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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 21 — The Thirty Years' War

Chapter 10 — The pacification of Westphalia

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Gustavus' Mission no Failure — Oxenstierna comes to the Helm — Diet of Heilbronn — Wallenstein's Advice to Ferdinand — Success of the Swedes — Inactivity of Wallenstein — His Offer to Join the Swedes — His Supposed Conspiracy against Ferdinand — He is Assassinated — Defeat of the Swedes — Battle of Nordlingen — Defection of the Elector of Saxony — Peace of Prague — Rejected by the Swedes — Treaty with France — Great Victory of the Swedes — Progress of the War — Isolation of Ferdinand — Cry for Peace — Negotiations at Munster — The Peace of Westphalia.

MOST historians, reviewing the career of Gustavus Adolphus, have given it as their opinion that when he died he had reached the maturity of his glory, but not of his designs. We are disposed to regard this judgment as a narrow and mistaken one. That he had reached the summit of his fame we readily admit; but we also hold that at the moment of his death he had reached the consummation of his plans, so far as their accomplishment rested with himself. Had Gustavus Adolphus crossed the Baltic to found a new kingdom, and reign as head of the German Empire, then indisputably he failed in the object for which he had girded on the sword; and, in the words of Schiller, "the proud edifice of his past greatness sunk into ruins when he died." But this was far indeed from being what the hero of Sweden aimed at. He sought to roll back the Catholic reaction, and to set free the princes and States of Germany from the treble despotism of Ferdinand, of the League, of Rome: this he did. The battle of Leipsic scattered the army of the emperor; the campaigns that followed carried the banners of Gustavus in triumph to the Rhine on the west, and to the very frontier of Austria on the south, including Bavaria, the seat of the League.

The crowning victory of Lutzen set the seal upon all his past achievements, by completing the discomfiture of Ferdinand and of the League, and consummating the emancipation of Germany. When he expired on the last and bloodiest of all his fields, the Fatherland was freed. It does not at all diminish from the perfection of his work, that neither the princes nor the people of Germany were prepared to profit by the boon which he put within their reach. These craven sons of heroic sires were not worthy of freedom. They were incapable of appreciating the character or sympathizing with the grand aims of their liberator; and had Gustavus Adolphus lived, it is probable that these easy-going men, who were so unbending in points of dignity but so pliant in matters of conscience, so zealous for the enlargement of their estates but so lukewarm in the defense of their faith, would have quarreled over the spoils of his victories, while they undervalued and neglected that which was the greatest of them all — Protestant liberty. He was spared this mortifying sight by his early removal. It does not follow that the fruits of his labors perished. They were postponed, but not lost. They were gathered-in sixteen years after. wards at the Peace of Westphalia.

The Protestant interest of the Thirty Years' War ends with the life of Gustavus. The two parties continued the struggle, and the Fatherland was still deluged with blood; but the moral end of the conflict was lost sight of, and the bearing as well as the aims of the combatants rapidly and sadly degenerated. They fought, not for the vindication of Protestant liberties, but for plunder, or for pay, or at best for victory. To record battles and campaigns waged for these objects is not our purpose, and we shall sufficiently discharge our duty to our subject if we trace rapidly the course of events to their issue in the great European Settlement of 1648, which owed its existence mainly to the man who had laid down his sword on the field of Lutzen.

When Gustavus Adolphus died, the great chancellor and statesman, Oxenstierna, sprang to the helm. His were the ablest hands, after those of Gustavus, to guide the State. Oxenstierna was the friend, as well as the minister, of the deceased monarch; he perfectly knew and thoroughly sympathized with the policy of the king, and of all the survivors he was the best fitted by his genius, his lofty patriotism, and his undoubted Protestantism, to carry out the views of his late master. The Senate of Sweden was equally valorous and prompt. It met at Stockholm on the 16th of March, 1633, and passed a resolution "to prosecute the war against the Roman emperor and Popish League in Germany, until it should please Almighty God to establish a happy peace for the good of his Church." [1] Nor were able generals wanting to the Diet to carry out its resolution. If the deceased king had a not unworthy successor in the State in Oxenstierna, he had also not unmeet representatives in the field in the generals who had been trained under him. The tactics, the power of rapid combination of masses, the intrepidity, and above all the lofty spirit of Gustavus, to a great degree lived in Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, Bauer, Torstenson, and Wrangel. It was not on the leaders only that Gustavus had stamped his image, he had infused his spirit into the common soldiers, and thus all three — the Diet, the minister, and the army — continued to pursue the career in which the late king had started them, just as a machine, to which a mighty impulse has been communicated, continues to revolve after the strong hand from which the impulse came is withdrawn.

