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Title: German Society at the Close of the Middle Ages
Author: Bax, Ernest Belfort
Language: English
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The Social Side of the Reformation in Germany


Aberdeen University Press.




Author of "The Story of the French Revolution," "The Religion of
Socialism," "The Ethics of Socialism," "Handbook of the
History of Philosophy," etc., etc.

[Illustration: Logo]

Swan Sonnenschein & Co.


  CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

        INTRODUCTION,                                          1


    II. THE REFORMATION MOVEMENT,                             92

   III. LITERATURE OF REFORMATION PERIOD,                    114

    IV. FOLKLORE OF THE REFORMATION,                         139

     V. THE GERMAN TOWN,                                     156

    VI. THE REVOLT OF THE KNIGHTHOOD,                        165


  VIII. THE NEW JURISPRUDENCE,                               219

        APPENDIX A,                                          231

            "    B,                                          260

            "    C,                                          272


The work, of which the present volume is the first instalment, aims
at giving English readers a general view of the social condition and
the popular movements of Germany during the period known as that of
the Reformation. In accordance with this plan, I have only touched
incidentally upon the theological disputes then apparently uppermost
in the thoughts of men, or upon the purely political side of things.
They are dealt with merely in so far as they immediately strike across
the path of social and internal affairs. The present volume, which
has a more general character than its successors, deals with a period
limited, roughly speaking, by the closing years of the fifteenth
century on the one side, and by 1525, the year of the great Peasant
rising, on the other. It contains a narrative of the earlier popular
revolutionary movements at the close of the Middle Ages, the precursors
of the Peasants' War; and it also deals with the underlying causes,
economic, social and juridical, of the general disintegration of the

The next volume will treat more in detail the events of the years 1524
to 1526. The third will contain a history of the Anabaptist Movement in
Central Europe from its rise at Zwickau in 1522 to its decline after
the capture of Münster by the Archiepiscopal and Imperial troops in
1536. The reign of the Saints in Münster naturally forms the leading
feature of this portion of the work.

As to the sources for the history of the Germany of this period, I
have endeavoured to incorporate everything available that seemed to
me important for the proper understanding of the time. The three
chief general histories of the Reformation, Ranke's _Geschichte
Deutschlands während der Reformations-Zeit_, Janssen's _Geschichte des
Deutschen Volkes_, and Egelhaaf's _Deutsche Geschichte im sechszehnten
Jahrhundert_, have, it is scarcely necessary to say, been laid under
contribution. The standpoint of Ranke, whose history is detailed
and in certain respects exhaustive, is that of general bourgeois
Philistinism. Janssen represents the Ultramontane Catholic view; but,
apart from its tendency, every one must admire the brilliant and in
most cases accurate scholarship that characterises it. Egelhaaf's
work may be regarded as the counterblast to Janssen's. Its point of
view is that of "liberal," middle-class German Protestantism; but it
also contains many hints and clues which may be followed up by the
industrious historian.

To rewrite history in the light of the researches of the later decades
of the nineteenth century will be the great task of the next two or
three generations. History has to be presented afresh on the basis
of primitive communism with its tribal and village groups, with its
sexual relations based on the _gens_, with its totemistic religious
conceptions, and from the standpoint of a continuous development from
these beginnings up to the individualism of the present day founded on
the complete disruption of early society.

The average student of any historical period invariably reads into
his interpretation the intellectual, moral and social atmosphere that
lies nearest to him. He cannot strip away the intervening time-content
between himself and the period in question. It is the most difficult of
all exercises of the imagination, and to most men, indeed, impossible,
to realise that the same words, names, customs and institutions
connote totally different actualities in different stages of historic
evolution. People fail to conjure up the altered perspective, and the
unfamiliar background on which men lived, thought and felt in another
age. Agamemnon, "King of Men," is to them Kaiser Wilhelm differently
made up. Lykurgos is a cross between Pitt and Dr. Johnson. Cicero
is a Sir Charles Russell who happened to live in the first century
B.C. The formal continuity of names, notions or things hides
from them the "true inwardness" of the rupture between the old and the
new which has gradually accomplished itself. Change in human affairs is
of course ceaseless; but it is only when it has reached a certain stage
that it is borne in upon the consciousness of men in general, and,
even then, it is only the sharp summits above the changing horizon that
they recognise. The ground out of which these spring is not seen, and
hence the true bearing of the summits themselves is not understood.



The close of the fifteenth century had left the whole structure of
mediæval Europe to all appearance intact. Statesmen and writers like
Philip de Commines had apparently as little suspicion that the state of
things they saw around them, in which they had grown up and of which
they were representatives, was ever destined to pass away, as Lord
Palmerston or any other statesman of the Cobden-Bright period had that
the existing system of society, say in 1860, was at any time likely
to suffer other changes than those of detail. Society was organised
on the feudal hierarchy of status. In the first place, a noble class,
spiritual and temporal, was opposed to a peasantry either wholly
servile or but nominally free. In addition to this opposition of noble
and peasant there was that of the township, which, in its corporate
capacity, stood in the relation of lord to the surrounding peasantry.

The township in Germany was of two kinds--first of all, there was the
township that was "free of the Empire," that is, that held nominally
from the Emperor himself (_Reichstadt_), and secondly, there was the
township that was under the domination of an intermediate lord. The
economic basis of the whole was still land; the status of a man or
of a corporation was determined by the mode in which they held their
land. "No land without a lord" was the principle of mediæval polity;
just as "money has no master" is the basis of the bourgeois world with
its self-made men. Every distinction of rank in the feudal system was
still denoted for the most part by a special costume. It was a world
of knights in armour, of ecclesiastics in vestments and stoles, of
lawyers in robes, of princes in silk and velvet and cloth of gold, and
of peasants in laced shoe, brown cloak, and cloth hat.

But although the whole feudal organisation was outwardly intact, the
thinker who was watching the signs of the times would not have been
long in arriving at the conclusion that feudalism was "played out,"
that the whole fabric of mediæval civilisation was becoming dry and
withered, and had either already begun to disintegrate or was on the
eve of doing so. Causes of change had within the past half-century
been working underneath the surface of social life, and were rapidly
undermining the whole structure. The growing use of fire-arms in war;
the rapid multiplication of printed books; the spread of the new
learning after the taking of Constantinople in 1453, and the subsequent
diffusion of Greek teachers throughout Europe; the surely and steadily
increasing communication with the new world, and the consequent
increase of the precious metals; and, last but not least, Vasco de
Gama's discovery of the new trade route from the East by way of the
Cape--all these were indications of the fact that the death-knell of
the old order of things had been struck.

Notwithstanding the apparent outward integrity of the system based
on land tenures, land was ceasing to be the only form of productive
wealth. Hence it was losing the exclusive importance attaching to it
in the earlier period of the Middle Ages. The first form of modern
capitalism had already arisen. Large aggregations of capital in the
hands of trading companies were becoming common. The Roman law was
establishing itself in the place of the old customary tribal law which
had hitherto prevailed in the manorial courts, serving in some sort as
a bulwark against the caprice of the territorial lord; and this change
facilitated the development of the bourgeois principle of private, as
opposed to communal, property. In intellectual matters, though theology
still maintained its supremacy as the chief subject of human interest,
other interests were rapidly growing up alongside of it, the most
prominent being the study of classical literature.

Besides these things, there was the dawning interest in nature,
which took on, as a matter of course, a magical form in accordance
with traditional and contemporary modes of thought. In fact, like
the flicker of a dying candle in its socket, the Middle Ages seemed
at the beginning of the sixteenth century to exhibit all their own
salient characteristics in an exaggerated and distorted form. The old
feudal relations had degenerated into a blood-sucking oppression; the
old rough brutality, into excogitated and elaborated cruelty (aptly
illustrated in the collection of ingenious instruments preserved in
the Torture-tower at Nürnberg); the old crude superstition, into a
systematised magical theory of natural causes and effects; the old love
of pageantry, into a lavish luxury and magnificence of which we have
in the "field of the cloth of gold" the stock historical example; the
old chivalry, into the mercenary bravery of the soldier, whose trade
it was to fight, and who recognised only one virtue--to wit, animal
courage. Again, all these exaggerated characteristics were mixed with
new elements, which distorted them further, and which fore-shadowed a
coming change, the ultimate issue of which would be their extinction
and that of the life of which they were the signs.

The growing tendency towards centralisation and the consequent
suppression or curtailment of the local autonomies of the Middle Ages
in the interests of some kind of national government, of which the
political careers of Louis XI. in France, of Edward IV. in England, and
of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain were such conspicuous instances, did
not fail to affect in a lesser degree that loosely connected political
system of German States known as the Holy Roman Empire. Maximilian's
first Reichstag in 1495 caused to be issued an imperial edict
suppressing the right of private warfare claimed and exercised by the
whole noble class from the princes of the Empire down to the meanest
knight. In the same year the Imperial Chamber (_Reichskammer_) was
established, and in 1501 the Imperial Aulic Council. Maximilian also
organised a standing army of mercenary troops, called _Landesknechte_.
Shortly afterwards Germany was divided into imperial districts called
circles (_Kreise_), ultimately ten in number, all of which were under
a _Reichsregiment_, which had at its disposal a military force for
the punishment of disturbers of the peace. But the public opinion of
the age, conjoined with the particular circumstances, political and
economic, of central Europe, robbed the enactment in a great measure of
its immediate effect. Highway plundering and even private war was still
going on, to a considerable extent, far into the sixteenth century.
Charles V. pursued the same line of policy; but it was not until after
the suppression of the lower nobility in 1523, and finally of the
peasants in 1526, that any material change took place; and then the
centralisation, such as it was, was in favour of the princes, rather
than of the imperial power, which, after Charles V.'s time, grew weaker
and weaker. The speciality about the history of Germany is, that it has
not known till our own day centralisation on a national or racial scale
like England or France.

At the opening of the sixteenth century public opinion not merely
sanctioned open plunder by the wearer of spurs and by the possessor of
a stronghold, but regarded it as his special prerogative, the exercise
of which was honourable rather than disgraceful. The cities certainly
resented their burghers being waylaid and robbed, and hanged the
knights whenever they could; and something like a perpetual feud always
existed between the wealthier cities and the knights who infested
the trade routes leading to and from them. Still, these belligerent
relations were taken as a matter of course; and no disgrace, in the
modern sense, attached to the occupation of highway robbery.

In consequence of the impoverishment of the knights at this period,
owing to causes with which we shall deal later, the trade or
profession had recently received an accession of vigour, and at the
same time was carried on more brutally and mercilessly than ever
before. We will give some instances of the sort of occurrence which
was by no means unusual. In the immediate neighbourhood of Nürnberg,
which was _bien entendu_ one of the chief seats of the imperial power,
a robber-knight leader, named Hans Thomas von Absberg, was a standing
menace. It was the custom of this ruffian, who had a large following,
to plunder even the poorest who came from the city, and, not content
with this, to mutilate his victims. In June, 1522, he fell upon a
wretched craftsman, and with his own sword hacked off the poor fellow's
right hand, notwithstanding that the man begged him upon his knees to
take the left, and not destroy his means of earning his livelihood. The
following August he, with his band, attacked a Nürnberg tanner, whose
hand was similarly treated, one of his associates remarking that he
was glad to set to work again, as it was "a long time since they had
done any business in hands". On the same occasion a cutler was dealt
with after a similar fashion. The hands in these cases were collected
and sent to the Bürgermeister of Nürnberg, with some such phrase as
that the sender (Hans Thomas) would treat all so who came from the
city. The princes themselves, when it suited their purpose, did not
hesitate to offer an asylum to these knightly robbers. With Absberg
were associated Georg von Giech and Hans Georg von Aufsess. Among
other notable robber-knights of the time may be mentioned the Lord of
Brandenstein and the Lord of Rosenberg. As illustrating the strictly
professional character of the pursuit, and the brutally callous nature
of the society practising it, we may narrate that Margaretha von
Brandenstein was accustomed, it is recorded, to give the advice to
the choice guests round her board that when a merchant failed to keep
his promise to them, they should never hesitate to cut off _both_ his
hands. Even Franz von Sickingen, known sometimes as the "last flower of
German chivalry," boasted of having among the intimate associates of
his enterprise for the rehabilitation of knighthood many gentlemen who
had been accustomed to "let their horses on the high road bite off the
purses of wayfarers". So strong was the public opinion of the noble
class as to the inviolability of the privilege of highway plunder that
a monk, preaching one day in a cathedral and happening to attack it
as unjustifiable, narrowly escaped death at the hands of some knights
present amongst his congregation, who asserted that he had insulted the
prerogatives of their order. Whenever this form of knight-errantry was
criticised, there were never wanting scholarly pens to defend it as a
legitimate means of aristocratic livelihood; since a knight must live
in suitable style, and this was often his only resource for obtaining
the means thereto.

The free cities, which were subject only to imperial jurisdiction, were
practically independent republics. Their organisation was a microcosm
of that of the entire Empire. At the apex of the municipal society was
the Bürgermeister and the so-called "Honorability" (_Ehrbarkeit_),
which consisted of the patrician _gentes_, (in most cases) those
families which were supposed to be descended from the original
chartered freemen of the town, the old Mark-brethren. They comprised
generally the richest families, and had monopolised the entire
government of the city, together with the right to administer its
various sources of income and to consume its revenue at their pleasure.
By the time, however, of which we are writing the trading guilds had
also attained to a separate power of their own, and were in some cases
ousting the burgher-aristocracy, though they were very generally
susceptible of being manipulated by the members of the patrician
class, who, as a rule, could alone sit in the Council (_Rath_). The
latter body stood, in fact, as regards the town, much in the relation
of the feudal lord to his manor. Strong in their wealth and in their
aristocratic privileges, the patricians lorded it alike over the
townspeople and over the neighbouring peasantry, who were subject to
the municipality. They forestalled and regrated with impunity. They
assumed the chief rights in the municipal lands, in many cases imposed
duties at their own caprice, and turned guild privileges and rights
of citizenship into a source of profit for themselves. Their bailiffs
in the country districts forming part of their territory were often
more voracious in their treatment of the peasants than even the nobles
themselves. The accounts of income and expenditure were kept in the
loosest manner, and embezzlement clumsily concealed was the rule rather
than the exception.

The opposition of the non-privileged citizens, usually led by the
wealthier guildsmen not belonging to the aristocratic class, operated
through the guilds and through the open assembly of the citizens. It
had already frequently succeeded in establishing a representation
of the general body of the guildsmen in a so-called Great Council
(_Grosser Rath_), and in addition, as already said, in ousting the
"honorables" from some of the public functions. Altogether the
patrician party, though still powerful enough, was at the opening
of the sixteenth century already on the decline, the wealthy and
unprivileged opposition beginning in its turn to constitute itself
into a quasi-aristocratic body as against the mass of the poorer
citizens and those outside the pale of municipal rights. The latter
class was now becoming an important and turbulent factor in the life
of the larger cities. The craft-guilds, consisting of the body of
non-patrician citizens, were naturally in general dominated by their
most wealthy section.

We may here observe that the development of the mediæval township from
its earliest beginnings up to the period of its decay in the sixteenth
century was almost uniformly as follows:[1] At first the township, or
rather what later became the township, was represented entirely by the
group of _gentes_ or group-families originally settled within the mark
or district on which the town subsequently stood. These constituted
the original aristocracy from which the tradition of the _Ehrbarkeit_
dated. In those towns founded by the Romans, such as Trier, Aachen, and
others, the case was of course a little different. There the origin of
the _Ehrbarkeit_ may possibly be sought for in the leading families
of the Roman provincials who were in occupation of the town at the
coming of the barbarians in the fifth century. Round this nucleus there
gradually accreted from the earliest period of the Middle Ages the
freed men of the surrounding districts, fugitive serfs, and others who
sought that protection and means of livelihood in a community under the
immediate domination of a powerful lord, which they could not otherwise
obtain when their native village-community had perchance been raided by
some marauding noble and his retainers. Circumstances, amongst others
the fact that the community to which they attached themselves had
already adopted commerce and thus become a guild of merchants, led to
the differentiation of industrial functions amongst the new-comers, and
thus to the establishment of craft-guilds.

Another origin of the townsfolk, which must not be overlooked, is
to be found in the attendants on the palace-fortress of some great
over-lord. In the early Middle Ages all such magnates kept up an
extensive establishment, the greater ecclesiastical lords no less
than the secular often having several palaces. In Germany this origin
of the township was furthered by Charles the Great, who established
schools and other civil institutions, with a magistrate at their head,
round many of the palaces that he founded. "A new epoch," says Von
Maurer, "begins with the villa-foundations of Charles the Great and
his ordinances respecting them, for that his celebrated capitularies
in this connection were intended for his newly established villas
is self-evident. In that proceeding he obviously had the Roman villa
in his mind, and on the model of this he rather further developed
the previously existing court and villa constitution than completely
reorganised it. Hence one finds even in his new creations the old
foundation again, albeit on a far more extended plan, the economical
side of such villa-colonies being especially more completely and
effectively ordered."[2] The expression "Palatine," as applied to
certain districts, bears testimony to the fact here referred to. As
above said, the development of the township was everywhere on the same
lines. The aim of the civic community was always to remove as far as
possible the power which controlled them. Their worst condition was
when they were immediately overshadowed by a territorial magnate.
When their immediate lord was a prince, the area of whose feudal
jurisdiction was more extensive, his rule was less oppressively felt,
and their condition was therefore considerably improved. It was only,
however, when cities were "free of the Empire" (_Reichsfrei_) that they
attained the ideal of mediæval civic freedom.

