Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

would require as much space as the narrative of the war itself. Commenced in 1640, these negotiations were protracted from time to time, abandoned, resumed, and varied, according as event* seemed to favour the emperor or the allies; till at length, as we have seen, the misfortunes of the emperor brought them to a termination. As it may be interesting to know the precise results, with respect to the parties concerned, of this war of thirty years, which had cost such an enormous price, hurried so many hundred thousands to their graves, and occupied the thoughts of all the statesmen of Europe, we subjoin a summary of the articles of which the treaty of Westphalia was composed.

In the first place, Sweden, as "an indemnification for her expense in the war, and for ceding several of her conquests to their former possessors," obtained the duchy of Pomerania, the town of Wismar in Mecklenburg, the archbishopric of Bremen, the bishopric of Verden, and five millions of thalers. By these territorial acquisitions Sweden became a member of the Germanic empire. France obtained as her share the full sovereignty of Upper and Lower Alsace, the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and a number of minor properties. The Netherlands and Switzerland, till now regarded by a legal fiction as parts of the empire, were recognised as independent states. With regard to internal arrangements, and the distribution of the territories of the empire among the various Germanic princes, we need only mention that Charles Louis, the son of the unfortunate Elector Palatine, Frederick V., who, it will be remembered, lost all his

Eossessions at the commencement of the war, in consequence of is rash attempt to become king of Bohemia, was restored to his father's dominions, except that portion of them which had been granted to Bavaria. He was also created an eighth elector of the empire—his father's electorship having been alienated.

In the matter of religion, the provisions were, upon the whole, liberal. The treaty effected by the policy of Charles V., in 1555, granting equal civil rights to Catholics and Protestants, was confirmed, the Calvinists being admitted to the same status as the Lutherans. Attached to this grand provision, however, there were several minor clauses, which afterwards proved the origin of dispute and confusion.

The constitution of the empire was greatly modified. The potentates of the various states constituting the empire acquired the right of concluding separate alliances with foreign powers; and in the government of their own subjects they became almost independent. The authority of the emperor was thus very much abridged; and he became little more than the nominal head of a confederacy of a number of sovereign states. In short, the Germanic constitution was altered into the form which it substantially retained till the abolition of the empire by Napoleon in 1806.

In conclusion, let us glance at "the thirty years' war" as it now appears to us, calmly looking back upon it through an interval of two centuries. There are two aspects in which we may regard it—as a picture of the contemporaneous horrors of war, and as a great political epoch in German and European history. Viewed in the latter aspect, it is the general opinion of historians that, numerous as were the immediate benefits of the peace of Westphalia, it was a fatal blow to the strength of the Germanic empire; and that, in the present political and religious state of Germany, there may be traced many disastrous consequences of "the thirty years' war." Broken up into numerous independent states, with separate views and interests, Germany ceased to have a great national existence, and its territories became a field where foreigners went to fight their battles.

As representing the war in the other aspect—namely, as a picture of the contemporaneous horrors of war—we may quote a passage from Mr Howitt's work on " The Rural and Domestic Life of Germany :"—"What a picture," says Mr Howitt, "is that which the historians draw of the horrors which this so-called religious war inflicted on all Germany! Some of them reckon that the half, and others that two-thirds, of the whole population perished in it. In Saxony alone, within two years, 900,000 men were destroyed. In Bohemia, at the time of Ferdinand's death, before the last exterminating campaign of Torstenson and Banner, the Swedish generals, the population was sunk to a fourth. Augsburg, which before had 80,000 inhabitants, had then only 18,000; and all Germany in proportion. In Berlin there were only 300 burghers left. The prosperity of the country was for a long period destroyed. Not only did hands fail, and the workshops lie in ashes, but the spirit and diligence of trade were transferred to other lands.

"After thirty years of battles, burnings, murders, and diseases, Germany no longer looked like itself. The proud nation was changed into a miserable mob of beggars and thieves. Famishing peasants, cowardly citizens, lewd soldiers, rancorous priests, and effeminate nobles, were the miserable remains of the great race which had perished. Could it be otherwise? The princes themselves gave the example of dastardly falsehood. Priests of all sorts raged with a pitiless hate; the generals sought to enrich themselves; and the soldiers, who in the end ruled, were unmanned and set loose from all moral restraints. All the devils of political treachery, of religious fanaticism, of the rapacity of aspiring adventurers, and of the brutality of the soldiery, were let loose on the people. Driven from hearth and home, in eternal terror of the soldiers, and without instruction, what could be expected from the growing generation but sordid cowardice, and the shameless immorality which they had learned from the army? Even the last remains of political freedom perished in the war, since all classes were plundered, and their strength exhausted. The early civilisation of Germany had retrograded into barbarism.

