taken by surprise; but with all the courage and intrepidity of his younger years, he collected an army of 100,000 men, and marched against Blücher, who had already reached Brienne. In a battle on the 29th of January he was victorious, but a second on the 1st of February compelled him to retreat. Instead of following up this advantage, the three monarchs began to consult: they rejected Blücher's demand for a union of the armies and an immediate march on Paris, and ordered him to follow the river Marne in four divisions, while Schwarzenberg advanced by a more southerly route. This was just what Napoleon wanted. He hurled himself upon the divided Prussian forces, and in five successive battles, from the 10th to the 14th of February, defeated and drove them back. Then, rapidly turning southward, he defeated a part of Schwarzenberg's army at Montereau on the 18th, and compelled the latter to retreat.


The Allies now offered peace, granting to France the[Pg 410] boundaries of 1792, which included Savoy, Lorraine and Alsatia. The history of their negotiations during the campaign shows how reluctantly they prosecuted the war, and what little right they have to its final success, which is wholly due to Stein, Blücher, and the bravery of the German soldiers. Napoleon was so elated by his victories that he rejected the offer; and then, at last, the union of the allied armies and their march on Paris was permitted. Battle after battle followed: Napoleon disputed every inch of ground with the most marvellous energy, but even his victories were disasters, for he had no means of replacing the troops he lost. The last fight took place at the gates of Paris, on the 30th of March, and the next day, at noon, the three sovereigns made their triumphal entrance into the city.

Not until then did the latter determine to dethrone Napoleon and restore the Bourbon dynasty. They compelled the act of abdication, which Napoleon signed at Fontainebleau on the 11th of April, installed the Count d'Artois (afterwards Charles X.) as head of a temporary government, and gave to France the boundaries of 1792. Napoleon was limited to the little island of Elba, Maria Louisa received the Duchy of Parma, and the other Bonapartes were allowed to retain the title of Prince, with an income of 2,500,000 francs. One million francs was given to the Ex-Empress Josephine, who died the same year. No indemnity was exacted from France; not even the works of art, stolen from the galleries of Italy and Germany for the adornment of Paris, were reclaimed! After enduring ten years of humiliation and outrage, the Allies were as tenderly considerate as if their invasion of France had been a wrong, for which they must atone by all possible concessions.

In Southern Germany, where very little national sentiment existed, the treaty was quietly accepted, but it provoked great indignation among the people in the North. Their rejoicings over the downfall of Napoleon, the deliverance of Germany, and (as they believed) the foundation of a liberal government for themselves, were disturbed by this manifestation of weakness on the part of their leaders. The European Congress, which was opened on the 1st of November, 1814, at Vienna, was not calculated to restore their confidence. Francis II. and Alexander I. were the leading figures; other nations were represented by their[Pg 411] best statesmen; the former priestly rulers, all the petty princes, and hundreds of the "Imperial" nobility whose privileges had been taken away from them, attended in the hope of recovering something from the general chaos. A series of splendid entertainments was given to the members of the Congress, and it soon became evident to the world that Europe, and especially Germany, was to be reconstructed according to the will of the individual rulers, without reference to principle or people.


France was represented in the Congress by Talleyrand, who was greatly the superior of the other members in the arts of diplomacy. Before the winter was over, he persuaded Austria and England to join France in an alliance against Russia and Prussia, and another European war would probably have broken out, but for the startling news of Napoleon's landing in France on the 1st of March, 1815. Then, all were compelled to suspend their jealousies and unite against their common foe. On the 25th of March a new alliance was concluded between Austria, Russia, Prussia and England: the first three agreed to furnish 150,000 men each, while the last contributed a lesser number of soldiers and 5,000,000 pounds sterling. All the smaller German States joined in the movement, and the people were still so full of courage and patriotic hope that a much larger force than was needed was soon under arms.