It follows naturally from the conditions described that there was,
in the first place, a conflict between the primitive inhabitants as
embodied in their corporate society and the territorial lord, whoever
he might be. No sooner had the township acquired a charter of freedom
or certain immunities than a new antagonism showed itself between
the ancient corporation of the city and the trade-guilds, these
representing the later accretions. The territorial lord (if any) now
sided, usually though not always, with the patrician party. But the
guilds, nevertheless, succeeded in ultimately wresting many of the
leading public offices from the exclusive possession of the patrician
families. Meanwhile the leading men of the guilds had become _hommes
arrivés_. They had acquired wealth, and influence which was in many
cases hereditary in their family, and by the beginning of the sixteenth
century they were confronted with the more or less veiled and more or
less open opposition of the smaller guildsmen and of the newest comers
into the city, the shiftless proletariat of serfs and free peasants,
whom economic pressure was fast driving within the walls, but who,
owing to the civic organisation having become crystallised, could no
longer be absorbed into it. To this mass may be added a certain number
of impoverished burghers, who, although nominally within the town
organisation, were oppressed by the wealth of the magnates, plebeian
and patrician.

The number of persons who, owing to the decay, or one might almost say
the collapse, of the strength of the feudal system, were torn from
the old moorings and left to drift about shiftless in a world utterly
unprepared to deal with such an increase of what was practically
vagabondage, was augmenting with every year. The vagrants in all
Western European countries had never been so numerous as in the earlier
part of the sixteenth century. A portion of these disinherited persons
entered the service of kings and princes as mercenary soldiers, and
thus became the first germ of the modern standing army. Another portion
entered the begging profession, which now notably on the Continent
became organised in orthodox and traditional form into guilds, each
of which had its master and other officers. Yet another portion
sought a more or less permanent domicile as journeymen craftsmen and
unskilled labourers in the cities. This fact is noteworthy as the
first indication of the proletariat in modern history. "It will be
seen," says Friedrich Engels,[3] "that the plebeian opposition of the
then towns consisted of very mixed elements. It united the degenerate
components of the old feudal and guild organisation with the as yet
undeveloped and new-born proletarian element of modern bourgeois
society in embryo. Impoverished guildsmen there were, who through
their privileges were still connected with the existing civic order on
the one side, and serving-men out of place who had not as yet become
proletarians on the other. Between the two were the "companions"
(_Gesellen_) for the nonce outside the official society, and in their
position resembling the proletariat as much as was possible in the
then state of industry and under the existing guild-privilege. But,
nevertheless, almost all of them were future guild-masters by virtue of
this very guild-privilege."[4] A noteworthy feature of municipal life
at this time was the difficulty and expense attendant on entry into
the city organisation even for the status of a simple citizen, still
more for that of a guildsman. Within a few decades this had enormously

       *       *       *       *       *

The guild was a characteristic of all mediæval life. On the model
of the village-community, which was originally based on the notion
of kinship, every interest, craft, and group of men formed itself
into a "brotherhood" or "guild". The idea of individual autonomy, of
individual action independent altogether of the community, is a modern
idea which never entered the mediæval mind. As we have above remarked,
even the mendicants and vagabonds could not conceive of adopting
begging as a career except under the auspices of a beggars' guild.
The guild was not like a modern commercial syndicate, an abstract
body united only by the thread of one immediate personal interest,
whose members did not even know each other. His guild-membership
interpenetrated the whole life, religious, convivial, social and
political, of the mediæval man. The guilds were more or less of the
nature of masonic societies, whose concerns were by no means limited
to the mere trade-function that appeared on the surface. "Business"
had not as yet begun to absorb the whole life of men. The craft or
"mystery" was a function intimately interwoven with the whole concrete
social existence. But it is interesting to observe among the symptoms
of transition characterising the sixteenth century, as noted above,
the formation of companies of merchants apart from and outside the old
guild-organisation. These latter really seem a kind of foreshadowing of
the rings, trusts, and joint-stock companies of our own day. Many and
bitter were the complaints of the manner in which prices were forced
up by these earliest examples of the capitalistic syndicate, which
powerfully contributed to the accumulation of wealth at one end of the
scale and to the intensification of poverty at the other.[5]

The rich burgher loved nothing better than to display an ostentatious
profusion of wealth in his house, in his dress, and in his
entertainments. On the clothing and ornamentation of himself and his
family he often squandered what might have been for his ancestor of
the previous century the fortune of a lifetime. Especially was this
the case at the Reichstags and other imperial assemblies held in the
various free cities at which all the three feudal estates of the
Empire were represented. It was the aim of the wealthy councillor or
guild-master on these occasions to outbid the princes of the Empire in
the magnificence of his person and establishment. The prince did not
like to be outdone, and learnt to accustom himself to luxuries, and
thereby to indefinitely increase his own expenditure. The same with all

The knighthood or smaller nobles, no longer content with homely fare,
sought after costly clothing, expensive food and exotic wines, and
to approach the affluent furnishing of the city magnate. His one or
two horses, his armour, his sword and his lance, his homespuns made
almost invariably on his estates, the wine grown in the neighbourhood,
his rough oatmeal bread, the constituents of which had been ground at
his own mill, the venison and wild fowl hunted by himself or by his
few retainers, no longer sufficed for the knight's wants. In order
to compass his new requirements he had to set to work in two ways.
Formerly he had little or no need of money. He received, as he gave,
everything in kind. Now that he had to deal with the beginnings of a
world-market, money was a prime necessity. The first and most obvious
way of getting it was to squeeze the peasant on his estate, who, bitten
by the new mania, had also begun to accumulate and turn into cash the
surplus products of labour on his holding. From what we have before
said of the ways and manners of the knighthood, the reader may well
imagine that he did not hesitate to "tower" the recalcitrant peasant,
as it was called, that is, to throw him into his castle-dungeon if
other means failed to make him disgorge his treasure as soon as it
came to his lord's ears that he had any. But the more ordinary method
of squeezing the peasant was by doubling and trebling the tithes and
other dues, by imposing fresh burdens (many of them utterly unwarranted
by custom) on any or no pretext. The princes, lay and ecclesiastic,
applied the same methods on a more extended scale. These were often
effected in an ingenious manner by the ecclesiastical lords through the
forging of manorial rolls.

The second of the methods spoken of for "raising the wind" was the
mortgaging of castle and lands to the money-lending syndicates of the
towns, or, in the case of the greater princes, to the towns themselves
in their corporate capacity. The Jews also came in for their share of
land-mortgages. There were, in fact, few free or semi-free peasants
whose lands were not more or less hypothecated. Meanwhile prices rose
to an incredible extent in a few years.

Such were the causes and results of the change in domestic life which
the economic evolution of the close of the Middle Ages was now bringing
about amongst all classes.

The ecclesiastical lords, or lords spiritual, differed in no way in
their character and conduct from the temporal princes of the Empire.
In one respect they outdid the princes, namely, in the forgery of
documents, as already mentioned. Luxury had, moreover, owing to the
communication which they had with Rome and thus indirectly with the
Byzantine civilisation, already begun with the prelates in the earlier
Middle Ages. It now burst all bounds. The ecclesiastical courts were
the seat of every kind of debauchery. As we shall see later on, they
also became the places where the new learning first flourished. But
in addition to the general luxury in which the higher ecclesiastics
outdid the lay element of the Empire, there was a special cause which
rendered them obnoxious alike to the peasants, to the towns, and to
their own feudatory nobles. This special cause was the enormous sum
payable to Rome for the Pallium or Investiture, a tax that had to be
raised by the inhabitants of the diocese on every change of archbishop,
bishop, or abbot. In addition thereto the entire income of the first
year after the investiture accrued to the Papal Treasury under the name
of Annates. This constituted a continuous drain on the ecclesiastical
dependencies and indirectly on the whole Empire. There must also be
added the cost of frequent journeys to Rome, where each dignitary
during his residence held court in a style of sumptuous magnificence.
All these expenses tended to drain the resources of the territories
held as spiritual fiefs in a more onerous degree than happened to
other territories. Moreover, the system of the sale of indulgences or
remissions for all sins committed up to date was now being prosecuted
to an extent never heard of before with a view to meet the increased
expenditure of the Papal See, and especially the cost of completing
the cathedral of St. Peter's at Rome. Thus by a sort of voluntary tax
the wealth of Germany was still further transferred to Italy. Hence
can readily be seen the reason of the venomous hatred which among
all classes of the Empire had been gradually accumulating towards
the Papacy for more than a generation, and which ultimately found
expression in Luther's fulminations.

The peasant of the period was of three kinds: the _leibeigener_ or
serf, who was little better than a slave, who cultivated his lord's
domain, upon whom unlimited burdens might be fixed, and who was in all
respects amenable to the will of his lord; the _höriger_ or villein,
whose services were limited alike in kind and amount; and the _freier_
or free peasant, who merely paid what was virtually a quit-rent in kind
or in money for being allowed to retain his holding or status in the
rural community under the protection of the manorial lord. The last was
practically the counterpart of the mediæval English copyholder. The
Germans had undergone essentially the same transformations in social
organisation as the other populations of Europe.

The barbarian nations at the time of their great migration in the
fifth century were organised on a tribal and village basis. The
head man was simply _primus inter pares_. In the course of their
wanderings the successful military leader acquired powers and assumed
a position that was unknown to the previous times, when war, such
as it was, was merely inter-tribal and inter-clannish, and did not
involve the movements of peoples and federations of tribes, and when,
in consequence, the need for permanent military leaders or for the
semblance of a military hierarchy had not arisen. The military leader
now placed himself at the head of the older social organisation, and
associated with his immediate followers on terms approaching equality.
A well-known illustration of this is the incident of the vase taken
from the Cathedral of Rheims, and of Chlodowig's efforts to rescue it
from his independent comrades-in-arms.

The process of the development of the feudal polity of the Middle Ages
is, of course, a very complicated one, owing to the various strands
that go to compose it. In addition to the German tribes themselves,
who moved _en masse_, carrying with them their tribal and village
organisation, under the over-lordship of the various military leaders,
were the indigenous inhabitants amongst whom they settled. The latter
in the country districts, even in many of the territories within
the Roman Empire, still largely retained the primitive communal
organisation. The new-comers, therefore, found in the rural communities
a social system already in existence into which they naturally fitted,
but as an aristocratic body over against the conquered inhabitants. The
latter, though not all reduced to a servile condition, nevertheless
held their land from the conquering body under conditions which
constituted them an order of freemen inferior to the new-comers.

To put the matter briefly, the military leaders developed into barons
and princes, and in some cases the nominal centralisation culminated
as in France and England in the kingly office; while, in Germany and
Italy, it took the form of the revived imperial office, the spiritual
over-lord of the whole of Christendom being the Pope, who had his
vassals in the prince-prelates and subordinate ecclesiastical holders.
In addition to the princes sprung originally from the military
leaders of the migratory nations, there were their free followers, who
developed ultimately into the knighthood or inferior nobility; the
inhabitants of the conquered districts forming a distinct class of
inferior freemen or of serfs. But the essentially personal relation
with which the whole process started soon degenerated into one based
on property. The most primitive form of property--land--was at the
outset what was termed _allodial_, at least among the conquering race,
from every social group having the possession, under the trusteeship
of its head man, of the land on which it settled. Now, owing to the
necessities of the time, owing to the need of protection, to violence
and to religious motives, it passed into the hands of the over-lord,
temporal or spiritual, as his possession; and the inhabitants, even in
the case of populations which had not been actually conquered, became
his vassals, villeins, or serfs, as the case might be. The process by
means of which this was accomplished was more or less gradual; indeed,
the entire extinction of communal rights, whereby the notion of private
ownership is fully realised, was not universally effected even in the
west of Europe till within a measurable distance of our own time.[6]

From the foregoing it will be understood that the oppression of the
peasant, under the feudalism of the Middle Ages, and especially of
the later Middle Ages, was viewed by him as an infringement of his
rights. During the period of time constituting mediæval history the
peasant, though he often slumbered, yet often started up to a sudden
consciousness of his position. The memory of primitive communism was
never quite extinguished, and the continual peasant-revolts of the
Middle Ages, though immediately occasioned, probably, by some fresh
invasion, by which it was sought to tear from the "common man" yet
another shred of his surviving rights, always had in the background
the ideal, vague though it may have been, of his ancient freedom.
Such, undoubtedly, was the meaning of the Jacquerie in France, with
its wild and apparently senseless vengeance; of the Wat Tyler revolt
in England, with its systematic attempt to embody the vague tradition
of the primitive village community in the legends of the current
ecclesiastical creed; of the numerous revolts in Flanders and North
Germany; of the Hussite movement in Bohemia, under Ziska; of the
rebellion led by George Doza in Hungary; and, as we shall see in the
body of the present work, of the social movements of Reformation
Germany, in which, with the partial exception of Ket's rebellion in
England a few years later, we may consider them as coming to an end.

For the movements in question were distinctly the last of their
kind. The civil wars of religion in France, and the great rebellion
in England against Charles the First, which also assumed a religious
colouring, open a new era in popular revolts. In the latter,
particularly, we have clearly before us the attempt of the new
middle class of town and country, the independent citizen, and the
now independent yeoman, to assert its supremacy over the old feudal
estates or orders. The new conditions had swept away the revolutionary
tradition of the mediæval period, whose golden age lay in the past with
its communal-holding and free men with equal rights on the basis of
the village organisation--rights which with every century the peasant
felt more and more slipping away from him. The place of this tradition
was now taken by an ideal of individual freedom, apart from any social
bond, and on a basis merely political, the way for which had been
prepared by that very conception of individual proprietorship on the
part of the landlord, against which the older revolutionary sentiment
had protested. A most powerful instrument in accommodating men's minds
to this change of view, in other words, to the establishment of the
new individualistic principle, was the Roman or Civil law, which,
at the period dealt with in the present book, had become the basis
whereon disputed points were settled in the Imperial Courts. In this
respect also, though to a lesser extent, may be mentioned the Canon or
Ecclesiastical law,--consisting of papal decretals on various points
which were founded partially on the Roman or Civil law,--a juridical
system which also fully and indeed almost exclusively recognised the
individual holding of property as the basis of civil society (albeit
not without a recognition of social duties on the part of the owner).

Learning was now beginning to differentiate itself from the
ecclesiastical profession, and to become a definite vocation in its
various branches. Crowds of students flocked to the seats of learning,
and, as travelling scholars, earned a precarious living by begging or
"professing" medicine, assisting the illiterate for a small fee, or
working wonders, such as casting horoscopes, or performing thaumaturgic
tricks. The professors of law were now the most influential members of
the Imperial Council and of the various Imperial Courts. In Central
Europe, as elsewhere, notably in France, the civil lawyers were
always on the side of the centralising power, alike against the local
jurisdictions and against the peasantry.

The effects of the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and the
consequent dispersion of the accumulated Greek learning of the
Byzantine Empire, had, by the end of the fifteenth century, begun to
show themselves in a notable modification of European culture. The
circle of the seven sciences, the Quadrivium, and the Trivium, in
other words, the mediæval system of learning, began to be antiquated.
Scholastic philosophy, that is to say, the controversy of the Scotists
and the Thomists, was now growing out of date. Plato was extolled at
the expense of Aristotle. Greek, and even Hebrew, was eagerly sought
after. Latin itself was assuming another aspect; the Renaissance Latin
is classical Latin, whilst Mediæval Latin is dog-Latin. The physical
universe now began to be inquired into with a perfectly fresh interest,
but the inquiries were still conducted under the ægis of the old habits
of thought. The universe was still a system of mysterious affinities
and magical powers to the investigator of the Renaissance period, as
it had been before. There was this difference, however: it was now
attempted to _systematise_ the magical theory of the universe. While
the common man held a store of traditional magical beliefs respecting
the natural world, the learned man deduced these beliefs from the
Neo-Platonists, from the Kabbala, from Hermes Trismegistos, and from
a variety of other sources, and attempted to arrange this somewhat
heterogeneous mass of erudite lore into a system of organised thought.

The Humanistic movement, so called, the movement, that is, of revived
classical scholarship, had already begun in Germany before what may be
termed the _sturm und drang_ of the Renaissance proper. Foremost among
the exponents of this older Humanism, which dates from the middle of
the fifteenth century, were Nicholas of Cusa and his disciples, Rudolph
Agricola, Alexander Hegius and Jacob Wimpheling. But the new Humanism
and the new Renaissance movement generally throughout Northern Europe
centred chiefly in two personalities, Johannes Reuchlin and Desiderius
Erasmus. Reuchlin was the founder of the new Hebrew learning, which up
till then had been exclusively confined to the synagogue. It was he who
unlocked the mysteries of the Kabbala to the Gentile world. But though
it is for his introduction of Hebrew study that Reuchlin is best known
to posterity, yet his services in the diffusion and popularisation
of classical culture were enormous. The dispute of Reuchlin with the
ecclesiastical authorities at Cologne excited literary Germany from end
to end. It was the first general skirmish of the new and the old spirit
in Central and Northern Europe. But the man who was destined to become
the personification of the Humanist movement, as the new learning
was called, was Erasmus. The illegitimate son of the daughter of a
Rotterdam burgher, he early became famous on account of his erudition,
in spite of the adverse circumstances of his youth. Like all the
scholars of his time, he passed rapidly from one country to another,
settling finally in Basel, then at the height of its reputation as a
literary and typographical centre. The whole intellectual movement
of the time centres round Erasmus, as is particularly noticeable in
the career of Ulrich von Hutten, dealt with in the course of this
history. As instances of the classicism of the period, we may note the
uniform change of the patronymic into the classical equivalent, or
some classicism supposed to be the equivalent. Thus the name Erasmus
itself was a classicism of his father's name Gerhard, the German name
Muth became Mutianus, Trittheim became Trithemius, Schwarzerd became
Melanchthon, and so on.