"The atrocities which had been committed in this war were unexampled. In the storming of Magdeburg, the soldiers had amused themselves, as a relaxation from their wholesale horrors perpetrated on the adults, with practising tortures on children. One man boasted that he had tossed twenty babies on his spear; others they roasted alive in ovens; and others they pinned down in various modes of agony, and pleased themselves with their cries as they sat and ate. Writers of the time describe thousands dying of exhaustion; numbers as creeping naked into corners and cellars, in the madness of famine falling upon, tearing each other to pieces, and devouring each other; children being devoured by parents, and parents by children; many tearing up bodies from the graves, or seeking the pits where horse-killers threw their carcasses for the carrion, and even breaking the bones for the marrow, after they were full of worms! Thousands of villages lay in ashes; and after the war, a person might in many parts of Germany go fifty miles, in almost any direction, without meeting a single man, a head of cattle, or a sparrow; while in another, in some ruined hamlet, you might see a single old man and a child, or a couple of old women. 'Ah, God!' says an old chronicler, 'in what a miserable condition stand our cities! Where before were thousands of streets, there now were not hundreds. The burghers, by thousands, had been chased into the water, hunted to death in the woods, cut open, and their hearts torn out, their ears, noses, and tongues cut off, the soles of their feet opened, straps cut out of their backs; women, children, and men so shamefully and barbarously used, that it is not to be conceived. How miserable stand the little towns, the open hamlets! There they lie, burnt, destroyed; so that neither roof, beam, door, nor window is to be seen. The churches ?—they have been burnt, the bells carried away, and the most holy places made stables, market-houses, and worse of; the very altars being purposely defiled, and heaped with filth of all kinds.' Whole villages were filled with dead bodies of men, women, and children destroyed by plague and hunger, with quantities of cattle which had been preyed on by dogs, wolves, and vultures, because there had been no one to mourn or to bury them. Whole districts, which had been highly cultivated, were again grown over with wood; families who had fled, on returning after the war, found trees growing on their hearths; and even now, it is said, foundations of villages are in some places found in the forests, and the traces of ploughed lands. It is the fixed opinion that to this day Germany, in point of political freedom and the progress of public art and wealth, feels the disastrous consequences of this war."

Of the present state of Bohemia, the country in which "the thirty years' war" first broke out, Mr Howitt speaks as follows: —" None of the dispensations of Providence are more mysterious than those exhibited in this country. In no nation were the people formerly more universally and firmly rooted in Protestantism: in none was it so resolutely defended: in none has it been so completely and permanently extirpated. From that day to this, the whole country of John Huss and Jerome of Prague has lain prostrate in the most profound ignorance and. bigotry; so much so, that when Joseph II. offered them freedom of political and religious opinion, they spurned it from them, and joined with the aristocracy in heaping on the too-liberal emperor those anxieties and mortifications which sunk him to an early grave. When he received the news that the people, and especially the peasantry of Hungary and Bohemia, were so stupid as to be incensed against him because he offered to make them freer and happier, he exclaimed, 'I must die! I must be made of wood, if I did not die!'—and his words were soon verified. Bohemia is a land of hereditary bondsmen, and it looks like one."

To these details of the horrors of " the thirty years' war," we may add a few particulars from Harte's Life of Gustavus Adolphus. "The famine," says this writer, "during the greater part of these wars kept pace with the pestilence. Wheat was sold, more times than once, for three pounds eighteen shillings a bushel. Guards were posted to protect the newly-buried from being devoured. There were instances of children being led away, massacred, and eaten up. Two women fought for a slice of a dead horse, and one killed the other. A straggling beggar decoyed away a poor woman's child, and began to strangle it, in. order to eat it; but the vigilant mother surprised her in the act, and killed her. The face of the earth was ruined for want of agriculture; and every animal eatable was so greedily searched after, that the beasts of prey missed their daily food. When Lord Arundel passed through the empire, in return from his embassy to Vienna, a fox crept out of a brake, and seized one of his attendants by the leg. The man took it up, for it was so weak it could not escape; its eyes were haggard and sunk in its head, and it weighed next to nothing." Truly—in the fine words of the great German poet, who, both in prose and verse, made "the thirty years' war" his principal theme—

"There exists
A higher than the warrior's excellence.
In war itself war is no ultimate purpose.
The vast and sudden deeds of violence,
Adventures wild, and wonders of the moment,
These are not they, my son, that generate
The calm, the blissful, and the enduring mighty!
Lo there! the soldier, rapid architect,
Builds his light town of canvas, and at once
The whole scene moves and bustles momently
With arms, and neighing steeds, and mirth, and quarrel;
• The motley market fills; the roads, the streams

Are crowded with new freights; trade stirs and hurries!

But on some morrow morn, all suddenly

The tents drop down, the horde renews its march.

Dreary and solitary as a churchyard,

The meadow and down-trodden seed-plot lie,

And the year's harvest is gone utterly!"

Hear also the same poet's description of the return of peace—

"Oh day thrice lovely! when at length the soldier

Returns home into life; when he becomes

A fellow-man among his fellow-men.

The colours are unfurled, the cavalcade

Marshals, and now the buzz is hushed: and hark!

Now the soft peace-march beats—home, brothers, home!

The caps and helmets are all garlanded

With green boughs, the last plundering of the fields.

The city gates fly open of themselves;

They need no longer the petard to tear them.

The ramparts are all filled with men and women—

With peaceful men and women—that send onwards

Kisses and welcomings upon the air,

Which they make breezy with affectionate gestures.

From all the towers rings out a merry peal—

The joyous vespers of a bloody day.

Oh happy man! oh fortunate! for whom

The well-known door, the faithful arms, are open—

The faithful tender arms, with mute embracing!"

Pity that such sentiments had not influenced the rulers and people of Germany before commencing the unholy struggle which we have been narrating! All that was gained, as has been shown, by thirty years of bloodshed and devastation, was the treaty of pacification which had been originally established by Charles V. in 1555. Germany had spent a century in vain. In 1648 it was farther back than it had been a hundred years before; and this hundred years it has not till the present day recovered.

It is true that, besides terms of pacification, the war produced a thorough social toleration in matters of religion. No one was afterwards inclined to taunt or abuse another on account of difference of religious opinion or form of worship; but inasmuch as this toleration was achieved by wrong means, it led to an indifference which has enabled Prussia, Austria, and other powers to make religion a thing of mere civil polity. Let us, in conclusion, express a hope that, in any modern revival ot religious differences in Germany, the people, as well as the government, will arrive at a settlement in the amicable spin' which "the thirty years' war" impressed on the country. The recollection of that period of anarchy ought to be an indelible memento of the crime and folly of sectarian or any other spepies of warfare.

« ForrigeFortsæt »