Napoleon reached Paris on the 20th of March, and instantly commenced the organization of a new army, while offering peace to all the powers of Europe, on the basis of the treaty of Paris. This time, he received no answer: the terror of his name had passed away, and the allied sovereigns acted with promptness and courage. Though he held France, Napoleon's position was not strong, even there. The land had suffered terribly, and the people desired peace, which they had never enjoyed under his rule. He raised nearly half a million of soldiers, but was obliged to use the greater portion in preventing outbreaks among the population; then, selecting the best, he marched towards Belgium with an army of 120,000, in order to meet Wellington and Blücher by turns, before they could unite. The former had 100,000 men, most of them Dutch and Germans, under his command: the latter, with 115,000, was rapidly approaching from the East. By this time—the beginning of June—neither the Austrians nor Russians had entered France.[Pg 412]


On the 16th of June two battles occurred. Napoleon fought Blücher at Ligny, while Marshal Ney, with 40,000 men, attacked Wellington at Quatrebras. Thus neither of the allies was able to help the other. Blücher defended himself desperately, but his horse was shot under him and the French cavalry almost rode over him as he lay upon the ground. He was rescued with difficulty, and then compelled to fall back. The battle between Ney and Wellington was hotly contested; the gallant Duke of Brunswick was slain in a cavalry charge, and the losses on both sides were very great, but neither could claim a decided advantage. Wellington retired to Waterloo the next day, to be nearer Blücher, and then Napoleon, uniting with Ney, marched against him with 75,000 men, while Grouchy was sent with 36,000 to engage Blücher. Wellington had 68,000 men, so the disproportion in numbers was not very great, but Napoleon was much stronger in cavalry and artillery.

The great battle of Waterloo began on the morning of the 18th of June. Wellington was attacked again and again, and the utmost courage and endurance of his soldiers barely enabled them to hold their ground: the charges of the French were met by an equally determined resistance, but the fate of the battle depended on Blücher's arrival. The latter left a few corps at Wavre, his former position, in order to deceive Grouchy, and pushed forward through rain and across a marshy country to Wellington's relief. At four o'clock in the afternoon Napoleon made a tremendous effort to break the English centre: the endurance of his enemy began to fail, and there were signs of wavering along the English lines when the cry was heard: "The Prussians are coming!" Bülow's corps soon appeared on the French flank, Blücher's army closed in shortly afterwards, and by eight o'clock the French were flying from the field. There were no allied monarchs on hand to arrest the pursuit: Blücher and Wellington followed so rapidly that they stood before Paris within ten days, and Napoleon was left without any alternative but instant surrender. The losses at Waterloo, on both sides, were 50,000 killed and wounded.

This was the end of Napoleon's interference in the history of Europe. All his offers were rejected, he was deserted by the French, and a fortnight afterwards, failing in his plan of escaping to America, he surrendered to the captain[Pg 413] of an English frigate off the port of Rochefort. From that moment until his death at St. Helena on the 5th of May, 1821, he was a prisoner and an exile. A new treaty was made between the allied monarchs and the Bourbon dynasty of France: this time the treasures of art and learning were restored to Italy and Germany, an indemnity of 700,000,000 francs was exacted, Savoy was given back to Sardinia, and a little strip of territory, including the fortresses of Saarbrück, Saarlouis and Landau, added to Germany. The attempt of Austria and Prussia to acquire Lorraine and Alsatia was defeated by the cunning of Talleyrand and the opposition of Alexander I. of Russia.


The jealousies and dissensions in the Congress of Vienna were hastily arranged during the excitement occasioned by Napoleon's return from Elba, and the members patched together, within three months, a new political map of Europe. There was no talk of restoring the lost kingdom of Poland; Prussia's claim to Saxony (which the king, Frederick Augustus, had fairly forfeited) was defeated by Austria and England; and then, after each of the principal powers had secured whatever was possible, they combined to regulate the affairs of the helpless smaller States. Holland and Belgium were added together, called the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and given to the house of Orange: Switzerland, which had joined the Allies against France, was allowed to remain a republic and received some slight increase of territory; and Lorraine and Alsatia were lost to Germany.