We have spoken of the other side of the intellectual movement of
the period. This other side showed itself in mystical attempts at
reducing nature to law in the light of the traditional problems which
had been set, to wit, those of alchemy and astrology: the discovery
of the philosopher's stone, of the transmutation of metals, of the
elixir of life, and of the correspondences between the planets and
terrestrial bodies. Among the most prominent exponents of these
investigations may be mentioned Philippe von Hohenheim or Paracelsus,
and Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, in Germany, Nostradamus, in
France, and Cardanus, in Italy. These men represented a tendency which
was pursued by thousands in the learned world. It was a tendency
which had the honour of being the last in history to embody itself in
a distinct mythical cycle. "Doctor Faustus" may probably have had a
historical germ; but in any case "Doctor Faustus," as known to legend
and to literature, is merely a personification of the practical side
of the new learning. The minds of men were waking up to interest in
nature. There was one man, Copernicus, who, at least partially, struck
through the traditionary atmosphere in which nature was enveloped,
and to his insight we owe the foundation of astronomical science; but
otherwise the whole intellectual atmosphere was charged with occult
views. In fact, the learned world of the sixteenth century would have
found itself quite at home in the pretensions and fancies of our
_fin de siècle_ theosophists, with their notions of making miracles
non-miraculous, of reducing the marvellous to being merely the result
of penetration on the part of certain seers and investigators of the
secret powers of nature. Every wonder-worker was received with open
arms by learned and unlearned alike. The possibility of producing
that which was out of the ordinary range of natural occurrences was
not seriously doubted by any. Spells and enchantments, conjurations,
calculations of nativities, were matters earnestly investigated at
universities and courts. There were, of course, persons who were
eager to detect impostors: and amongst them some of the most zealous
votaries of the occult arts--for example, Trittheim and the learned
Humanist, Conrad Muth or Mutianus, both of whom professed to have
regarded Faust as a fraud. But this did not imply any disbelief in the
possibility of the alleged pretensions. In the Faust-myth is embodied,
moreover, the opposition between the new learning on its physical side
and the old religious faith. The theory that the investigation of the
mysteries of nature had in it something sinister and diabolical which
had been latent throughout the Middle Ages was brought into especial
prominence by the new religious movements. The popular feeling that
the line between natural magic and the black art was somewhat doubtful,
that the one had a tendency to shade off into the other, now received
fresh stimulus. The notion of compacts with the devil was a familiar
one, and that it should be resorted to for the purpose of acquiring an
acquaintance with hidden lore and magical powers seemed quite natural.

It will have already been seen from what we have said that the
religious revolt was largely economical in its causes. The intense
hatred, common alike to the smaller nobility, the burghers and the
peasants, of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, was obviously due to
its ever-increasing exactions. The sudden increase in the sale of
indulgences, like the proverbial last straw, broke down the whole
system; but any other incident might have served the purpose equally
well. The prince-prelates were, in some instances, at the outset, not
averse to the movement; they would not have been indisposed to have
converted their territories into secular fiefs of the Empire. It was
only after this hope had been abandoned that they definitely took sides
with the Papal authority.

The opening of the sixteenth century thus presents to us mediæval
society, social, political and religious, "run to seed". The feudal
organisation was outwardly intact; the peasant, free and bond, formed
the foundation; above him came the knighthood or inferior nobility;
parallel with them was the _Ehrbarkeit_ of the less important towns,
holding from mediate lordship; above these towns came the free cities,
which held immediately from the Empire, organised into three bodies,
a governing Council in which the _Ehrbarkeit_ usually predominated,
where they did not entirely compose it, a Common Council composed of
the masters of the various guilds, and the General Council of the free
citizens. Those journeymen, whose condition was fixed from their being
outside the guild-organisations, usually had guilds of their own.
Above the free cities in the social pyramid stood the Princes of the
Empire, lay and ecclesiastic, with the Electoral College, or the seven
Electoral Princes, forming their head. These constituted the feudal
"estates" of the Empire. Then came the King of the Romans; and, as the
apex of the whole, the Pope in one function and the Emperor in another
crowned the edifice. The supremacy, not merely of the Pope, but of the
complementary temporal head of the mediæval polity, the Emperor, was
acknowledged in a shadowy way, even in countries such as France and
England, which had no direct connection with the Empire. For, as the
spiritual power was also temporal, so the temporal political power had,
like everything else in the Middle Ages, a quasi-religious significance.

The minds of men in speculative matters, in theology, in philosophy,
and in jurisprudence, were outgrowing the old doctrines, at least in
their old forms. In theology the notion of salvation by the faith of
the individual, and not through the fact of belonging to a corporate
organisation, which was the mediæval conception, was latent in the
minds of multitudes of religious persons before expression was given
to it by Luther. The aversion to scholasticism, bred by the revived
knowledge of the older Greek philosophies in the original, produced a
curious amalgam; but scholastic habits of thought were still dominant
through it all. The new theories of nature amounted to little more
than old superstitions, systematised and reduced to rule, though
here and there the later physical science, based on observation and
experiment, peeped through. In jurisprudence the epoch is marked by the
final conquest of the Roman civil law in its spirit, where not in its
forms, over the old customs, pre-feudal and feudal. This motley world
of decayed knights, lavish princes, oppressed and rebellious peasants,
turbulent townsmen, licentious monks and friars, mendicant scholars and
hireling soldiers, is the world some of whose least-known aspects we
are about to consider in the following pages.


[1] We are here, of course, dealing more especially with
Germany; but substantially the same course was followed in the
development of municipalities in other parts of Europe.

[2] _Einleitung_, pp. 255, 256.

[3] _Der Bauernkrieg_, p. 31.

[4] The three grades in the craft-guilds were those of
apprentice, companion, and master. Every guildsman was supposed to pass
through them.

[5] See Appendix A.

[6] _Cf._ Von Maurer's _Einleitung zur Geschichte
der Mark-Verfassung_; Gomme's _Village Communities_; Stubbs'
_Constitutional History_.



The echoes of the Hussite movement in Bohemia spread far and wide
through Central Europe at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It
was not in vain that Ziska bequeathed his skin for the purposes of
a drum, since the echoes of its beating made themselves heard for
many a year in Bohemia and throughout Central Europe. The disciples
of the movement settled in different countries, and became centres
of propaganda, and the movement attached itself to the peasants'
discontent. Amid the various stirrings that took place, there are one
or two that may arrest our attention owing to their importance and
their typical character.

It was in the year 1476, when Rudolph of Scherenberg occupied the
Episcopal See of Würzburg, that a cowherd, named Hans Boheim, of the
neighbouring village of Niklashausen, who was accustomed to pipe and
to drum at local festivities, at places on the banks of the little
stream called the Tauber, was suddenly seized with an inspiration of
preaching for the conversion of his neighbours from their sins. It
appeared to him that his life had been hitherto sinful; he gave up all
participation in village feasts, he became a dreamer, and announced
that he had had visions of the Virgin. In the middle of Lent he
proclaimed that he had been given a divine mission from the Mother of
God herself to burn his pipe and drum and to devote himself entirely
to preaching the Gospel to the common man. All were to abandon their
former way of life, were to lay aside all personal ornament, and in
humble attire to perform pilgrimages to Niklashausen, and there worship
the Virgin as they esteemed their souls' salvation. In all this there
was nothing very alarming to the authorities. Peasantly inspirations
were by no means unknown in the Middle Ages; but the matter assumed
another aspect when the new seer, Hans Pfeifferlein, or "the little
piper" as he was nicknamed, announced that the Queen of Heaven had
revealed to him that there should henceforth be neither Emperor, Pope,
Prince, nor any lay or spiritual authority; but that all men should
be brothers, earning their bread by the sweat of their brows, and
sharing alike in all things. There were to be no more imposts or dues;
land, woods, pastures, and water were to be free. The new Gospel struck
root immediately. The peasant folk streamed to Niklashausen, from all
sides,--men and women, young and old, journeymen, lads from the plough,
girls from the fields, their sickles in their hands, without leave of
lord or master, and without preparation of any sort whatever. Food and
the necessary clothing and shelter were given them by those on the way
who had already embraced the new Kingdom of God. The universal greeting
among the pilgrims was "brother" and "sister".

This went on for some months, the young prophet choosing chiefly
Sundays and holidays for his harangues. Ignorant even of writing, he
was backed by the priest of Niklashausen, and by perhaps two or three
other influential persons. Many were the offerings brought to the
Niklashausen shrine. Well nigh all who journeyed thither left some
token behind, were it only a rough peasant's cap or a wax candle.
Those who could afford it gave costly clothes and jewellery. The
proclamation of universal equality was indeed a Gospel that appealed
to the common man; the resumption of their old rights, the release from
every form of oppression, as a proclamation from heaven itself, were
tidings to him of great joy. The prophetic youth was hailed by all as
the new Messiah. After each week's sermon he invited the congregation
to return next week with redoubled numbers; and his commands were
invariably obeyed. Men, women and children fell on their knees before
him, crying: "Oh, man of God, sent from heaven, have mercy on us
and pity us". They tore the wool threads from his shaggy sheepskin
cap, regarding them as sacred relics. The priests of the surrounding
districts averred that he was a sorcerer and devil-possessed, and that
a wizard had appeared to him, clad in white, in the form of the Virgin,
and had instilled into him the pernicious doctrines he was preaching.
In all the surrounding country his miracles were talked about. The
Bishops of Mainz and Würzburg and the Council of Nürnberg forbade
their villeins, under heavy penalties, from making the pilgrimage to
Niklashausen. But the effect of such measures only lasted for a short

Finally, on the Sunday before the day of Saint Kilian, Hans Boheim,
on the conclusion of his discourse, invited his hearers, as usual, to
come on the next occasion. This time, however, he ordered men only
to appear, but with arms and ammunition; women and children were to
be left at home. No sooner did the tidings of this turn of affairs
reach the ears of the Bishop at Würzburg than the latter resolved to
forestall the movement. He sent thirty-four mounted men-at-arms after
nightfall to Niklashausen; they burst upon the sleeping youth, tore
him from the house where he lay, and hurried him to Würzburg, bound
on horseback. But as it was near the end of the week, 4000 pilgrims
had already arrived at Niklashausen, and, on hearing the news of the
attack, they hurried after the marauders, and caught them up close
by the Castle of Würzburg. One of the knights was wounded, but his
comrades succeeded in carrying him within the walls. The peasants
failed to effect the intended rescue. By the Sunday, 34,000 peasants
had assembled at Niklashausen; but the report of the capture of Boheim
had a depressing effect, and several thousands returned home. There
were nevertheless some among the bands who, instigated probably by
Boheim's friend, the parish priest of Niklashausen, endeavoured to
rally the remaining multitude and incite them to a new attempt at
rescue. One of them alleged that the Holy Trinity had appeared to him,
and commanded that they should proceed with their pilgrim candles in
their hands to the Castle of Würzburg, that the doors would open of
themselves, and that their prophet would walk out to greet them. About
16,000 followed these leaders, marching many hours through the night,
and arriving early next morning at the castle with flaming candles,
and armed with the roughest weapons. Kunz von Thunfeld, a decayed
knight, and Michael, his son, constituted themselves the leaders of the
motley band. The marshal of the castle received them, demanding their
pleasure. "We require the holy youth," said the peasants. "Surrender
him to us, and all will be well; refuse, and we will use force." On
the marshal's hesitating in his answer, he was greeted with a shower
of stones, which drove him to seek safety within the walls. The bishop
opened fire on the peasants, but after a short time sent one of his
knights to announce that the cause of their preacher would be duly
considered at a proper time and place, conjuring them at the same time
to depart immediately in accordance with their vows. By cajolery and
threats he succeeded in his object; the bands raised the siege of the
castle, and dispersed homewards in straggling parties. The ruffianly
scoundrel no sooner observed that the unsuspecting peasants were
quietly wending their way home in small bodies, without a thought of
hostilities, than he ordered his knights to pursue them, to attack
them in the rear, and to murder or capture the ringleaders. The poor
people, nevertheless, defended themselves with courage against this
cowardly onslaught; twelve of them were left dead on the spot; many
of the remainder sought shelter in the church of the neighbouring
village. Threatened there with fire and sword, they surrendered, and
were brought back to Würzburg and thrown into the dungeons of the
castle. The majority were liberated before long; but the peasant who
was alleged to have received the vision of the Holy Trinity, as well
as he who had wounded the knight on the occasion of the attempt at
rescue a few days before, were detained in prison, and on the following
Friday were beheaded outside the castle. Hans Boheim was at the same
time burned to ashes. The leader of the revolt, Kunz von Thunfeld, a
feudatory of the bishop, fled the territory, and was only allowed to
return on his formally surrendering his lands in perpetuity to the
bishopric. Such was the history of a movement that may be reckoned as
one of the more direct forerunners of the peasants' war.

In the years 1491 and 1492 occurred the rising of the oppressed and
plundered villeins of the Abbot of Kempten. The ecclesiastics on this
domain had exhausted every possible means of injuring the unfortunate
peasants, and numbers of free villeins had been converted into serfs by
means of forged documents. The immediate cause of the revolt, however,
was the seizure, by the abbot, of the stock of wine of a peasant
who had just died, in addition to the horse which he was empowered
to claim. An onslaught was made by the infuriated peasants on the
monastery, and the abbot had to retire to his stronghold, the Castle of
Liebenthann, hard by. The Emperor ultimately intervened, and effected
a compromise. But the first organised peasant movement took place in
Elsass[7] in 1493, and comprised burghers as well as peasants among
its numbers. They were for the most part feudatories of the Bishop of
Strassburg. By devious paths the members of this secret organisation
were wont to betake themselves to the hill of Hungerberg, north-west
of the little town of Schlettstadt. The ostensible objects of the
association were complete freedom for the common man, reformation
of the Church in the sense that no priest should have more than one
benefice, the introduction of a year of jubilee, in which all debts
should be abolished, the extinction of all tithes, dues and other
burdens, and the abolition of the spiritual courts and the territorial
juridical court at Rothweil. A _Judenhetze_ also appears amongst the
articles. The leader of this movement was one Jacob Wimpfeling. The
programme and plan of action was to seize the town of Schlettstadt,
to plunder the monastery there, and then by forced marches to spread
themselves over all Elsass, surprising one town after another.

It would seem that this was the first peasant movement that received
the name of _Bundschuh_, and the almost superstitious importance
attached to the sign of this kind emblazoned on the flag is
characteristic of the Middle Ages. The banner was the result of careful
deliberations, and the final decision was that as the knight was
distinguished by his spurs, so the peasant rising to obtain justice for
his class should take as his emblem the common shoe he was accustomed
to wear, laced from the ankle up to the knee with leathern thongs. They
fondly hoped that the moment this banner was displayed, all capable of
fighting would flock to the standard, from the villages and smaller

Just as all was prepared for the projected stroke, the _Bundschuh_
shared the common fate of similar movements, and was betrayed; and this
in spite of the terrible threats that were held out to all joining, in
the event of their turning traitors. It must be admitted that there was
much folly in the manner in which many persons were enrolled, and this
may have led to the speedy betrayal. Everybody who was suspected of
having an inkling of the movement was forced to swear allegiance to the
secret league. Immediately on the betrayal, bodies of knights scoured
the country, mercilessly seizing all suspected of belonging to the
conspiracy, and dragging them to the nearest tribunal, where they were
tortured and finally quartered alive or hung. Many of the fugitives
succeeded in taking refuge in Switzerland, where they seem to have been
kindly welcomed. But the _Bundschuh_ only slept, it was by no means

In the year 1502, nine years later, the bishopric of _Speyer_, the
court of which was noted for its extravagance and tyranny, had to face
another _Bundschuh_. This second movement had able men at its head,
and extended over well nigh all the regions of the Upper and Middle
Rhine. It similarly took the nature of a conspiracy, rather than of
an open rebellion. Within a few weeks, 7000 men and 400 women had
been sworn into the league, from a large number of villages, hamlets
and small towns, for the larger towns were purposely left out, the
movement being essentially a peasant one. The village and _mark_ of
Untergrünbach was its centre. Its object and aim was nothing less
than the complete overthrow of the existing ecclesiastical and feudal
organisation of the Empire. The articles of the association declared:
"We have joined ourselves together in order that we may be free. We
will free ourselves with arms in our hands, for we would be as the
Swiss. We will root out and abolish all authorities and lordships
from the land, and march against them with the force of our host and
with well-armed hand under our banner. And all who do not honour and
acknowledge us shall be killed. The princes and nobles broken and done
with, we will storm the clergy in their foundations and abbeys. We will
overpower them, and hunt out and kill all priests and monks together."
The property of the clergy and the nobles was to be seized and divided;
as in the former case, all feudal dues were to be abolished, the
primitive communism in the use of the land, and of what was on it, was
to be resumed. The pass-word, by means of which the members of the
organisation were known to one another, was the answer to the question:

"How fares it?" The question and answer were in the form of a rhyme:--

    "Loset! Was ist nun für ein Wesen?"
    "Wir mögen vor Pfaffen und Adel nit genesen."

This may be paraphrased as follows:--

    "Well, now! And how doth it fare?"
    "Of priests and of nobles we've enough and to spare."

