Germany To The Peace Of Ryswick


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. --Vienn
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


[Sidenote: 1648.]

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.

[Sidenote: 1657. ELECTION OF LEOPOLD I.]

The history of Germany, during the remainder of the 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.

[Sidenote: 1660.]

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 Koenigsberg, 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.

[Sidenote: 1667. WAR WITH LOUIS XIV.]

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 Conde over the frontier. A

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 Muenster 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. 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.

[Sidenote: 1677.]

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 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.

[Sidenote: 1683.]

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 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 Abbe," 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, 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.

[Sidenote: 1686. RENEWED WAR WITH FRANCE.]

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

Wuertemberg. 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!

[Sidenote: 1688.]

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 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 Koenigsberg 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.

[Sidenote: 1697. DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE.]

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.

[Sidenote: 1697.]

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 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.