Austria received Lombardy and Venetia, Illyria, Dalmatia, the Tyrol, Salzburg, Galicia and whatever other territory she formerly possessed. Prussia gave up Warsaw to Russia, but kept Posen, recovered Westphalia and the territory on the Lower Rhine, and was enlarged by the annexation of Swedish Pomerania, part of Saxony, and the former archbishoprics of Mayence, Treves and Cologne. East-Friesland was taken from Prussia and given to Hannover, which was made a kingdom: Weimar, Oldenburg and the two Mecklenburgs were made Grand-Duchies, and Bavaria received a new slice of Franconia, including the cities of Würzburg and Bayreuth, as well as all of the former Palatinate lying west of the Rhine. Frankfort, Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck were allowed to remain free cities: the other smaller States were favored in various ways, and only Saxony suffered by the loss of nearly half her territory.[Pg 414] Fortunately the priestly rulers were not restored, and the privileges of the free nobles of the Middle Ages not reëstablished. Napoleon, far more justly than Attila, had been "the Scourge of God" to Germany. In crushing rights, he had also crushed a thousand abuses, and although the monarchs who ruled the Congress of Vienna were thoroughly reactionary in their sentiments, they could not help decreeing that what was dead in the political constitution of Germany should remain dead.


All the German States, however, felt that some form of union was necessary. The people dreamed of a Nation, of a renewal of the old Empire in some better and stronger form; but this was mostly a vague desire on their part, without any practical ideas as to how it should be accomplished. The German ministers at Vienna were divided in their views; and Metternich took advantage of their impatience and excitement to propose a scheme of Confederation which introduced as few changes as possible into the existing state of affairs. It was so drawn up that while it presented the appearance of an organization, it secured the supremacy of Austria, and only united the German States in mutual defence against a foreign foe and in mutual suppression of internal progress. This scheme, hastily prepared, was hastily adopted on the 10th of June, 1815 (before the battle of Waterloo), and controlled the destinies of Germany for nearly fifty years afterwards.

The new Confederation was composed of the Austrian Empire, the Kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Würtemberg and Hannover, the Grand-Duchies of Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Strelitz, Saxe-Weimar and Oldenburg; the Electorate of Hesse-Cassel; the Duchies of Brunswick, Nassau, Saxe-Gotha, Coburg, Meiningen and Hildburghausen, Anhalt-Dessau, Bernburg and Köthen; Denmark, on account of Holstein; the Netherlands, on account of Luxemburg; the four Free Cities; and eleven small principalities,—making a total of thirty-nine States. The Act of Union assured to them equal rights, independent sovereignty, the peaceful settlement of disputes between them, and representation in a General Diet, which was to be held at Frankfort, under the presidency of Austria. All together were required to support a permanent army of 300,000 men for their common defence. One article required each State to introduce a representative form of[Pg 415] government. All religions were made equal before the law, the right of emigration was conceded to the people, the navigation of the Rhine was released from taxes, and freedom of the Press was permitted.


Of course, the carrying of these provisions into effect was left entirely to the rulers of the States: the people were not recognized as possessing any political power. Even the "representative government" which was assured did not include the right of suffrage; the King, or Duke, might appoint a legislative body which represented only a class or party, and not the whole population. Moreover, the Diet was prohibited from adopting any new measure, or making any change in the form of the Confederation, except by a unanimous vote. The whole scheme was a remarkable specimen of promise to the ears of the German People, and of disappointment to their hearts and minds.