The idea was to rise at the opportune moment, as the Swiss had done,
to free themselves of all intermediate lordship, and to recognise
no master below the King of the Romans and the Emperor. "Nought but
the justice of God" was the motto of their flag, and their colours
were white and blue. Before the figure of a crucifix a peasant knelt,
and below was depicted a great _Bundschuh_, the sign which had now
become established as the symbol of the peasants' movements. With
consummate tact, the leaders of the revolt forbade any members to go
to confession, and it was the disregard of this order that led to the
betrayal of the cause. A peasant in confession revealed the secret to a
priest, who in his turn revealed it to the authorities. Ecclesiastics,
princes, and nobles at once took their measures. The most barbarous
persecution and punishment of all suspected of having been engaged in
the _Bundschuh_ conspiracy followed. Those concerned had their property
confiscated, their wives and children were driven from the country,
and they themselves were in many cases quartered alive; the more
prominent men, by a refinement of cruelty, being dragged to the place
of execution tied to a horse's tail. A tremendous panic seized all the
privileged classes, from the Emperor to the knight. They earnestly
discussed the situation in no less than three separate assemblies of
the estates. Large numbers of those involved in this second _Bundschuh_
managed to escape, owing to the pluck and loyalty of the peasants. A
few bands were hastily got together, and, although quite insufficient
to effect a successful revolt, they were able to keep the knightly
warriors and _landesknechte_ at bay at certain critical points, so as
to give the men who had really been the life and intelligence of the
movement time to escape into Switzerland or into other territories
where they were unknown. In some cases the secret was so well kept that
the local organisers remained unnoticed even in their own villages.

For ten years after the collapse of the second _Bundschuh_ in the
Rhenish district, the peasants remained quiet. It was not till 1512
that things began again to stir. One of the leaders, who had escaped
notice on the suppression of the former conspiracy, was Joss Fritz.
He was himself a native of Untergrünbach, which had been its seat. He
there acted as _Bannwart_ or ranger of the district lands. For nearly
ten years Joss wandered about from country to country, but amid all his
struggles for existence he never forgot the _Bundschuh_. Joss was a
handsome man, of taking and even superior manners. He was very careful
in his dress, sometimes apparelling himself in black jerkin with white
hose, sometimes in red with yellow hose, sometimes in drab with green
hose. He would seem to have been at one time a _landesknecht_, and
had certainly taken part in various campaigns in a military capacity.
Whether it was from his martial bearing or the engaging nature of his
personality, it is evident that Joss Fritz was in his way a born leader
of men. About 1512 Joss settled down in a village called Lehen, a few
miles from the town of Freiburg, in Breisgau. Here he again obtained
the position of _Bannwart_, and here he began to seriously gather
together the scattered threads of the old movement, and to collect
recruits. He went to work cautiously; first of all confining himself
to general complaints of the degeneracy of the times in the village
tavern, or before the doors of the cottagers on summer evenings. He
soon became the centre of an admiring group of swains, who looked up
to him as the much-travelled man of the world, who eagerly sought his
conversation, and who followed his counsel in their personal affairs.

As Joss saw that he was obtaining the confidence of his neighbours,
his denunciations of the evils of the time grew more earnest and
impassioned. At the same time he threw out hints as to the ultimate
outcome of the existing state of things. But it was only after many
months that he ventured to broach the real purpose of his life. One
day when they were all assembled round him, he hinted that he might
be able to tell them something to their advantage, would they but
pledge themselves to secrecy. He then took each individually, and after
calming the man's conscience with the assurance that the proposal for
which he claimed strict secrecy was an honourable one, he expounded
his plan of an organisation of all the oppressed, an undertaking which
he claimed to be in full accord with Holy Writ. He never insisted upon
an immediate adhesion, but preferred to leave his man to think the
matter over.

Joss would sometimes visit his neighbours in their houses, explaining
to them how all ancient custom, right and tradition was being broken
through to gratify the rapacity of the ruling classes. He put forward
as the objects of the undertaking the suppression of the payment of
interest after it had amounted to an equivalent of the original sum
lent; also that no one was to be required to give more than one day's
service per year to his lord. "We will," he declared, "govern ourselves
according to our old rights and traditions, of which we have been
forcibly and wrongfully deprived by our masters. Thou knowest well,"
he would continue, "how long we have been laying our claims before the
Austrian Government at Ensisheim."[8]

From speaking of small grievances, Joss was gradually led to develop his
scheme for the overthrow of feudalism, and for the establishment of
what was tantamount to primitive conditions. At the same time he gave
his hearers a rendezvous at a certain hour of eventide in a meadow,
called the _Hardmatte_, which lay outside the village, and skirted a
wood. The stillness of the hour, broken only by the sounds of nature
hushing herself to rest for the night, was, at the time appointed,
invaded by the eager talk of groups of villagers. All his little
company assembled, Joss Fritz here, for the first time, fully developed
his schemes. In future, said he, we must see that we have no other
lords than God, the Pope, and the Emperor; the Court at Rothweil, he
said, must be abolished; each must be able to obtain justice in his
native village, and no churchman must be allowed to hold more than
one benefice; the superfluity of the monasteries must be distributed
amongst the poor; the dues and imposts with which the peasants are
burdened must be removed; a permanent peace must be established
throughout Christendom, as the perpetual feuds of the nobles meant
destruction and misery for the peasants; finally, the primitive
communism in woods, pasture, water, and the chase must be restored.

Joss Fritz's proposals struck a sympathetic chord in the hearts of his
hearers. It was only when he wound up by insisting upon the necessity
of forming a new _Bundschuh_ that some few of them hung back and went
to obtain the advice of the village priest on the matter. Father John
(such was his name) was, however, in full accord in his ideas with
Joss, and answered that the proposals were indeed a godly thing, the
success of which was foretold in the Scriptures themselves.

The meetings on the _Hardmatte_ led to the formation of a kind of
committee, composed of those who were most devoted to the cause. These
were Augustin Enderlin, Kilian Mayer, Hans Freuder, Hans and Karius
Heitz, Peter Stublin, Jacob Hauser, Hans Hummel--Hummel hailed from the
neighbourhood of Stuttgart--and Hieronymus, who was also a stranger, a
journeyman baker working at the mill of Lehen, who had travelled far,
and had acquired a considerable fund of oratory. All these men were
untiring in their exertions to obtain recruits for the new movement.
After having prepared the latter's minds, they handed over the
new-comers to Joss for deeper initiation, if he thought fit. It was not
in crusades and pilgrimages he taught them, but in the _Bundschuh_ that
the "holy sepulchre" was to be obtained. The true "holy sepulchre" was
to be found, namely, in the too long buried liberties of the people.
The new _Bundschuh_, he maintained, had ramifications extending as far
as Cologne, and embracing members from all orders.

Joss Fritz had indeed before coming to Lehen travelled through the
Black Forest and the district of Speyer, in the attempt, by no means
altogether unsuccessful, to reunite the crushed and scattered branches
of the old _Bundschuh_. Among the friends he had made in this way was a
poor knight of the name of Stoffel, of Freiburg. The latter travelled
incessantly in the cause; he was always carefully dressed, and usually
rode on a white horse. The missionaries of the _Bundschuh_, under the
direction of Joss Fritz, assumed many different characters; now they
were peasants, now townsmen, now decayed knights, according to the
localities they visited. The organisation of the movement was carried
out on lines which have been since reproduced in the Fenian rising. It
was arranged in "circles," the members of which knew one another, but
not those outside the "circle". Even the beggars' guild was pressed
into the service, and very useful adjuncts the beggars were, owing to
their nomadic habits. The heads of the "circles" communicated with
each other at intervals as to the number of recruits and as to the
morale of their members. They compared notes with the two leaders
of the movement, Joss and his friend Stoffel, both of whom rode
constantly from place to place to keep their workers up to the mark.
The muster-roll would be held on these occasions, as at Lehen itself,
after dark, and in some woodland glade, near the village. The village
taverns, generally the kitchens of some better-to-do peasant, were
naturally among the best recruiting grounds, and the hosts themselves
were often heads of "circles". Strange and picturesque must have been
these meetings after nightfall, when the members of the "circle" came
together, the peasants in their plain blue or grey cloth and buff
leather, the leaders in what to us seem the fantastic costumes of
the period, red stockings, trunk-hose and doublet slashed with bright
yellow, or the whole dress of yellow slashed with black, the slouch
hat, with ostrich feather, surmounting the whole; the short sword for
the leaders, and a hoe or other agricultural implement for the peasant,
constituted the arms of the company.

There was a visible sign by which the brethren recognised each other:
it was a sign in the form of the letter H, of black stuff in a red
field, sewn on to the breast-cloth. There appears also to have been
another sign which certain of the members bore instead of the above;
this consisted of three cross slits or slashes in the stuff of the
right sleeve. This _Bundschuh_, like the previous one in Untergrünbach,
had its countersign, which, to the credit of all concerned, be it said,
was never revealed, and is not known to this day. The new _Bundschuh_
was now thoroughly organised with all its officers, none of whom
received money for their services.

The articles of association drawn up were the result of many nightly
meetings on the _Hardmatte_, and embodied the main points insisted
upon by Joss in his exhortations to the peasants. They included the
abolition of all feudal powers. God, the Pope, and the Emperor were
alone to be recognised as having authority. The Court at Rothweil
and all the ecclesiastical courts were to be abolished, and justice
relegated to the village council as of old. The interest payable on the
debts of the mortgaged holdings of the peasants was to be discontinued.
Fishing, hunting, woods and pasture were to be free to all. The
clergy were to be limited to one benefice apiece. The monasteries and
ecclesiastical foundations were to be curtailed, and their superfluous
property confiscated. All feudal dues were to cease.

The strange and almost totemistic superstition that the mediæval mind
attached to symbolism is here evinced by the paramount importance
acquired by the question of the banner. A banner was costly, and the
_Bundschuh_ was poor, but the banner was the first necessity of every
movement. In this case, it was obligatory that the banner should have
a _Bundschuh_ inscribed upon it. Artists of that time objected to
painting _Bundschuhs_ on banners; they were afraid to be compromised.
Hence it was, above all things, necessary to have plenty of money
wherewith to bribe some painter. Kilian Mayer gave five vats of wine
to a baker, also one of the brotherhood, in Freiburg, to be sold in
that town. The proceeds were brought to Joss as a contribution to
the banner fund. Many another did similarly; some of those who met
on the _Hardmatte_, however, objected to this tax. But ultimately
Joss managed, by hook or by crook, to scrape together what was deemed
needful. Joss then called upon a "brother" from a distant part of the
country, one known to no one in Freiburg, to repair to the latter
city and hunt up a painter. The "brother" was in a state of dire
apprehension, and went to the house of the painter Friedrich, but at
first appeared not to know for what he had come. With much hesitation,
he eventually gasped out that he wanted a _Bundschuh_ painted.
Friedrich did not at all like the proposal, and kicked the unfortunate
peasant into the street, telling him not to come in future with such
questionable orders. The artist instantly informed the Town Council of
Freiburg of the occurrence; but as the latter did not know whence the
mysterious personage had come, nor whither he had gone, they had to
leave the matter in abeyance. They issued orders, however, for all true
and faithful burghers to be on the look-out for further traces of the

After this failure, Joss bethought him that he had better take the
matter in hand himself. Now, there was another artist of Freiburg, by
name Theodosius, who was just then painting frescoes in the church at
Lehen; to him Joss went one evening with Hans Enderlin, a person of
authority in the village, and Kilian Mayer. They invited him to the
house of one of the party, and emptied many a measure of wine. When
they had all drunk their fill, they went to walk in the garden, just as
the stars were beginning to come out. Joss now approached the painter
with his project. He told him that there was a stranger in the village
who wanted a small banner painted and had asked him (Joss) to demand
the cost. Theodosius showed himself amenable as regards this point, but
wanted to know what was to be the device on the banner. Directly Joss
mentioned the word _Bundschuh_, the worthy painter gave a start, and
swore that not for the wealth of the Holy Roman Empire itself would he
undertake such a business. They all saw that it was no use pressing him
any further, and so contented themselves with threatening him with dire
consequences should he divulge the conversation that he had had with
them. Hans Enderlin also reminded him that he had already taken an oath
of secrecy in all matters relating to the village, on his engagement to
do church work, a circumstance that curiously enough illustrates the
conditions of mediæval life. The painter, fearful of not receiving his
pay for the church work, if nothing worse, prudently kept silent.

Joss was at his wits' end. The silk of the flag was already bought, and
even sewn; blue, with a white cross in the middle, were the colours;
but to begin operations before the sign of the _Bundschuh_ was painted,
entered into the head of no one. In accordance with the current belief
in magic, the symbol itself was supposed to possess a virtue, without
the aid of which it was impossible to hope for success. There was
nothing left for it but for Joss to start on a journey to the free city
of Heilbronn in Swabia, where he knew there lived a painter of some
ability. Arrived there, Joss dissembled his real object, pretending
that he was a Swiss, who, when fighting in a great battle, had made a
vow that if he came out safe and sound, he would undertake a pilgrimage
to Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), and there dedicate a banner to the mother
of God. He begged the painter to make a suitable design for him,
with a crucifix, the Virgin and St. John the Baptist, and underneath
a _Bundschuh_. The Heilbronn artist was staggered at the latter
suggestion, and asked what he meant. Joss appeared quite innocent, and
said that he was a shoemaker's son from Stein-am-Rhein, that his father
had a _Bundschuh_ as his trade-sign, and in order that it might be
known that the gift was from him, he wished his family emblem to appear
upon it. Round the flag were to be the words: "Lord, defend Thy Divine
justice". These representations overcame the painter's scruples, and in
a few days the banner was finished. Hiding it under his doublet, Joss
hurried back to Lehen.

At last all was ready for the great coup. The _Kirchweihe_ (or village
festival, held every year on the name-day of the patron saint of a
village church) was being held at a neighbouring village on the
19th of October. This was the date fixed for a final general meeting
of the conspirators to determine the plan of attack and to decide
whether Freiburg should be its object, or some smaller town in the
neighbourhood. The confederates in Elsass were ordered, as soon as the
standard of revolt was raised in Breisgau (Baden), to move across the
Rhine to Burkheim, where the banner of the league would be flying.
Special instructions were given to the beggars to spy round the
towns and in all inns and alehouses, and to bring reports to Lehen.
Arrangements were also made for securing at least one or two adherents
in each of the guilds in Freiburg. All these orders were carried out
in accordance with the directions made by Joss before his departure.
But whilst he was away the members lost their heads. When too late
they bethought themselves to win over an old experienced warrior who
lived in Freiburg, a cousin of one of the chief conspirators at Lehen.
Had they done so earlier it is likely enough that he would have been
able to secure them possession of the city. As it happened, things
were managed too hurriedly. Before matters were ripe the chief men
grew careless of all precautions, so confident were they of success.
One of the conspirators within the city set fire to a stable with
a view to creating a panic, in the course of which the keys of the
city gates might be stolen and the leaguers admitted. The attempt,
however, was discovered before the fire gained any hold, and merely
put the authorities on the alert. Again, three members of the league
seized upon a peasant a short distance from the city, dragged him
into a neighbouring wood, and made him swear allegiance. After he had
done this under compulsion they exposed to him their intentions as
to Freiburg. The peasant proving recalcitrant, even to the extent of
expressing horror at the proposal, the three drew their knives upon
him, and would have murdered him when the sound of horses was heard on
the high road close by, and, struck with panic, they let him go and
hid themselves in the recesses of the wood. The peasant, of course,
revealed all to his confessor the same evening, and wanted to know
whether the oath he had taken under compulsion was binding on him.
The priest put himself at once in communication with the Imperial
Commissary of Freiburg, who made the City Corporation acquainted
with the facts. Two other traitors a few days after came to the
assistance of the authorities, and revealed many important secrets.
Count Philip of Baden, their over-lord, to whom these disclosures were
made, was not long in placing them at the disposal of the Corporation
of Freiburg and of the Austrian Government at Ensisheim. Late the
following night, October 4, messengers were sent in all directions to
warn the authorities of the neighbouring villages and towns to prepare
themselves for the outbreak of the conspiracy. Double watches were
placed at the gates of Freiburg and on all the towers of the walls. The
guilds were called together, and their members instructed to wake each
other up immediately on the sound of the storm-bell, when they were
all to meet in the cathedral close. The moment that these preparations
were known at Lehen, a meeting was called together on the _Hardmatte_
at vespers; but in the absence of Joss Fritz, and, as ill-luck would
have it, in that also of one or two of the best organisers who were
away on business of the league, divided counsels prevailed. In the
very midst of all this, two hundred citizens of Freiburg armed to the
teeth appeared in Lehen, seized Hans Enderlin and his son, as also
Elsa, the woman with whom Joss had been living, besides other leading
men of the movement. Panic now reigned amongst all concerned. Well
nigh every one took to flight, most of them succeeding in crossing
the frontier to Switzerland. The news of the collapse of the movement
apparently reached Joss before he arrived in Lehen, as there is no
evidence of his having returned there. Many of the conspirators met
together in Basel, amongst them being Joss Fritz with his banner.
They decided to seek an asylum in Zürich. But they were fallen upon
on the way, and two were made prisoners, the rest, among them Joss,
escaping. Those of the conspirators who were taken prisoners behaved
heroically; not the most severe tortures could induce them to reveal
anything of importance. As a consequence, comparatively few of those
compromised fell victims to the vengeance of their noble and clerical
enemies. In Elsass they were not so fortunate as in Baden, many persons
being executed on suspicion. The Imperial Councillor Rudolph was
even sent into Switzerland to demand the surrender of the fugitives,
and two were given up by Schaffhausen. Joss's mistress was liberated
after three weeks, and she was suspected of having harboured him at
different times afterwards. The last distinct traces of him are to be
found in the Black Forest ten years later, during the great rising;
but they are slight, and merely indicate his having taken a part in
this movement. Thus this interesting personality disappears from human
ken. Did the energetic and enthusiastic peasant leader fall a victim
to noble vengeance in 1525, or did he withdraw from public life to a
tranquil old age in some obscure village of Southern Germany? These are
questions which we shall now, it is probable, never be able to answer.