The work which hitherto had been done by one was now divided among many. Gustavus Adolphus had centered in himself the office of minister, of Diet, of diplomatist, of statesman, and of general. The

conception of his plans was his, and so too was the execution of them. The comprehensiveness of his mind and the versatility of his genius made these various parts easy and natural to him, and gave him a prodigious advantage over his opponents, by giving a more perfect unity and a quicker dispatch to all his plans. This perfect accord and harmony were henceforward wanting; but it was some time till its loss became apparent. Oxenstierna did his best to maintain the tottering fabric of the German Confederacy, which had shown signs of dissolution even before the fall of Gustavus. Everything depended upon the Protestant princes remaining united, and continuing in alliance with Sweden; and the chancellor succeeded in strengthening the bond of union among his allies, in spite of the jealousies, the interests, and the many difficulties he had to overcome. At the Diet of Heilbronn the Directorship Franconia, Suabia, and the Upper and Lower Rhine was conferred upon him, "the princes of these circles entering into a league with the Crown of Sweden, and with one another, against the emperor, until the civil and religious liberties of Germany should be restored, and Sweden indemnified for the cost of the war." [2]

If Sweden and her German allies had resolved not to sheathe the sword till the civil and religious liberties of Germany had been restored, not less were the emperor and his allies — the Pope, the King of Spain, and Maximilian of Bavaria — resolved that the war should go on. Wallenstein advised Ferdinand to meet the Protestant States with an unqualified amnesty; [3] and had the emperor done so he would very probably have broken their union, and brought back the more pliant and wavering. But blinded by bigotry and the brilliant prospects of triumph, which he imagined the fall of Gustavus Adolphus had opened to him, he rejected the Duke of Friedland's counsel, and instead of holding out the olive-branch to the Protestants, offered them battle by increasing the number of his army. Hostilities soon again commenced.

Victory still followed the standards of the Swedes. During the campaign of 1633, they overran the territory of Bamberg, swept along the Danube, and took the town of Ratisbon, which gave them the command of Bavaria, the cradle of the League. Their arms were attended with equal success in Suabia, and on the Upper and Lower Rhine. Lower Saxony and Westphalia also became the scene of their triumphs. They crossed and re-crossed Germany, scattering the imperial armies, capturing the enemy's fortresses, and wresting from him the keys of all his important cities, besides other trophies of war. such as cannon, baggage, and standards. One who did not know what had taken place on the field of Lutzen, would have thought that Gustavus Adolphus was still at the head of the Swedish warriors. Their banners, floating triumphant in every part of Germany, again proclaimed the fact that nothing was wanting to the Protestant princes, save hearty zeal and firm concord, to recover all the rights which the Catholic reaction had swept away, and to establish Protestant liberty in Germany as it had existed a century before.

While the Swedish arms had come up to the Austrian frontier, and it seemed as if a few marches and one or two battles would carry them to the gates of Vienna, the generalissimo of Ferdinand was maintaining a most unaccountable inactivity. Wallenstein lay encamped in Bohemia, with 40,000 soldiers under him, apparently an uninterested spectator of the disasters befalling the empire. Ferdinand sent message after message, each more pressing than that which had preceded it, commanding him to put his army in motion against the invaders. Wallenstein answered, "I go;" but went not. At last he marched to Munsterberg, where he formed an entrenched camp. The Swedes offered him battle, but he declined it. The two armies remained nine days within musket-shot of each other, but neither stirred from their entrenchments. At last the. mystery of Wallenstein's inactivity was made plain. Count Terzky, attended by a trumpeter, appeared in the Swedish camp, with proposals of peace from the imperial generalissimo. Wallenstein offered to join the allies, and turn his arms against the emperor, on condition of being made King of Bohemia. He further promised that, should the Bohemian crown be placed on his head, he would recall the exiles, restore the confiscated estates, and establish toleration in that country.[4] So do contemporary historians relate.