The Congress of Vienna was followed by an event of quite an original character. Alexander I. of Russia persuaded Francis II. and Frederick William III. to unite with him in a "Holy Alliance," which all the other monarchs of Europe were invited to join. It was simply a declaration, not a political act. The document set forth that its signers pledged themselves to treat each other with brotherly love, to consider all nations as members of one Christian family, to rule their lands with justice and kindness, and to be tender fathers to their subjects. No forms were prescribed, and each monarch was left free to choose his own manner of Christian rule. A great noise was made about the Holy Alliance at the time, because it seemed to guarantee peace to Europe, and peace was most welcome after such terrible wars. All other reigning Kings and Princes, except George IV. of England, Louis XVIII. of France, and the Pope, added their signatures, but not one of them manifested any more brotherly or fatherly love after the act than before.

The new German Confederation having given the separate States a fresh lease of life, after all their convulsions, the rulers set about establishing themselves firmly on their repaired thrones. Only the most intelligent among them felt that the days of despotism, however "enlightened," were over; others avoided the liberal provisions of the Act of Union, abolished many political reforms which had been introduced by Napoleon, and oppressed the common people even more than his satellites had done. The Elector of[Pg 416] Hesse-Cassel made his soldiers wear powdered queues, as in the last century; the King of Würtemberg court-martialled and cashiered the general who had gone over with his troops to the German side at the battle of Leipzig; and in Mecklenburg the liberated people were declared serfs. The introduction of a legislative assembly was delayed, in some States even wholly disregarded. Baden and Bavaria adopted a Constitution in 1818, Würtemberg and Hesse-Darmstadt in 1819, but in Prussia an imperfect form of representative government for the provinces was not arranged until 1823. Austria, meanwhile, had restored some ancient privileges of the same kind, of little practical value, because not adapted to the conditions of the age; the people were obliged to be content with them, for they received no more.


No class of Germans were so bitterly disappointed in the results of their victory and deliverance as the young men, especially the thousands who had fought in the ranks in 1813 and 1815. At all the Universities the students formed societies which were inspired by two ideas—Union and Freedom: fiery speeches were made, songs were sung, and free expression was given to their distrust of the governments under which they lived. On the 18th of October, 1817, they held a grand Convention at the Wartburg—the castle near Eisenach, where Luther lay concealed,—and this event occasioned great alarm among the reactionary class. The students were very hostile to the influence of Russia, and many persons who were suspected of being her secret agents became specially obnoxious to them. One of the latter was the dramatic author, Kotzebue, who was assassinated in March, 1819, by a young student named Sand. There is not the least evidence that this deed was the result of a widespread conspiracy; but almost every reigning prince thereupon imagined that his life was in danger.

A Congress of Ministers was held at Carlsbad the same summer, and the most despotic measures against the so-called "Revolution" were adopted. Freedom of the Press was abolished; a severe censorship enforced; the formation of societies among the students and turners was prohibited, the Universities were placed under the immediate supervision of government, and even Commissioners were appointed to hear what the Professors said in their lectures! Many of the best men in Germany, among them the old[Pg 417] teacher, Jahn, and the poet Arndt, were deprived of their situations, and placed under a form of espionage. Hundreds of young men, who had perpetrated no single act of resistance, were thrown into prison for years, others forced to fly from the country, and every manifestation of interest in political subjects became an offence. The effort of the German States, now, was to counteract the popular rights, guaranteed by the Confederation, by establishing an arbitrary and savage police system; and there were few parts of the country where the people retained as much genuine liberty as they had enjoyed a hundred years before.


The History of Germany, during the thirty years of peace which followed, is marked by very few events of importance. It was a season of gradual reaction on the part of the rulers, and of increasing impatience and enmity on the part of the people. Instead of becoming loving families, as the Holy Alliance designed, the States (except some of the little principalities) were divided into two hostile classes. There was material growth everywhere: the wounds left by war and foreign occupation were gradually healed; there was order, security for all who abstained from politics, and a comfortable repose for such as were indifferent to the future. But it was a sad and disheartening period for the men who were able to see clearly how Germany, with all the elements of a freer and stronger life existing in her people, was falling behind the political development of other countries.