At the same time that the foregoing events were taking place there
was a considerable ferment in Switzerland. Increase of luxury was
beginning to tell there also. The simple cloth or sheepskin of the old
_Eidgenosse_ was now frequently replaced, in the towns especially,
by French and Italian dresses, by doublets of scarlet silk, by
ostrich feathers, and even by cloth of gold. In the cities domestic
architecture began to take on the sumptuousness of the Renaissance
style. The coquettish alliance with Louis XI. in the preceding century
had already opened a way for the introduction of French customs.
Gambling for high stakes became the fashionable amusement in town and
country alike. The story of Hans Waldmann, although belonging to a
period some years earlier than that of this history, illustrates a
decline from the primitive simplicity of the ancient Switzer, a decline
which had become infinitely more accentuated and general at the time
of which we treat. All this led, of course, to harder conditions for
the peasants, which, in the summer of 1513, issued in several minor
revolts. In some cases, notably in that of the peasants of Canton Bern,
the issue was favourable to the insurgents.

In the neighbouring country of Würtemberg an insurrection also burst
forth. It is supposed to have had some connection with the _Bundschuh_
movement at Lehen; but it took the name of "The Poor Conrad". It was
immediately occasioned by the oppression of Duke Ulrich of Würtemberg,
who, to cover the expenses of his luxurious court, was burdening the
peasants with ever-fresh exactions. He had already made debts to the
extent of a million gulden. The towns, no less than the peasantry,
were indignant at the rapacity and insolence of the minions of this
potentate. First, an income-tax was imposed without the concurrence of
the estates, which should have been consulted. Next, an impost was laid
on the daily consumption of meal and wine. The butchers and millers
and vintners were then allowed to falsify their weights and measures,
on the condition that the greater part of their increased profits
went to the duke. "The Poor Conrad" demanded the removal of all these
abuses; and, in addition, the freedom of the chase, of fishery and
of wood-cutting, and the abolition of villein service. In the towns
the poorer citizens, including both guildsmen and journeymen, were
prepared to seize the opportunity of getting rid of their _Ehrbarkeit_.
This movement was also, like the _Bundschuh_ at Lehen, suppressed for
the time being. We have gone at length into the history of the Lehen
_Bundschuh_ as a type of the manner in which the peasant movements of
the time were planned and organised. The methods pursued by "The Poor
Conrad," the midnight meetings, the secret pass-words, the preparations
for sudden risings, were in most respects similar. The skilled and
well-equipped knighthood of Duke Ulrich, though inferior in numbers,
readily dispersed the ill-armed and inexperienced bands of peasants
whom they encountered. To this result the treacherous promises of Duke
Ulrich, which induced large numbers of peasants to lay down their arms,
contributed. The revolt proved a flash in the pan; and although those
who had partaken in it were not punished with the merciless severity
shown by the Austrian Government at Ensisheim, it yet resulted in no
amelioration of the conditions of the people. Many of the leaders, and
not a few of the rank and file, fled the country, and, as in the case
of the Lehen _Bundschuh_, found a refuge in Northern Switzerland.

In the autumn of 1517 Baden was once more the scene of an attempted
peasant rising, its objects being again much the same as were those
of the previous enterprises. Rent and interest were to be abolished,
and no lord recognised except the Emperor. The plan was to surprise
and capture the towns of Weissenburg and Hagenau, and to make a clean
sweep of the imperial councillors and judges, as well as of the knights
and nobles. This conspiracy was, however, also discovered before the
time for action was ripe. There were also, in various parts of Central
Europe, other minor attempts at revolt and conspiracies which it is not
necessary to particularise here. The great rebellion of the year 1514,
in Hungary, however, although not strictly coming within the limits of
our subject, deserves a few words of notice.

At Easter, in that year, the whole of Hungary was stirred up by the
preaching of a crusade against the Turks, then hard pressing the
eastern frontier. All who joined the crusade, down to the lowest
serf, were promised not merely absolution, but freedom. The movement
was immensely popular, thousands crowding to the standards. The
nobles naturally viewed the movement with disfavour; many, in fact,
sallied forth from their castles with their retinues to fetch back
the fugitives. In many cases the seizures were accompanied with
every circumstance of cruelty. As the news of these events reached
the assembled bands in their camp, a change of disposition became
manifest. The enthusiasm for vanquishing the Turk abroad speedily gave
way to an enthusiasm for vanquishing the Turk at home. Everywhere
throughout the camp were heard threats of vengeance. Finally, one
George Doza, who would seem to have been a genuine popular hero in the
best sense of the word, placed himself at their head. George Doza's
aims were not confined to mere vengeance on the offending nobles.
They extended to the conception of a complete reorganisation of the
conditions of the oppressed classes throughout the country. In vain
an order came from the Court at Ofen for the army to disperse. Doza
divided his forces into five bodies, each of which was to concentrate
its efforts on a definite district, at the same time summoning the
whole population to join. The destruction of castles, and the slaughter
of their inmates, became general throughout the land. For a moment the
nobles seemed paralysed; but they soon recovered themselves, and two
of their number, Johann Zapolya and Johann Boremiszsza, aided by the
inhabitants of the city of Buda-Pesth, got together an army to save the
situation for their colleagues. They were not long in joining battle
with the insurgents. The latter, deserted at the beginning by some of
their leaders, who went over to the enemy, fought bravely, but had
eventually to yield to superior arms and discipline. A large number of
prisoners were taken, of whom the majority were barbarously executed,
and the rest sent home, with ears and noses cut off.

Meanwhile, George Doza, who had been besieging Szegedin, withdrew his
forces, and gave battle to Bishop Csaky and the Count of Temeswar,
who were advancing with troops to relieve the town. After two days'
hard fighting, victory rewarded the bravery of the peasants. Doza's
followers demanded vengeance for their murdered and mutilated comrades.
The bishop was impaled, and the royal treasurer of the district hanged
on a high gallows. But Doza's was the only division of the popular
army that met with any success. The rest, on coming to grips with the
nobles, were dispersed and almost annihilated. The remnants joined the
forces of their commander-in-chief, whose army was thus augmented from
day to day. Doza now issued a decree abolishing king and higher and
lower nobility, deposing all bishops save one, and proclaiming the
equality of all men before God. One of his lieutenants then succeeded
in recruiting what amounted to a second army, containing a large force
of cavalry. He moved on Temeswar, but committed the imprudence of
undertaking a long siege of this powerful fortress. After two months
his army began to get demoralised. A few days before the place would
have had to surrender, Doza was surprised by the Transylvanian Army.
In spite of this, however, he deployed his troops with incredible
rapidity, and a terrific battle, long undecided, ensued. After several
hours of hard fighting, one of the wings of Doza's army took to flight.
General confusion followed, in the midst of which Doza might have
been seen in the forefront of the battle like an ancient hero, hewing
down nobles right and left, until his sword broke in his hand. He was
then instantly seized, and made prisoner in company with his brother
Gregory. The latter was immediately beheaded. Doza and about forty of
his officers were thrown into a vile dungeon in Temeswar and deprived
of all nourishment. On the fourteenth day of their incarceration,
nine alone remained alive. These nine, Doza at their head, were
led out into the open space before their prison. An iron throne was
erected there and made red hot, and Doza, loaded with chains, was
forcibly placed upon it. A red-hot iron crown was laid upon his head,
and a red-hot iron sceptre thrust into his hand. His companions
were then offered their lives on condition that they forthwith tore
off and devoured the flesh of their leader. Three, who refused with
indignation, were at once hewn in pieces. Six did as they were bidden.
"Dogs!" cried Doza. This was the only sound that escaped him. Torn
with red-hot iron pincers, he died. The defeated peasants were impaled
and hanged by the hundred. It is estimated that over 60,000 of them
perished in this war, and in the reprisals that followed it. The result
of the insurrection was a more brutal oppression than had ever been
known before.

At the same time various insurrections of a local nature were taking
place in Germany and in the Austrian territories. Amid the Styrian
and Carinthian Alps there were movements of the peasants, who, in
these remote mountain districts, seem to have retained more of their
primitive independence. In the south-west of Austria there were three
duchies--Kärnthen (Carinthia), Steiermarck (Styria), and the Krain.
At Kärnburg, a short distance from Klagenfurt, was a round stone, on
which were engraved the arms of the country. When a duke assumed the
sovereignty, a peasant belonging to one of the ancient families of a
neighbouring village in which this particular right was hereditary,
attended to offer the new duke the homage of the peasantry. Round the
stone, on which sat the aged representative of the rural communities,
the peasantry of the neighbourhood were gathered. The over-lord,
attired in peasantly costume, advanced towards the stone. With him
were two local dignitaries, one leading a lean black cow, the other an
underfed horse. Bringing up the rear followed the remaining nobility
and knighthood, with the banner of the duchy. The peasant who was
sitting on the fateful stone cried: "Who is he who advances so proudly
into our country?" The surrounding peasants answered: "It is our prince
who comes." "Is he a righteous judge?" asked the peasant on the stone.
"Will he promote the well-being of our land and its freedom? Is he
a protector of the Christian faith and of widows and orphans?" The
multitude shouted: "This he is, and will ever be so". That part of the
ceremony concluded, the duke had to take an oath to the peasant on the
stone that he would not disdain, for the welfare of the land, in any of
the respects mentioned, to nourish himself with such a wretched beast
as the cow accompanying him, or to ride on such a lean and ill-favoured
steed. The peasant on the stone then gave the duke a light box on
the ears, and conjured him in patriarchal fashion to remain ever a
righteous judge and a father to his people. The old countryman then
stood up, and the nobles surrendered to him the cow and horse, which he
led home as his property.

The above singular custom had been kept up in Carinthia until the
middle of the fifteenth century, when the Emperor Frederick III.
refused, in his capacity of local lord, to don the peasant garb,
although he compromised the matter by giving the peasants a deed
establishing them in their ancient freedom. The growing pressure of
taxation and the new imposts, which the wars of Maximilian entailed,
led, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, to an agitation here
also, and, finally, to a rising in which, it is said, as many as 90,000
peasants took part, but which did not immediately come to a head,
owing to timely concessions on the part of the Emperor. The league of
the peasants, in this case, extended over Styria as well as Carinthia
and the Krain. It broke forth again in the spring of 1517, owing to
renewed oppressions on the part of the nobles. Several castles, during
the three months that the revolt lasted, were destroyed, and large
stretches of country laid waste. Not a few nobles were hurled from
their own turrets. The Emperor Maximilian, who, throughout the whole
affair, showed himself not unfavourable to the cause of the peasants,
held his hand, as it would seem, so long as the latter confined
themselves to punishing the notoriously rapacious among the territorial
magnates; but afterwards, when the armed bodies of peasants gradually
melted away, and those that remained lost all discipline, degenerating
into mere plundering bands, he sent a party of a few hundred knights,
who speedily routed the ill-armed and disorderly hordes. Little quarter
was given to the fugitives, and the usual bloody executions followed.
There was, in addition, a heavy indemnity laid on the whole peasantry,
which took the form of a perpetual tax. The revolt in the Krain lasted
longest, and was suppressed with the most bloodshed. Those in Styria
and Carinthia came to an end much sooner, and with less disastrous
results to those who had been engaged in them.

But it was not alone in Germany, or, indeed, in Central Europe, that
a general stirring was visible among the peasant populations at the
beginning of the sixteenth century. It is true that the great revolts,
the Wat Tyler insurrection in England, and the Jacquerie in France,
took place long before; but even when there was no great movement,
sporadic excitement was everywhere noticeable. In Spain, we read of
a peasant revolt, which Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim was engaged
by the territorial lord to quell by his supposed magical powers. In
England, the disturbances of Henry VIII.'s reign, connected with the
suppression of the monasteries, are well known. The expropriation
of the people from the soil to make room for sheep-farms also gave
occasion to periodical disturbances of a local character, which
culminated in 1549 in the famous revolt led by John Ket in East Anglia.

The deep-reaching importance and effective spread of movements was
infinitely greater in the Middle Ages than in modern times. The same
phenomenon presents itself to-day in barbaric and semi-barbaric
communities. At first sight one is inclined to think that there has
been no period in the world's history when it was so easy to stir up
a population as the present, with our newspapers, our telegraphs, our
postal arrangements and our railways. But this is just one of those
superficial notions that are not confirmed by history. We are similarly
apt to think that there was no age in which travel was so widespread,
and formed so great a part of the education of mankind as at present.
There could be no greater mistake. The true age of travelling was the
close of the Middle Ages, or what is known as the Renaissance period.
The man of learning, then just differentiated from the ecclesiastic,
spent the greater part of his life in carrying his intellectual wares
from court to court, and from university to university, just as the
merchant personally carried his goods from city to city in an age in
which commercial correspondence, bill-brokers, and the varied forms
of modern business were but in embryo. It was then that travel really
meant education, the acquirement of thorough and intimate knowledge
of diverse manners and customs. Travel was then not a pastime, but a
serious element in life.

In the same way the spread of a political or social movement was at
least as rapid then as now, and far more penetrating. The methods were,
of course, vastly different from the present; but the human material
to be dealt with was far easier to mould, and kept its shape much more
readily when moulded, than is the case now-a-days. The appearance of a
religious or political teacher in a village or small town of the Middle
Ages was an event which keenly excited the interest of the inhabitants.
It struck across the path of their daily life, leaving behind it a
track hardly conceivable to-day. For one of the salient symptoms of
the change which has taken place since that time is the disappearance
of local centres of activity, and the transference of the intensity
of life to a few large towns. In the Middle Ages, every town, small
no less than large, was a more or less self-sufficing organism,
intellectually and industrially, and was not essentially dependent on
the outside world for its social sustenance. This was especially the
case in Central Europe, where communication was much more imperfect
and dangerous than in Italy, France, or England. In a society without
newspapers, without easy communication with the rest of the world,
when the vast majority could neither read nor write, when books were
rare and costly, and accessible only to the privileged few, a new idea
bursting upon one of these communities was eagerly welcomed, discussed
in the council chamber of the town, in the hall of the castle, in the
refectory of the monastery, at the social board of the burgess, in
the workroom, and, did it but touch his interests, in the hut of the
peasant. It was canvassed, too, at church festivals (_Kirchweihe_), the
only regular occasion on which the inhabitants of various localities
came together. In the absence of all other distraction, men thought
it out in all the bearings which their limited intellectual horizon
permitted. If calculated in any way to appeal to them, it soon struck
root, and became a part of their very nature, a matter for which, if
occasion were, they were prepared to sacrifice goods, liberty, and even
life itself. In the present day a new idea is comparatively slow in
taking root. Amid the myriad distractions of modern life, perpetually
chasing one another, there is no time for any one thought, however
wide-reaching in its bearings, to take a firm hold. In order that it
should do this in the _modern mind_, it must be again and again borne
in upon this, not always too receptive intellectual substance. People
require to read of it day after day in their newspapers, or to hear
it preached from countless platforms, before any serious effect is
created. In the simple life of former ages it was not so.

The mode of transmitting intelligence, especially such as was connected
with the stirring up of political and religious movements, was in
those days of a nature of which we have now little conception. The
sort of thing in vogue then may be compared to the methods adopted
in India to prepare the mutiny of 1857, when the mysterious cake was
passed from village to village, signifying that the moment had come
for the outbreak. We have already seen how Joss Fritz used the guild
of beggars as fetchers and carriers of news and as auxiliaries in
his organisation generally. The fact is noteworthy, moreover, that
his confidence in them does not seem to have been misplaced, for the
collapse of the movement cannot certainly be laid to their account. The
sense of _esprit de corps_ and of that kind of honour most intimately
associated with it is, it must also be remembered, infinitely keener
in ruder states of society than under a high civilisation. The growth
of civilisation, as implying the disruption of the groups in which the
individual is merged under more primitive conditions, and his isolation
as an autonomous unit having vague and very elastic moral duties to his
"country" or to the whole of mankind, but none towards any definite and
proximate social whole, necessarily destroys that communal spirit which
prevails in the former case. This is one of the striking truths which
the history of these peasant risings illustrates in various ways and
brings vividly home to us.


[7] We adopt the German spelling of the name of the province
usually known in this country as Alsace, for the reason that at the
time of which this history treats it had never been French; and the
French language was probably little more known there than in other
parts of Germany.

[8] It will be seen from the historical map that Breisgau and
Sundgau were feudal appanages of the house of Austria. Ensisheim was
the seat of the _Habsburg_ over-lordship in the district (not to be
confounded with the _imperial_ power).



The "great man" theory of history, formerly everywhere prevalent, and
even now common among non-historical persons, has long regarded the
Reformation as the purely personal work of the Augustine monk who was
its central figure. The fallacy of this conception is particularly
striking in the case of the Reformation. Not only was it preceded by
numerous sporadic outbursts of religious revivalism which sometimes
took the shape of opposition to the dominant form of Christianity,
though it is true they generally shaded off into mere movements of
independent Catholicism within the Church; but there were in addition
at least two distinct religious movements which led up to it, while
much which, under the reformers of the sixteenth century, appears as
a distinct and separate theology, is traceable in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries in the mystical movement connected with the names
of Meister Eckhart and Tauler. Meister Eckhart, whose free treatment
of Christian doctrines, in order to bring them into consonance with
his mystical theology, had drawn him into conflict with the Papacy,
undoubtedly influenced Luther through his disciple, Tauler, and
especially through the book which proceeded from the latter's school,
the _Deutsche Theologie_. It is, however, in the much more important
movement, which originated with Wyclif and extended to Central Europe
through Huss, that we must look for the more obvious influences
determining the course of religious development in Germany.

