End Of The Thirty Years' War


The Battle of Noerdlingen. --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 Vi
nna. --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 Donauwoerth and began the siege of the

fortified town of Noerdlingen, in Wuertemberg. 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 Wuertemberg 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, Wuertemberg and Baden remained on his side.

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 Wuertemberg from the provision which allowed

other princes to join Saxony in the treaty.

[Sidenote: 1635.]

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 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.

[Sidenote: 1636. DUKE BERNARD IN PARIS.]

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.

[Sidenote: 1638.]

More than one army was sent to the relief of Breisach, but Duke Bernard

defeated them all, and in December, 1638, 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 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

Conde, had not only maintained themselves in Alsatia, but had crossed

the Rhine and ravaged Baden, the Palatinate, Wuertemberg 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 Donauwoerth, 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 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.

[Sidenote: 1645.]

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 Osnabrueck with

Sweden, as the representative of the Protestant powers, and at Muenster

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 Koenigsmark,

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 Vienna. But before this movement

could be executed, Ferdinand III. had decided to yield. His ambassadors

at Osnabrueck and Muenster 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.

[Sidenote: 1648. THE PEACE OF WESTPHALIA.]

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, Wuertemberg 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 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.

[Sidenote: 1648.]

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 900,000 lives

in two years. The population of Augsburg had diminished from 80,000 to

18,000, and out of 500,000 inhabitants, Wuertemberg 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!

[Sidenote: 1648. DESOLATION OF GERMANY.]

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 Ruegen 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 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!"

[Sidenote: 1648.]

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.

[Sidenote: 1648. THE GERMAN STATES.]

After the Thirty Years' War, Germany was composed 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.