The three Days' Revolution of 1830, which placed Louis Philippe on the throne of France, was followed by popular uprisings in some parts of Germany. Prussia and Austria were too strong, and their people too well held in check, to be affected; but in Brunswick the despotic Duke, Karl, was deposed, Saxony and Hesse-Cassel were obliged to accept co-rulers (out of their reigning families), and the English Duke, Ernest Augustus, was made Viceroy of Hannover. These four States also adopted a constitutional form of government. The German Diet, as a matter of course, used what power it possessed to counteract these movements, but its influence was limited by its own laws of action. The hopes and aspirations of the people were kept alive, in spite of the system of repression, and some of the smaller States took advantage of their independence to introduce various measures of reform.[Pg 418]


As industry, commerce and travel increased, the existence of so many boundaries, with their custom-houses, taxes and other hindrances, became an unendurable burden. Bavaria and Würtemberg formed a customs union in 1828, Prussia followed, and by 1836 all of Germany except Austria was united in the Zollverein (Tariff Union), which was not only a great material advantage, but helped to inculcate the idea of a closer political union. On the other hand, however, the monarchical reaction against liberal government was stronger than ever. Ernest Augustus of Hannover arbitrarily overthrew the constitution he had accepted, and Ludwig I. of Bavaria, renouncing all his former professions, made his land a very nest of absolutism and Jesuitism. In Prussia, such men as Stein, Gneisenau and Wilhelm von Humboldt had long lost their influence, while others of less personal renown, but of similar political sentiments, were subjected to contemptible forms of persecution.

In March, 1835, Francis II. of Austria died, and was succeeded by his son, Ferdinand I., a man of such weak intellect that he was in some respects idiotic. On the 7th of June, 1840, Frederick William III. of Prussia died, and was also succeeded by his son, Frederick William IV., a man of great wit and intelligence, who had made himself popular as Crown-Prince, and whose accession the people hailed with joy, in the enthusiastic belief that better days were coming. The two dead monarchs, each of whom had reigned forty-three years, left behind them a better memory among their people than they actually deserved. They were both weak, unstable and narrow-minded; had they not been controlled by others, they would have ruined Germany; but they were alike of excellent personal character, amiable, and very kindly disposed towards their subjects so long as the latter were perfectly obedient and reverential.

There was no change in the condition of Austria, for Metternich remained the real ruler, as before. In Prussia, a few unimportant concessions were made, an amnesty for political offences was declared, Alexander von Humboldt became the king's chosen associate, and much was done for science and art; but in their main hope of a liberal reorganization of the government, the people were bitterly deceived. Frederick William IV. took no steps towards the adoption of a Constitution; he made the censorship and the supervision of the police more severe; he interfered in the[Pg 419] most arbitrary and bigoted manner in the system of religious instruction in the schools; and all his acts showed that his policy was to strengthen his throne by the support of the nobility and the civil service, without regard to the just claims of the people.


Thus, in spite of the external quiet and order, the political atmosphere gradually became more sultry and disturbed, all over Germany. In 1844, a Catholic priest named Ronge, disgusted with the miracles alleged to have been performed by the so-called "Holy Coat" (of the Saviour) at Treves, published addresses to the German People, which created a great excitement. He advocated the establishment of a German-Catholic Church, and found so many followers that the Protestant king of Prussia became alarmed, and all the influence of his government was exerted against the movement. It was asserted that the reform was taking a political and revolutionary character, because, under the weary system of repression which they endured, the people hailed any and every sign of mental and spiritual independence. Ronge's reform was checked at the very moment when it promised success, and the idea of forcible resistance to the government began to spread among all classes of the population.

There were signs of impatience in all quarters; various local outbreaks occurred, and the aspects were so threatening that in February, 1847, Frederick William IV. endeavored to silence the growing opposition by ordering the formation of a Legislative Assembly. But the provinces were represented, not the people, and the measure only emboldened the latter to clamor for a direct representation. Thereupon, the king closed the Assembly, after a s