The Wycliffite movement in England was less a doctrinal heterodoxy
than a revolt against the Papacy and the priestly hierarchy. Mere
theoretical speculations were seldom interfered with, but anything
which touched their material interests at once aroused the vigilance
of the clergy. It is noticeable that the diffusion of Lollardism, that
is of the ideas of Wyclif, if not the cause of, was at least followed
by the peasant rising under the leadership of John Ball, a connection
which is also visible in the Tziska revolt following the Hussite
movement, and the Peasants' War in Germany which came on the heels
of the Lutheran Reformation. How much Huss was directly influenced by
the teachings of Wyclif is clear. The works of the latter were widely
circulated throughout Europe; for one of the advantages of the custom
of writing in Latin, which was universal during the Middle Ages, was
that books of an important character were immediately current amongst
all scholars without having, as now, to wait upon the caprice and
ability of translators. Huss read Wyclif's works as the preparation for
his theological degree, and subsequently made them his text-books when
teaching at the University of Prague. After his treacherous execution
at Constance, and the events which followed thereupon in Bohemia, a
number of Hussite fugitives settled in Southern Germany, carrying with
them the seeds of the new doctrines. An anonymous contemporary writer
states that "to John Huss and his followers are to be traced almost
all those false principles concerning the power of the spiritual and
temporal authorities and the possession of earthly goods and rights
which before in Bohemia, and now with us, have called forth revolt
and rebellion, plunder, arson, and murder, and have shaken to its
foundations the whole commonwealth. The poison of these false doctrines
has been long flowing from Bohemia into Germany, and will produce the
same desolating consequences wherever it spreads."

The condition of the Catholic Church, against which the Reformation
movement generally was a protest, needs here to be made clear to the
reader. The beginning of clerical disintegration is distinctly visible
in the first half of the fourteenth century. The interdicts, as an
institution, had ceased to be respected, and the priesthood itself
began openly to sink itself in debauchery and to play fast and loose
with the rites of the Church. Indulgences for a hundred years were
readily granted for a consideration. The manufacture of relics became
an organised branch of industry; and festivals of fools and festivals
of asses were invented by the jovial priests themselves in travesty
of sacred mysteries, as a welcome relaxation from the monotony of
prescribed ecclesiastical ceremony. Pilgrimages increased in number
and frequency; new saints were created by the dozen; and the disbelief
of the clergy in the doctrines they professed was manifest even to
the most illiterate, whilst contempt for the ceremonies they practised
was openly displayed in the performance of their clerical functions.
An illustration of this is the joke of the priests related by Luther,
who were wont during the celebration of the mass, when the worshippers
fondly imagined that the sacred formula of transubstantiation was being
repeated, to replace the words _Panis es et carnem fiebis_, "Bread
thou art and flesh thou shalt become," _by Panis es et panem manebis_,
"Bread thou art and bread thou shalt remain".

The scandals as regards clerical manners, growing, as they had been,
for many generations, reached their climax in the early part of the
sixteenth century. It was a common thing for priests to drive a
roaring trade as moneylenders, landlords of alehouses and gambling
dens, and even, in some cases, brothel-keepers. Papal ukases had
proved ineffective to stem the current of clerical abuses. The regular
clergy evoked even more indignation than the secular. "Stinking cowls"
was a favourite epithet for the monks. Begging, cheating, shameless
ignorance, drunkenness and debauchery, are alleged as being their
noted characteristics. One of the princes of the Empire addresses a
prior of a convent largely patronised by aristocratic ladies as "Thou,
our common brother-in-law!" In some of the convents of Friesland,
promiscuous intercourse between the sexes was, it is said, quite openly
practised, the offspring being reared as monks and nuns. The different
orders competed with each other for the fame and wealth to be obtained
out of the public credulity. A fraud attempted by the Dominicans
at Bern, in 1506, _with the concurrence of the heads of the order
throughout Germany_, was one of the main causes of that city adopting
the Reformation.[9]

In addition to the increasing burdens of investitures, annates, and
other Papal dues, the brunt of which the German people had directly
or indirectly to bear, special offence was given at the beginning of
the sixteenth century by the excessive exploitation of the practice of
indulgences by Leo X. for the purpose of completing the cathedral of
St. Peter's at Rome. It was this, coming on the top of the exactions
already rendered necessary by the increasing luxury and debauchery of
the Papal Court and those of the other ecclesiastical dignitaries,
that directly led to the dramatic incidents with which the Lutheran
Reformation opened.

The remarkable personality with which the religious side of the
Reformation is pre-eminently associated was a child of his time, who
had passed through a variety of mental struggles, and had already
broken through the bonds of the old ecclesiasticism before that
turning point in his career which is usually reckoned the opening of
the Reformation, to wit--the nailing of the theses on to the door of
the Schloss-Kirche in Wittenberg on the 31st of October, 1517. Martin
Luther, we must always bear in mind, however, was no Protestant in
the English Puritan sense of the word. It was not merely that he
retained much of what would be deemed by the old-fashioned English
Protestant "Romish error" in his doctrine, but his practical view of
life showed a reaction from the ascetic pretensions which he had seen
bred nothing but hypocrisy and the worst forms of sensual excess. It
is, indeed, doubtful if the man who sang the praises of "Wine, Women,
and Song" would have been deemed a fit representative in Parliament or
elsewhere by the British Nonconformist conscience of our day; or would
be acceptable in any capacity to the grocer-deacon of our provincial
towns, who, not content with being allowed to sand his sugar and
adulterate his tea unrebuked, would socially ostracise every one whose
conduct did not square with his conventional shibboleths. Martin Luther
was a child of his time also as a boon companion. The freedom of his
living in the years following his rupture with Rome was the subject of
severe animadversions on the part of the noble, but in this respect
narrow-minded Thomas Münzer, who in his open letter addressed to the
"Soft-living flesh of Wittenberg," scathingly denounces what he deems
his debauchery. It does not enter into our province here to discuss at
length the religious aspects of the Reformation; but it is interesting
to note in passing the more than modern liberality of Luther's
views with respect to the marriage question and the celibacy of the
clergy, contrasted with the strong mediæval flavour of his belief in
witchcraft and sorcery. In his _De Captivitate Babylonica Ecclesiæ_
(1519) he expresses the view that if, for any cause, husband or wife
are prevented from having sexual intercourse they are justified, the
woman equally with the man, in seeking it elsewhere. He was opposed to
divorce, though he did not forbid it, and recommended that a man should
rather have a plurality of wives than that he should put away any of
them. Luther held strenuously the view that marriage was a purely
external contract for the purpose of sexual satisfaction, and in no
way entered into the spiritual life of the man. On this ground he sees
no objection in the so-called mixed marriages, which were, of course,
frowned upon by the Catholic Church. In his sermon on "Married Life"
he says: "Know therefore that marriage is an outward thing, like any
other worldly business. Just as I may eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride,
buy, speak and bargain with a heathen, a Jew, a Turk or a heretic; so
may I also be and remain married to such an one, and I care not one
jot for the fool's laws which forbid it.... A heathen is just as much
man or woman, well and shapely made by God, as St. Peter, St. Paul, or
St. Lucia." Nor did he shrink from applying his views to particular
cases, as is instanced by his correspondence with Philip von Hesse,
whose constitution appears to have required more than one wife. He
here lays down explicitly the doctrine that polygamy and concubinage
are not forbidden to Christians, though, in his advice to Philip, he
adds the _caveat_ that he should keep the matter dark to the end that
offence might not be given; "for," says he, "it matters not, provided
one's conscience is right, what others say". In one of his sermons on
the Pentateuch[10] we find the words: "It is not forbidden that a man
have more than one wife. I would not forbid it to-day, albeit I would
not advise it.... Yet neither would I condemn it." Other opinions on
the nature of the sexual relations were equally broad; for in one of
his writings on monastic celibacy his words plainly indicate his belief
that chastity, no more than other fleshly mortifications, was to be
considered a divine ordinance for all men or women. In an address to
the clergy he says: "A woman not possessed of high and rare grace can
no more abstain from a man than from eating, drinking, sleeping, or
other natural function. Likewise a man cannot abstain from a woman.
The reason is that it is as deeply implanted in our nature to breed
children as it is to eat and drink."[11] The worthy Janssen observes
in a scandalised tone that Luther, as regards certain matters relating
to married life, "gave expression to principles before unheard of in
Christian Europe;"[12] and the British Nonconformist of to-day, if he
reads these "immoral" opinions of the hero of the Reformation, will be
disposed to echo the sentiments of the Ultramontane historian.

The relation of the Reformation to the "New Learning" was in Germany not
unlike that which existed in the other northern countries of Europe,
and notably in England. Whilst the hostility of the latter to the
mediæval Church was very marked, and it was hence disposed to regard
the religious Reformation as an ally, this had not proceeded very
far before the tendency of the Renaissance spirit was to side with
Catholicism against the new theology and dogma, as merely destructive
and hostile to culture. The men of the Humanist movement were for the
most part Freethinkers, and it was with them that freethought first
appeared in modern Europe. They therefore had little sympathy with
the narrow bigotry of religious reformers, and preferred to remain in
touch with the Church, whose then loose and tolerant Catholicism gave
freer play to intellectual speculations, provided they steered clear
of overt theological heterodoxy, than the newer systems, which, taking
theology _au grand sérieux_, tended to regard profane art and learning
as more or less superfluous, and spent their whole time in theological
wrangles. Nevertheless, there were not wanting men who, influenced at
first by the revival of learning, ended by throwing themselves entirely
into the Reformation movement, though in these cases they were usually
actuated rather by their hatred of the Catholic hierarchy than by any
positive religious sentiment.

Of such men Ulrich von Hutten, the descendant of an ancient and
influential knightly family, was a noteworthy example. After having
already acquired fame as the author of a series of skits in the new
Latin, and other works of classical scholarship, being also well
known as the ardent supporter of Reuchlin in his dispute with the
Church, and as the friend and correspondent of the central Humanist
figure of the time, Erasmus, he watched with absorbing interest the
movement which Luther had inaugurated. Six months after the nailing
of the theses at Wittenberg, he writes enthusiastically to a friend
respecting the growing ferment in ecclesiastical matters, evidently
regarding the new movement as a Kilkenny-cat fight. "The leaders,"
he says, "are bold and hot, full of courage and zeal. Now they shout
and cheer, now they lament and bewail, as loud as they can. They have
lately set themselves to write; the printers are getting enough to
do. Propositions, corollaries, conclusions, and articles are being
sold. For this alone I hope they will mutually destroy each other."
"A few days ago a monk was telling me what was going on in Saxony, to
which I replied: 'Devour each other in order that ye in turn may be
devoured (_sic_)'. Pray Heaven that our enemies may fight each other
to the bitter end, and by their obstinacy extinguish each other."
From this it will be seen that Hutten regarded the Reformation in
its earlier stages as merely a monkish squabble, and failed to see
the tremendous upheaval of all the old landmarks of ecclesiastical
domination which was immanent in it. So soon, however, as he perceived
its real significance, he threw himself wholly into the movement. It
must not be forgotten, moreover, that, although Hutten's zeal for
Humanism made him welcome any attempt to overthrow the power of the
clergy and the monks, he had also an eminently political motive for
his action in what was, in some respects, the main object of his life,
_viz._, to rescue the "knighthood," or smaller nobility, from having
their independence crushed out by the growing powers of the princes
of the Empire. Probably more than one-third of the manors were held
by ecclesiastical dignitaries, so that anything which threatened
their possessions and privileges seemed to strike a blow at the very
foundations of the imperial system. Hutten hoped that the new doctrines
would set the princes by the ears all round; and that then, by allying
themselves with the reforming party, the knighthood might succeed in
retaining the privileges which still remained to them, but were rapidly
slipping away, and might even regain some of those which had been
already lost. It was not till later, however, that Hutten saw matters
in this light. He was at the time the above letter was written in the
service of the Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, the leading favourer
of the new learning amongst the prince-prelates, and it was mainly
from the Humanist standpoint that he regarded the beginnings of the
Reformation. After leaving the service of the archbishop he struck up
a personal friendship with Luther, instigated thereto by his political
chief, Franz von Sickingen, the leader of the knighthood, from whom he
probably received the first intimation of the importance of the new
movement to their common cause.

When, in 1520, the young Emperor, Charles V., was crowned at Aachen,
Luther's party, as well as the knighthood, expected that considerable
changes would result in a sense favourable to their position from the
presumed pliability of the new head of the Empire. His youth, it was
supposed, would make him more sympathetic to the newer spirit which
was rapidly developing itself; and it is true that about the time of
his election Charles had shown a transient favour to the "recalcitrant
monk". It would appear, however, that this was only for the purpose
of frightening the Pope into abandoning his declared intention of
abolishing the Inquisition in Spain, then regarded as one of the
mainstays of the royal power, and still more to exercise pressure
upon him, in order that he should facilitate Charles's designs on the
Milanese territory. Once these objects were attained, he was just as
ready to oblige the Pope by suppressing the new anti-Papal movement as
he might possibly otherwise have been to have favoured it with a view
to humbling the only serious rival to his dominion in the Empire.

Immediately after his coronation, he proceeded to Cologne and convoked
by imperial edict a Reichstag at Worms for the following 27th of
January, 1521. The proceedings of this famous Reichstag have been
unfortunately so identified with the edict against Luther that the
other important matters which were there discussed have almost fallen
into oblivion. At least two other questions were dealt with, however,
which are significant of the changes that were then taking place.
The first was the rehabilitation and strengthening of the Imperial
Governing Council (_Reichs-Regiment_), whose functions under Maximilian
had been little more than nominal. There was at first a feeling
amongst the States in favour of transferring all authority to it,
even during the residence of the Emperor in the Empire; and in the
end, while having granted to it complete power during his absence, it
practically retained very much of this power when he was present. In
constitution it was very similar to the French "Parliaments," and like
them was principally composed of learned jurists, four being elected
by the Emperor and the remainder by the estates. The character and
the great powers of this council, extending even to ecclesiastical
matters during the ensuing years, undoubtedly did much to hasten on the
substitution of the civil law for the older customary or common law, a
matter which we shall consider more in detail later on. The financial
condition of the Empire was also considered; and it here first became
evident that the dislocation of economic conditions, which had begun
with the century, would render an enormously increased taxation
necessary to maintain the imperial authority, amounting to five times
as much as had previously been required.

It was only after these secular affairs of the Empire had been disposed
of that the deliberations of the Reichstag on ecclesiastical matters
were opened by the indictment of Luther in a long speech by Aleander,
one of the papal nuncios, in introducing the Pope's letter. In spite
of the efforts of his friends, Luther was not permitted to be present
at the beginning of the proceedings; but subsequently he was sent for
by the Emperor, in order that he might state his case. His journey to
Worms was one long triumph, especially at Erfurt, where he was received
with enthusiasm by the Humanists as the enemy of the Papacy. But his
presence in the Reichstag was unavailing, and the proceedings resulted
in his being placed under the ban of the Empire. The safe-conduct
of the Emperor was, however, in his case respected; and in spite of
the fears of his friends that a like fate might befall him as had
befallen Huss after the Council of Constance, he was allowed to depart

On his way to Wittenberg Luther was seized by arrangement with his
supporter, the Kurfürst of Saxony, and conveyed in safety to the Castle
of Wartburg, in Thüringen, a report in the meantime being industriously
circulated by certain of his adherents, with a view of arousing
popular feeling, that he had been arrested by order of the Emperor and
was being tortured. In this way he was secured from all danger for the
time being, and it was during his subsequent stay that he laid the
foundations of the literary language of Germany.

Says a contemporary writer,[13] an eye-witness of what went on at
Worms during the sitting of the Reichstag: "All is disorder and
confusion. Seldom a night doth pass but that three or four persons
be slain. The Emperor hath installed a provost, who hath drowned,
hanged, and murdered over a hundred men." He proceeds: "Stabbing,
whoring, flesh-eating (it was in Lent) ... altogether there is an orgie
worthy of the Venusberg". He further states that many gentlemen and
other visitors had drunk themselves to death on the strong Rhenish
wine. Aleander was in danger of being murdered by the Lutheran
populace, instigated thereto by Hutten's inflammatory letters from
the neighbouring Castle of Ebernburg, in which Franz von Sickingen
had given him a refuge. The fiery Humanist wrote to Aleander himself,
saying that he would leave no stone unturned "till thou who camest
hither full of wrath, madness, crime, and treachery shalt be carried
hence a lifeless corpse".

Aleander naturally felt exceedingly uncomfortable, and other
supporters of the Papal party were not less disturbed at the threats
which seemed in a fair way of being carried out. The Emperor himself
was without adequate means of withstanding a popular revolt should it
occur. He had never been so low in cash or in men as at that moment. On
the other hand, Sickingen, to whom he owed money, and who was the only
man who could have saved the situation under the circumstances, had
matters come to blows, was almost overtly on the side of the Lutherans;
while the whole body of the impoverished knighthood were only awaiting
a favourable opportunity to overthrow the power of the magnates,
secular and ecclesiastic, with Sickingen as a leader. Such was the
state of affairs at the beginning of the year 1521.