Besides his own ambition, the stars had promised this dignity to Wallenstein. The Swedes did not know what to make of this strange proposal; but at last, deeming it an artful trap to seize their army and deliver it up to the emperor, they rejected it. The real intentions of Wallenstein still remain a mystery; but we incline to the belief that he was then meditating some deep revenge on the emperor, whom he had never forgiven for dismissing him, and that he was not less desirous of striking a blow at the Jesuits, who he knew cordially hated him, and were intriguing against him at the court of Vienna. It is said that he was revolving even mightier projects. He harbored the daring purpose of putting down all the lords, lay and ecclesiastical, of Germany, of combining its various countries into one kingdom, and setting over it a single chief. Ferdinand II was to be installed meanwhile as the nominal sovereign, but Wallenstein would govern through him, as Richelieu did through Louis XIII. The Turks were to be driven out of Europe, and Wallenstein, at the head of a gigantic army, was to make himself Dictator of Christendom. Such was the colossal scheme with which he was credited, and which is said to have alarmed the Pope, excited the jealousy of Richelieu, intensified the hatred of the Jesuits, and made them combine to effect his destruction. [5]

His ruin soon followed. To have sent him his dismissal in the ordinary way would have been

to bring on the explosion of the terrible plot. He held the army in his hand, and Ferdinand was not powerful enough to wrest that weapon from him. He could be approached only with the dagger.

Wallenstein was residing at Eger, where he was busily engaged corresponding with his accomplices, and studying the stars. They rolled night by night over his head, without notifying that the hour had come for the execution of his great design. While he waited for the celestial summons, dark preparations were forming round him on earth. On the evening of the 25th of February, 1634, the officers of the garrison who remained loyal to Ferdinand invited the four leading conspirators of Wallenstein to sup with them. The wine was circulating freely after supper, when one of the company rose and gave as a toast, "The House of Austria, Long live Ferdinand!" It was the preconcerted signal. Thirty-six men-at-arms, who had been stationed in the ante-chamber, rushed in, overturned the table, and threw themselves upon their victims. In a few minutes Wallenstein's partisans lay sabered and dying on the floor of the apartment.

This was only a beginning. The great conspirator still lived; but, whatever the prognostication of the stars, his last sands were running. The elements seemed in accord with the violent deeds on foot, for a frightful tempest had burst over Eger, and the black clouds, the howling winds, and the pelting rains favored the assassins. Devereux, followed by twelve halberdiers, proceeded to Wallenstein's residence, and was at once admitted by the guard, who were accustomed to see him visit the duke at all hours. Wallenstein had retired to rest; but hearing a noise he had got out of bed, and going to the window he opened it and challenged the sentinel.

He had just seated himself in a chair at a table in his night-dress, when Devereux burst open the door and entered with the halberdiers. The man whom armies obeyed, and who was the terror of kings, was before him. Rushing towards him, he shouted, "Thy hour is come, villain!" The duke rose, and attempted to reach the window and summon the guard, but the men-at-arms barred his way. Opening his arms, he received the stroke of their halberds in his breast, and fell bathed in his blood, but without uttering a word. His designs, whatever they were, he took with him to his grave. The wise man had said long before, "As passeth the whirlwind, so the wicked." [6]

After the death of Wallenstein, Ferdinand's son, the King of Hungary, bore the title of generalissimo, but Count Gallas discharged the duty by leading the army. The tide of success now began to turn against the Swedes. They had already lost several important towns, among others Ratisbon, and their misfortunes were crowned by a severe defeat which they encountered under the walls of Nordlingen. Some 12,000 men lay dead on the field, 80 cannon, 4,000 wagons, and 300 standards fell into the hands of the imperialists. The Swedes had lost their superiority in the field; consternation reigned among the members of the Protestant Confederacy, and the free cities; and Oxenstierna, to save the cause from ruin, ,was obliged, as he believed, to cast himself upon the protection of Richelieu, giving to France, as the price of her help, the province of Alsace. This put the key of Germany into her hands, and her armies poured along the Rhine, and, under pretext of assisting the Swedes, plundered the cities and devastated the provinces.

And now a severer blow befell the Swedes than even the defeat at Nordlingen. John George, the Elector of Saxony, deserting his confederates, entered into a treaty of peace with the emperor. The weakness of the Protestant cause, all along, had lain, not in the strength of the imperialists, but in the divisions of the German princes, and now this heavy and, for the time, fatal blow was dealt it by the defection of the man who had so largely contributed to. begin the war, by helping the League to take Prague, and suppress the Protestantism of Bohemia. All the Protestant States were invited to enter this peace along with the emperor and elector. It effected no real settlement of differences; it offered no effectual redress of grievances; and, while it swept away nearly all that the Protestants had gained in the war, it left undetermined innumerable points which were sure to become the seeds of conflicts in the future.