The ban placed upon Luther by the Reichstag marks the date of the
complete rupture between the Reforming party and the old Church.
Henceforward, many Humanist and Humanistically-influenced persons who
had supported him withdrew from the movement and swelled the ranks of
the Conservatives. Foremost amongst these were Pirckheimer, the wealthy
merchant and scholar of Nürnberg, and many others who dreaded lest the
attack on ecclesiastical property and authority should, as indeed was
the case, issue in a general attack on all property and authority.
Thomas Murner, also, who was the type of the "moderate" of the
situation, while professing to disapprove of the abuses of the Church,
declared that Luther's manner of agitation could only lead to the
destruction of all order, civil no less than ecclesiastical. The two
parties were now clearly defined, and the points at issue were plainly
irreconcilable with one another or involved irreconcilable details.

The printing press now for the first time appeared as the vehicle
for popular literature; the art of the bard gave place to the art of
the typographer, and the art of the preacher saw confronting it a
formidable rival in that of the pamphleteer. Similarly in the French
Revolution modern journalism, till then unimportant and sporadic,
received its first great development, and began seriously to displace
alike the preacher, the pamphlet, and the broadside. The flood of
theological disquisitions, satires, dialogues, sermons, which now
poured from every press in Germany, overflowed into all classes of
society. These writings are so characteristic of the time that it is
worth while devoting a few pages to their consideration, the more
especially because it will afford us the opportunity for considering
other changes in that spirit of the age, partly diseased growths of
decaying mediævalism, and partly the beginnings of the modern critical
spirit, which also find expression in the literature of the Reformation


[9] See Appendix B for this and an instance of a successful

[10] _Sämmt. Werke_, xxxiii., 322-324.

[11] Quoted in Janssen, _Ein Zweites Wort an meine Kritiker_,
1883, p. 94.

[12] _Geschichte des Deutschen Volkes_, vol. ii., p. 115.

[13] Quoted in Janssen, bk. ii., 162.



In accordance with the conventional view we have assumed in the
preceding chapter that the Reichstag at Worms was a landmark in the
history of the Reformation. This is, however, only true as regards
the political side of the movement. The popular feeling was really
quite continuous, at least from 1517 to 1525. With the latter year
and the collapse of the peasant revolt a change is noticeable. In
1525, the Reformation as a great upstirring of the popular mind of
Central Europe, in contradistinction to its character as an academic
and purely political movement, reached high-water mark, and may
almost be said to have exhausted itself. Until the latter year it
was purely a revolutionary movement, attracting to itself all the
disruptive elements of its time. Later, the reactionary possibilities
within it declared themselves. The emancipation from the thraldom of
the Catholic hierarchy and its Papal head, it was soon found, meant
not emancipation from the arbitrary tyranny of the new political and
centralising authorities then springing up, but, on the contrary,
rather their consecration. The ultimate outcome, in fact, of the
whole business was, as we shall see later on, the inculcation of the
non-resistance theory as regards the civil power, and the clearing of
the way for its extremest expression in the doctrine of the Divine
Right of Kings, a theory utterly alien to the belief and practice of
the Mediæval Church.

The Reichstag of Worms, by cutting off all possibility of
reconciliation, rather gave further edge to the popular revolutionary
side of the movement than otherwise. The whole progress of the change
in public feeling is plainly traceable in the mass of ephemeral
literature that has come down to us from this period, broadsides,
pamphlets, satires, folksongs, and the rest. The anonymous literature
to which we more especially refer is distinguished by its coarse
brutality and humour, even in the writings of the Reformers, which were
themselves in no case remarkable for the suavity of their polemic.

Hutten, in some of his later vernacular poems, approaches the character
of the less cultured broadside literature. To the critical mind it
is somewhat amusing to note the enthusiasm with which the modern
Dissenting and Puritan class contemplates the period of which we are
writing,--an enthusiasm that would probably be effectively damped
if the laudators of the Reformation knew the real character of the
movement and of its principal actors.

The first attacks made by the broadside literature were naturally
directed against the simony and benefice-grabbing of the clergy, a
characteristic of the priestly office that has always powerfully
appealed to the popular mind. Thus the "Courtisan and Benefice-eater"
attacks the parasite of the Roman Court, who absorbs ecclesiastical
revenues wholesale, putting in perfunctory _locum tenens_ on the cheap,
and begins:--

    I'm fairly called a Simonist and eke a Courtisan,
    And here to every peasant and every common man
    My knavery will very well appear.
    I called and cried to all who'd give me ear,
    To nobleman and knight and all above me:
    "Behold me! And ye'll find I'll truly love ye."

In another we read:--

    The Paternoster teaches well
    How one for another his prayers should tell,
    Thro' brotherly love and not for gold,
    And good those same prayers God doth hold.
    So too saith Holy Paul right clearly,
    Each shall his brother's load bear dearly.

But now, it declares, all that is changed. Now we are being taught just
the opposite of God's teachings:--

    Such doctrine hath the priests increased,
    Whom men as masters now must feast,
    'Fore all the crowd of Simonists,
    Whose waxing number no man wists,
    The towns and thorps seem full of them,
    And in all lands they're seen with shame.
    Their violence and knavery
    Leave not a church or living free.

A prose pamphlet, apparently published about the summer of 1520,
shortly after Luther's excommunication, was the so-called "Wolf
Song" (_Wolf-gesang_), which paints the enemies of Luther as wolves.
It begins with a screed on the creation and fall of Adam, and a
dissertation on the dogma of the Redemption; and then proceeds: "As one
might say, dear brother, instruct me, for there is now in our times so
great commotion in faith come upon us. There is one in Saxony who is
called Luther, of whom many pious and honest folk tell how that he
doth write so consolingly the good evangelical (_evangelische_) truth.
But again I hear that the Pope and the cardinals at Rome have put him
under the ban as a heretic; and certain of our own preachers, too,
scold him from their pulpits as a knave, a misleader, and a heretic.
I am utterly confounded, and know not where to turn; albeit my reason
and heart do speak to me even as Luther writeth. But yet again it
bethinks me that when the Pope, the cardinal, the bishop, the doctor,
the monk and the priest, for the greater part are against him, and so
that all save the common men and a few gentlemen, doctors, councillors
and knights, are his adversaries, what shall I do?" "For answer, dear
friend, get thee back and search the Scriptures, and thou shalt find
that so it hath gone with all the holy prophets even as it now fareth
with Doctor Martin Luther, who is in truth a godly Christian and manly
heart and only true Pope and Apostle, when he the true office of the
Apostles publicly fulfilleth.... If the godly man Luther were pleasing
to the world, that were indeed a true sign that his doctrine were not
from God; for the word of God is a fiery sword, a hammer that breaketh
in pieces the rocks, and not a fox's tail or a reed that may be bent
according to our pleasure." Seventeen noxious qualities of the wolf are
adduced, his ravenousness, his cunning, his falseness, his cowardice,
his thirst for robbery, amongst others. The Popes, the cardinals and
the bishops are compared to the wolves in all their attributes: "The
greater his pomp and splendour, the more shouldst thou beware of such
an one; for he is a wolf that cometh in the shape of a good shepherd's
dog. Beware! it is against the custom of Christ and His Apostles." It
is again but the song of the wolves when they claim to mix themselves
with worldly affairs and maintain the temporal supremacy. The
greediness of the wolf is discernible in the means adopted to get money
for the building of St. Peter's. The interlocutor is warned against
giving to mendicant priests and monks. In this strain is the pamphlet
continued, reference being made to Luther's dispute with Eck, who is
sometimes called Dr. Geck, that is, Dr. Fop.

We have given this as a specimen of the almost purely theological
pamphlet; although, as will have been evident, even this is directly
connected with the material abuses from which the people were
suffering. Another pamphlet of about the same date deals with usury,
the burden of which had been greatly increased by the growth of the
new commercial combinations already referred to in the Introduction,
which combinations Dr. Eck had been defending at Bologna on theological
grounds, in order to curry favour with the Augsburg merchant-prince,
Fuggerschwatz.[14] It is called "Concerning Dues. Hither comes a poor
peasant to a rich citizen. A priest comes also thereby, and then a
monk. Full pleasant to read." A peasant visits a burgher when he is
counting money, and asks him where he gets it all from. "My dear
peasant," says the townsman, "thou askest me who gave me this money. I
will tell thee. There cometh hither a peasant, and beggeth me to lend
him ten or twenty gulden. Thereupon I ask him an he possesseth not a
goodly meadow or corn-field. 'Yea! good sir!' saith he, 'I have indeed
a good meadow and a good corn-field. The twain are worth a hundred
gulden.' Then say I to him: 'Good, my friend, wilt thou pledge me thy
holding? and an thou givest me one gulden of thy money every year I
will lend thee twenty gulden now'. Then is the peasant right glad,
and saith he: 'Willingly will I pledge it thee'. 'I will warn thee,'
say I, 'that an thou furnishest not the one gulden of money each
year. I will take thy holding for my own having.' Therewith is the
peasant well content, and writeth him down accordingly. I lend him
the money; he payeth me one year, or may be twain, the due;
thereafter can he no longer furnish it, and thereupon I take the
holding, and drive away the peasant therefrom. Thus I get the
holding and the money. The same things do I with handicraftsmen.
Hath he a good house? He pledgeth that house until I bring it behind
me. Therewith gain I much in goods and money, and thus do I pass my
days." "I thought," rejoined the peasant, "that 'twere only the Jew
who did usury, but I hear that ye also ply that trade." The burgher
answers that interest is not usury, to which the peasant replies that
interest (_Gült_) is only a "subtle name". The burgher then quotes
Scripture, as commanding men to help one another. The peasant readily
answers that in doing this they have no right to get advantage from
the assistance they proffer. "Thou art a good fellow!" says the
townsman. "If I take no money for the money that I lend, how shall I
then increase my hoard?" The peasant then reproaches him that he sees
well that his object in life is to wax fat on the substance of others;
"But I tell thee, indeed," he says, "that it is a great and heavy sin".
Whereupon his opponent waxes wroth, and will have nothing more to do
with him, threatening to kick him out in the name of a thousand devils;
but the peasant returns to the charge, and expresses his opinion that
rich men do not willingly hear the truth. A priest now enters, and
to him the townsman explains the dispute. "Dear peasant," says the
priest, "wherefore camest thou hither, that thou shouldst make of a
due[15] usury? May not a man buy with his money what he will?" But the
peasant stands by his previous assertion, demanding how anything can be
considered as bought which is only a pledge.

"We priests," replies the ecclesiastic, "must perforce lend money
for dues, since thereby we get our living;" to which, after sundry
ejaculations of surprise, the peasant retorts: "Who gave to you the
power? I well hear ye have another God than we poor people. We have our
Lord Jesus Christ, who hath forbidden such money-lending for gain."
Hence it comes, he goes on, that land is no longer free; to attempt to
whitewash usury under the name of due or interest, he says, is just the
same as if one were to call a child christened Friedrich or Hansel,
Fritz or Hans, and then maintain it was no longer the same child.
They require no more Jews, he says, since the Christians have taken
their business in hand. The townsman is once more about to turn the
peasant out of his house, when a monk enters. He then lays the matter
before the new-comer, who promises to talk the peasant over with soft
words; for, says he, there is nothing accomplished with vainglory. He
thereupon takes him aside and explains it to him by the illustration
of a merchant whose gain on the wares he sells is not called usury,
and argues that therefore other forms of gain in business should not
be described by this odious name. But the peasant will have none
of this comparison; for the merchant, he says, needs to incur much
risk in order to gain and traffic with his wares; while money-lending
on security is, on the other hand, without risk or labour, and is a
treacherous mode of cheating. Finding that they can make nothing of the
obstinate countryman, the others leave him; but he, as a parting shot,
exclaims: "Ah, well-a-day! I would to have talked with thee at first,
but it is now ended. Farewell, gracious sir, and my other kind sirs. I,
poor little peasant, I go my way. Farewell, farewell, due remains usury
for evermore. Yea, yea! due, indeed!"

One more example will suffice to give the reader an idea of the
character of these first specimens of pamphlet literature; and this
time it shall be taken from the widely-read anonymous tract entitled
"Der Karsthans". [The Man who wields the Hoe, that is, the Peasant.]
This production is specially directed against the monk, Murner, who had
at first, as already stated, endeavoured to sit on the fence, admitting
certain abuses in the Church, but who before long took sides against
Luther and the Reformation, becoming, in fact, after the disputation
with Eck, the author of a series of polemical writings against the
hero of the Reformation. The most important of these appeared in the
autumn of 1520; and the "Karsthans" is the answer to them from the
popular side of the movement. On the title-page Murner is depicted as
a monk with a cat's head; and in the dialogue there are five _dramatis
personæ_, Karsthans, Murner, Luther, a Student, and Mercury, the latter
interjecting sarcastic remarks in Latin. Murner begins by mewing like
a cat. Karsthans, the peasant, and his son, the student, listen, and
describe to each other the manners and characters of cats, especially
their slyness and cunning. The son at the bidding of his father is
about to pelt the cat with stones, but comes back, saying: "Oh,
father! what a loathsome beast! It is no true cat, though it looketh
to be one. It waxeth even greater and greater. Its hue is grey, and
it hath a wondrous head." As the father, Karsthans, is seeking his
flail that he may annihilate the beast, his son discovers that it is
human, at which the father exclaims: "It is a devil!" They advance
towards it, and discover it to be a churchman. "I am a clerk and more
than a clerk," cries Murner in anger. "I am eke a man and a monk."
Karsthans asks pardon; but Murner threatens him, and, as the monk
grows more exasperated, the son exhorts the father to modesty in the
presence of so exalted a spiritual personage. "Oh, father!" cries the
son, "it is indeed a great man. I have read his title. He is a poet,
who hath been crowned with the laurel wreath, and is a doctor in both
disciplines, and also in the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, he is one of
the free regular clergy, and is called Thomas Murner of Strassburg."
Some chaff follows between the father and son as to all the monk's
spirituality residing in his garb. This gives rise to a quarrel
between Karsthans and Murner, in which the student again exhorts his
father to moderation in his language, on the ground that Murner is a
good jurist. Karsthans demands how it is compatible to be spiritual
in the cloister and cunning in the world, to which Murner replies:
_Incompatibilia auctoritate Papæ unici possunt._ ("Incompatibles can
be made to agree by the authority of the Pope.") Karsthans, who calls
this a lie, is roundly abused by Murner: "Thou boorish clown, _injustum
est ut monachis operandibus servi eorum otio torpeunt_". ("It is
unjust that while monks are working, their servants should slumber in
idleness.") "Yea, truly!" answers Karsthans, "ye stink of secrets."
During the dispute Luther enters. "Ah!" exclaims Murner, "doth that
fellow come? There are too many people here. Let me go out by the
back." Karsthans wonders at Murner's attitude, as in a general way the
Churches were glad to meet each other, and as Luther was everywhere
recognised as a good man and a pious Christian. Murner begs Karsthans
not to reveal him, as he is pledged to regard Luther as a heretic, and
he is determined to prove him one. Karsthans wants to know why he does
not dispute personally with Luther like "Dr. Genzkuss," meaning Eck,
in Leipzig. "But, father," interposes the son, "Dr. Eck, as some say,
hath not won for himself much honour or victory over Luther." Karsthans
is amazed, and replies: "But yet he hath so cried out and fought that
scarce an one might speak before him." "He hath also," the student
observes, "received 500 ducats from the Pope for his works; and," he
adds, "if Dr. Eckius had overcome Luther, as he hath been overcome by
him, he (that is, the Pope) would have made of him a camel with broad
hoofs," the latter being a current phrase to indicate a cardinal;
"and Murner also hopes to pluck some feathers out of the crow, like
Eck." Luther knocks again, and Murner tries to get away, but Karsthans
holds him back. After sundry pleasantries between Karsthans and Murner,
in the course of which the monk advises the peasant to go to the
bookseller, Grüninger, in Strassburg, and buy his two books, the one on
"Baptism," and the other entitled "A Christian and Brotherly Warning."
Murner takes his leave, and Luther enters. On Karsthans wanting to
know what brings him to Germany, he replies: "The simplicity of the
German people--to wit, that they are of so small an understanding. What
any man feigns and lies to them, that they at once believe, and think
no further of the matter. Therefore are they so much deceived, and a
laughing stock for other peoples." The student reminds his father that
Murner had declared Luther to be a heretic. Karsthans thereupon again
seeks his flail; but Luther demands impartiality. Since he had heard
Murner he should hear him also. Karsthans agrees; but the son objects,
as the Dominicans and doctors in Cologne, especially Hochstraten,[16]
had said that it was dangerous to dispute with or give ear to such
people, since even the _Ketzermeister_ (refuters of heretics) often
came off second best in the contest; as in the case of Dr. Reuchlin,
who in spite of their condemnation had been exonerated by Rome, and the
Papal sentence against him revoked. "And again what a miracle happened
in the 20th year at Mainz! There came a legate from Rome, who was to
see that Luther's books were thoroughly burnt; and while all were
awaiting the issue at the appointed place, the hangman asked whether
judgment had been given that the books should be burnt; and since no
one could tell him the truth, the careless fellow would not execute
the sentence, and went his way. Oh! what great shame and ignominy was
shown to the legate! And since he was not willing to bear the shame, he
must persuade the hangman with cunning and presents that he should the
next day burn two or four little books. I had thought," concluded the
student, "that he had not need to have asked further in the face of the
Pope's legate and strict command, and of the heretic-confuter's office."
Karsthans is indignant, and threatens every "rascal from Rome" with
his flail; to which the student rejoins: "Oh, father! thou thinkest
it is with the Pope's power as with thy headship in the village which
thou hast, where thou canst not of thy will act a straw's breadth
except with the knowledge and consent of thy neighbours, who are all
vile peasants, and who think there will be sore trouble if they judge
other than as witness-bearing dictateth. But it is not so with the
Pope; ofttimes it is: _Sic volumus, sic jubemus, oportet; sufficit,
vicisse._ ("As we will, as we command, so let it be; it sufficeth
to have prevailed.") Karsthans requires that if the Pope has divine
power, he should also do divine works; whereas the student defends
the absolute power of the Pope and the bishops. He complains that his
father is an enemy of the priests, like all the rest of the peasants.
Karsthans rejoins that there are four propositions on which the whole
controversy turns: "Thou art Peter; on St. Peter I will build my
Church. Feed my sheep. What I bid you, that do ye. He who despiseth
you, despiseth me also." He then demands of Luther that he should write
in the German tongue, and let them see whether they could not save him
from the power of the Pope and from the wearers of broad-brimmed hats.
But Luther declines such help, and thereupon departs. Karsthans is
offended that the Pope is called by his son, the student, the highest
authority of the Christian faith. "For," says he, "Christ alone is this
authority. He is the only bridegroom, and the bride can know no other.
Else were she impure and wrinkled, and not a pure bride. Moreover, the
bride is not at variance with her bridegroom, but with the Pope she
is well-nigh always at variance. That which one will, the other will
not. Furthermore, the bride is spiritual, but this Roman is bodily and
worldly." The student answers: "The bridegroom hath given the bride a
bodily head," a point which the peasant disputes, while admitting it
may be good to have spiritual and carnal authority; "but," says he,
"Christ has called to this office not only one but all the Apostles,"
and he enlarges on the difference between this and the scramble for
office then apparent in the State. The student again remonstrates with
his peasant father for his unceremonious treatment of the learned
man; and, at the same time, he blames Luther for attacking certain
articles of the Christian faith, which all men ought to hold sacred.
Karsthans wants to know if he refers to the dogma of the Trinity.
This the student denies, saying that it is no such thing as that, or
any other question which the theologians seek to prick with the point
of a needle. He finally admits that he is referring to the question
of the supremacy of the Pope, affirming that it "were a deadly sin
to believe that the Pope had stood one quarter of an hour in deadly
sin. Item, that the Pope alone shall interpret the right sense and
meaning of the Scriptures, and shall alone have full power, not only
on earth, but also in Purgatory." The student then proceeds to quote
the various Credos, the Athanasian, the Nicene, and so forth; till
at last Karsthans bursts out: "Look you now! if you make it so, the
articles of faith will at last be a great bookful.... The pious doctor,
Martin Luther, doth teach aright: 'Rest thy faith on Christ alone, and
therewith hath the matter an end'." Karsthans, in addition, proceeds
to uphold the right of the common man to his own interpretation of the
articles of faith, maintaining the appeal to Holy Writ against all
ecclesiastical authority; "for by the Scripture one knoweth unfailingly
at all time whether such authority do rule righteously or not, since
the Scripture is the true article of covenant which Christ hath left
us". The dispute continues, with occasional interjections in Latin by
Mercury, in his capacity as cynical chorus, till Karsthans gets very
rude indeed, accuses the absent Murner of having lice in his cowl,
calls him an evil cat that licks before and scratches behind, and
demands why he dare not go to Wittenberg to dispute with Dr. Martin
Luther, as Eck had just done. Then with an _Aldi, ich far dahin_,
equivalent to the modern English, "Well, I'm off," from the peasant, a
_Dii secundent_ from Mercury, and an _Uterque valeat_ from the student,
the party separates, and the dialogue comes to an end.