Nevertheless, the peace was acceded to by the Elector of Brandenburg, Duke William of Weimar, the Princes of Anhalt, the Dukes of Mecklenburg, the Dukes of Brunswick, Luneburg, the Hanseatic towns, and most of the imperial cities. [7]

This peace, termed the Peace of Prague, from the town where the treaty was framed, was scornfully rejected by the Swedes, and on just grounds. It offered them no indemnification for the expenses they had incurred, and no compensation for the conquests they were to leave behind them. They loudly protested against the princes who had made their reconciliation with the emperor, as guilty of a shameful abandonment of themselves. They had come into Germany at their invitation; they had vindicated the Protestant rights and the German liberties with their blood, and "the sacred life of their king," and now they were to be expelled from the empire without reward, without even thanks, by the very men for whom they had toiled and bled. Rather than be thus dishonored, and lose into the bargain all for which they had fought, they resolved to continue the war.

Oxenstierna, in this extremity of Swedish affairs, turned to France, and Richelieu met him with offers of assistance. The Swedes and French formed a compact body, and penetrated into the heart of the empire. The Swedes fought with a more desperate bravery than ever. The battles were bloodier. They fell on Saxony, and avenged, in the devastation and slaughter they inflicted, the defection of

the Elector. They defeated him in a great battle at Wittsbach, in 1636, the Elector leaving 5,000 men on the field, with baggage, cannon, standards, and silver plate, the booty being enhanced by the capture of some thousands of prisoners. After this, victory oscillates from side to side; now it is the imperialists who triumph on the red field; now it is the Swedes, grown as savage as the imperialists, who remain masters; but though battle succeeds battle, the war makes no progress, and the end for which it was commenced has been entirely lost sight of.

At length there appeared a new Swedish generalissimo, Bernard Torstenson, a pupil of Gustavus Adolphus, and the leader who, of all who had been reared in the same school, approached the most nearly to his great master. He transferred the seat of war from the exhausted provinces to those which had not yet tasted the miseries of the campaigns, He led the Swedish hosts into the Austrian territories which had hitherto been exempted by their remoteness from the calamities tinder which the rest of Germany groaned. "He hurled the torch of war," says Schiller, "even to the very footsteps of the imperial throne." By his great victory at Jancowitz, where the emperor lost his best general, Hatzfeld, and his last army, the whole territory of Austria was thrown open to him. The victorious Swedes, pouring over the frontiers, spread themselves like an inundation over Moravia and Austria. Ferdinand fled to Vienna to save his family and his treasures. The Swedes followed hard on his fleeing steps, carried the entrenchments at the Wolf's Bridge, and showed themselves before the walls of Vienna. Thus, after a long and destructive circuit through every province of Germany, the terrible procession of battles and sieges had returned to the spot whence it set out. The artillery of the Swedes that now thundered around the Austrian capital must have recalled to the memory of the inhabitants the balls shot into Vienna twenty-seven years ago by the Bohemians. Since that day, whole armies had sunk into the German plains. All the great leaders had fallen in the war. Wallenstein, Tilly, Count Mansfeld, and dozens of inferior generals had gone to the grave. Monarchs, as well as men of lower degree — the great Gustavus and the bigoted Ferdinand — had bowed to the stroke of fate. Richelieu too slept in the marble in which France lays her great statesmen, and the "odor" in which Rome buries her faithful servants. Still, above the graves of those who began it, this war was holding its fearful course, as if it longed to gather beneath its scythe not the German people only, but the nations of Christendom. Now awoke a loud and universal cry for peace.

Even Maximilian of Bavaria had grown weary of the war. The House of Austria was left alone in this great field of blood and corpses, and negotiations for peace were opened at Munster and Osnaburg. These negotiations proceeded slowly. The conflicting interests that had to be reconciled, and the deep-seated jealousies, antipathies, and bigotrys that had to be conquered, before the sword could be sheathed, were innumerable. The demands of the negotiating parties rose and fell according to the position of their arms. But at last the great victory — more glorious than any that had preceded it — was achieved. They were exchanging the last shots on the very spot where the first had been fired, namely at Prague, when a messenger brought the news that a peace had been concluded on the 24th of October, 1648. First of all, the new treaty confirmed the old ones of Passau and Augsburg (1552-5), and declared that the interpretation now put upon them was to remain valid in spite of all protests, from any quarter whatsoever. But the new advanced a step beyond the old treaties, and gave still more important results. Besides a number of territorial and political concessions, such as giving Pomerania to Sweden, it extended Toleration to Calvinists as well as Lutherans. This was the crowning blessing which rose out of these red fields. And to this day the balance of power between Romanist and Protestant has remained substantially as it was fixed by the Pacification of Westphalia.

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Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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