We have given a somewhat lengthy account of this dialogue, on account
of its importance, even at the risk of wearying the reader. Its drastic
assertion of the right of the common man to independence of his
superiors in spiritual matters, with its side hints and suggestions
justifying resistance to all authority that had become oppressive,
was not without its effects on the social movements of the following
years. For the reader who wishes to further study this literature we
give the titles, which sufficiently indicate their contents, of a
selection of other similar pamphlets and broadsheets: "A New Epistle
from the Evil Clergy sent to their righteous Lord, with an answer
from their Lord. Most merry to read" (1521). "A Great Prize which the
Prince of Hell, hight Lucifer, now offereth to the Clergy, to the Pope,
Bishops, Cardinals, and their like" (1521). "A Written Call, made by
the Prince of Hell to his dear devoted, of all and every condition
in his kingdom" (1521). "Dialogue or Converse of the Apostolicum,
Angelica, and other spices of the Druggist, anent Dr. Martin Luther
and his disciples" (1521). "A Very Pleasant Dialogue and Remonstrance
from the Sheriff of Gaissdorf and his pupil against the pastor of the
same and his assistant" (1521). The popularity of "Karsthans" amongst
the people is illustrated by the publication and wide distribution of
a new "Karsthans" a few months later, in which it is sought to show
that the knighthood should make common cause with the peasants, the
_dramatis personæ_ being Karsthans and Franz von Sickingen. Referring
to the same subject we find a "Dialogue which Franciscus von Sickingen
held fore heaven's gate with St. Peter and the Knights of St. George
before he was let in". This was published in 1523, almost immediately
after the death of Sickingen. "A Talk between a Nobleman, a Monk,
and a Courtier" (1523). "A Talk between a Fox and a Wolf" (1523). "A
Pleasant Dialogue between Dr. Martin Luther and the cunning Messenger
from Hell" (1523). "A Conversation of the Pope with his Cardinals of
how it goeth with him, and how he may destroy the Word of God. Let
every man very well note" (1523). "A Christian and Merry Talk, that it
is more pleasing to God and more wholesome for men to come out of the
monasteries and to marry, than to tarry therein and to burn; which talk
is not with human folly and the false teachings thereof, but is founded
alone in the holy, divine, biblical and evangelical Scripture" (1524).
"A Pleasant Dialogue of a Peasant with a Monk that he should cast his
Cowl from him. Merry and fair to read" (1525).

The above is only a selection of specimens taken hap-hazard from the
mass of fugitive literature which the early years of the Reformation
brought forth. In spite of a certain rough but not unattractive
directness of diction, a prolonged reading of them is very tedious,
as will have been sufficiently seen from the extracts we have given.
Their humour is of a particularly juvenile and obvious character,
and consists almost entirely in the childish device of clothing the
personages with ridiculous but non-essential attributes, or in placing
them in grotesque but pointless situations. Of the more subtle humour,
which consists in the discovery of real but hidden incongruities, and
the perception of what is innately absurd, there is no trace. The
obvious abuses of the time are satirised in this way _ad nauseam_. The
rapacity of the clergy in general, the idleness and lasciviousness
of the monks, the pomp and luxury of the prince-prelates, the
inconsistencies of Church traditions and practices with Scripture, with
which they could now be compared, since it was everywhere circulated
in the vulgar tongue, form their never-ending theme. They reveal to
the reader a state of things that strikes one none the less in English
literature of the period,--the intense interest of all classes in
theological matters. It shows us how they looked at all things through
a theological lens. Although we have left this phase of popular thought
so recently behind us, we can even now scarcely imagine ourselves back
into it. The idea of ordinary men, or of the vast majority, holding
their religion as anything else than a very pious opinion absolutely
unconnected with their daily life, public or private, has already
become almost inconceivable to us. In all the writings of the time,
the theological interest is in the forefront. The economic and social
ground-work only casually reveals itself. This it is that makes the
reading of the sixteenth century polemics so insufferably jejune and
dreary. They bring before us the ghosts of controversies in which most
men have ceased to take any part, albeit they have not been dead and
forgotten long enough to have acquired a revived antiquarian interest.
It reminds one of the faint echoes of the doctrinal disputes of a
generation ago, which, already dying on the Continent of Europe, still
continued to agitate the English middle classes of all ranks, and are
remembered now with but a smile at their immense puerility.

The great bomb-shell which Luther cast forth on the 24th of June,
1520, in his address to the German nobility,[17] indeed contains strong
appeals to the economical and political necessities of Germany, and
therein we see the veil torn from the half-unconscious motives that
lay behind the theological mask; but, as already said, in the popular
literature, with a few exceptions, the theological controversy rules

The noticeable feature of all this irruption of the _cacoëthes
scribendi_ was the direct appeal to the Bible for the settlement not
only of strictly theological controversies but of points of social
and political ethics also. This practice, which even to the modern
Protestant seems insipid and played out after three centuries and
a half of wear, had at that time the to us inconceivable charm of
novelty; and the perusal of the literature and controversies of the
time shows that men used it with all the delight of a child with a
new toy, and seemed never tired of the game of searching out texts
to justify their position. The diffusion of the whole Bible in the
vernacular, itself a consequence of the rebellion against priestly
tradition and the authority of the Fathers, intensified the revolt by
making the pastime possible to all ranks of society.


[14] See Appendix C.

[15] We use the word "due" here for the German word _Gült_.
The corresponding English of the time does not make any distinction
between _Gült_ or interest, and _Wucher_ or usury.

[16] Hochstraten was one of the great adversaries of Reuchlin.

[17] "An den Christlichen Adel deutscher Nation."



Now in the hands of all men, the Bible was not made the basis of
doctrinal opinions alone. It lent its support to many of the popular
superstitions of the time, and in addition it served as the starting
point for new superstitions and for new developments of the older ones.
The Pan-dæmonism of the New Testament, with its wonder-workings by
devilish agencies, its exorcisms of evil spirits and the like, could
not fail to have a deep effect on the popular mind. The authority
that the book believed to be divinely inspired necessarily lent to
such beliefs gave a vividness to the popular conception of the devil
and his angels, which is apparent throughout the whole movement of
the Reformation, and not least in the utterances of the great Luther
himself. Indeed, with the Reformation there comes a complete change
over the popular conception of the devil and diabolical influences.

It is true that the judicial pursuit of witches and witchcraft, in the
earlier Middle Ages only a sporadic incident, received a great impulse
from the Bull of Pope Innocent VIII. (1484), to which has been given
the title of "Malleus Maleficorum," or "The Hammer of Witchcraft,"
directed against the practice of sorcery; but it was especially amongst
the men of the New Spirit that the belief in the prevalence of compacts
with the devil, and the necessity for suppressing them, took root, and
led to the horrible persecutions that distinguished the "Reformed"
Churches on the whole even more than the Catholic.

Luther himself had a vivid belief, tinging all his views and actions,
in the ubiquity of the devil and his myrmidons. "The devils," says he,
"are near us, and do cunningly contrive every moment without ceasing
against our life, our salvation, and our blessedness.... In woods,
waters, and wastes, and in damp, marshy places, there are many devils
that seek to harm men. In the black and thick clouds, too, there are
some that make storms, hail, lightning, and thunder, that poison the
air and the pastures. When such things happen, the philosophers and the
physicians ascribe them to the stars, and show I know not what causes
for such misfortunes and plagues." Luther relates numerous instances of
personal encounters that he himself had had with the devil. A nobleman
invited him, with other learned men from the University of Wittenberg,
to take part in a hare hunt. A large, fine hare and a fox crossed the
path. The nobleman, mounted on a strong, healthy steed, dashed after
them, when, suddenly, his horse fell dead beneath him, and the fox and
the hare flew up in the air and vanished. "For," says Luther, "they
were devilish spectres."

Again, on another occasion, he was at Eisleben on the occasion of
another hare-hunt, when the nobleman succeeded in killing eight hares,
which were, on their return home, duly hung up for the next day's meal.
On the following morning, horses' heads were found in their place. "In
mines," says Luther, "the devil oftentimes deceives men with a false
appearance of gold." All disease and all misfortune were the direct
work of the devil; God, who was all good, could not produce either.
Luther gives a long history of how he was called to a parish priest,
who complained of the devil's having created a disturbance in his
house by throwing the pots and pans about, and so forth, and of how he
advised the priest to exorcise the fiend by invoking his own authority
as a pastor of the Church.

At the Wartburg, Luther complained of having been very much troubled
by the Satanic arts. When he was at work upon his translation of the
Bible, or upon his sermons, or engaged in his devotions, the devil was
always making disturbances on the stairs or in the room. One day, after
a hard spell of study, he lay down to sleep in his bed, when the devil
began pelting him with hazel nuts, a sack of which had been brought to
him a few hours before by an attendant. He invoked, however, the name
of Christ, and lay down again in bed. There were other more curious and
more doubtful recipes for driving away Satan and his emissaries. Luther
is never tired of urging that contemptuous treatment and rude chaff are
among the most efficacious methods.

There was, he relates, a poor soothsayer, to whom the devil came in
visible form, and offered great wealth provided that he would deny
Christ and never more do penance. The devil provided him with a
crystal, by which he could foretell events, and thus become rich. This
he did; but Nemesis awaited him, for the devil deceived him one day,
and caused him to denounce certain innocent persons as thieves. In
consequence, he was thrown into prison, where he revealed the compact
that he had made, and called for a confessor. The two chief forms in
which the devil appeared were, according to Luther, those of a snake
and a sheep. He further goes into the question of the population of
devils in different countries. On the top of the Pilatus at Luzern is a
black pond, which is one of the devil's favourite abodes. In Luther's
own country there is also a high mountain, the Poltersberg, with a
similar pond. When a stone is thrown into this pond, a great tempest
arises, which often devastates the whole neighbourhood. He also alleges
Prussia to be full of evil spirits.

Devilish changelings, Luther said, were often placed by Satan in the
cradles of human children. "Some maids he often plunges into the
water, and keeps them with him until they have borne a child." These
children are placed in the beds of mortals, and the true children are
taken out and hurried away. "But," he adds, "such changelings are
said not to live more than to the eighteenth or nineteenth year." As a
practical application of this, it may be mentioned that Luther advised
the drowning of a certain child of twelve years old, on the ground
of its being a devil's changeling. Somnambulism is, with Luther, the
result of diabolical agency. "Formerly," says he, "the Papists, being
superstitious people, alleged that persons thus afflicted had not been
properly baptised, or had been baptised by a drunken priest." The irony
of the reference to superstition, considering the "great reformer's"
own position, will not be lost upon the reader.

Thus, not only is the devil the cause of pestilence, but he is also
the immediate agent of nightmare and of nightsweats. At Mölburg
in Thüringen, near Erfurt, a piper, who was accustomed to pipe at
weddings, complained to his priest that the devil had threatened to
carry him away and destroy him, on the ground of a practical joke
played upon some companions, to wit, for having mixed horse-dung with
their wine at a drinking bout. The priest consoled him with many
passages of Scripture anent the devil and his ways, with the result
that the piper expressed himself satisfied as regarded the welfare of
his soul, but apprehensive as regarded that of his body, which was, he
asserted, hopelessly the prey of the devil. In consequence of this, he
insisted on partaking of the Sacrament. The devil had indicated to him
when he was going to be fetched, and watchers were accordingly placed
in his room, who sat in their armour and with their weapons, and read
the Bible to him. Finally, one Saturday at midnight, a violent storm
arose, that blew out the lights in the room, and hurled the luckless
victim out of a narrow window into the street. The sound of fighting
and of armed men was heard, but the piper had disappeared. The next
morning he was found in a neighbouring ditch, with his arms stretched
out in the form of a cross, dead and coal-black. Luther vouches for the
truth of this story, which he alleges to have been told him by a parish
priest of Gotha, who had himself heard it from the parish priest of
Mölburg, where the event was said to have taken place.

Amongst the numerous anecdotes of a supernatural character told by
"Dr. Martin" is one of a "Poltergeist," or "Robin Goodfellow," who
was exorcised by two monks from the guest-chamber of an inn, and who
offered his services to them in the monastery. They gave him a corner
in the kitchen. The serving-boy used to torment him by throwing dirty
water over him. After unavailing protests, the spirit hung the boy up
to a beam, but let him down again before serious harm resulted. Luther
states that this "brownie" was well known by sight in the neighbouring
town (the name of which he does not give). But by far the larger number
of his stories, which, be it observed, are warranted as ordinary
occurrences, as to the possibility of which there was no question,
are coloured by that more sinister side of supernaturalism so much
emphasised by the new theology.

The mediæval devil was, for the most part, himself little more than a
prankish Rübezahl, or Robin Goodfellow; the new Satan of the Reformers
was, in very deed, an arch-fiend, the enemy of the human race, with
whom no truce or parley might be held. The old folklore belief in
_incubi_ and _succubi_ as the parents of changelings is brought into
connection with the theory of direct diabolic begettal. Thus Luther
relates how Friedrich, the Elector of Saxony, told him of a noble
family that had sprung from a _succubus_: "Just," says he, "as the
Melusina at Luxembourg was also such a _succubus_, or devil". In the
case referred to, the _succubus_ assumed the shape of the man's dead
wife, and lived with him and bore him children, until, one day, he
swore at her, when she vanished, leaving only her clothes behind. After
giving it as his opinion that all such beings and their offspring are
wiles of the devil, he proceeds: "It is truly a grievous thing that the
devil can so plague men that he begetteth children in their likeness.
It is even so with the nixies in the water, that lure a man therein,
in the shape of wife or maid, with whom he doth dally and begetteth
offspring of them." The change whereby the beings of the old naive
folklore are transformed into the devil or his agents is significant of
that darker side of the new theology, which was destined to issue in
those horrors of the witchcraft-mania that reached their height at the
beginning of the following century.

One more story of a "changeling" before we leave the subject.
Luther gives us the following as having come to his knowledge near
Halberstadt, in Saxony. A peasant had a baby, who sucked out its
mother and five nurses, besides eating a great deal. Concluding that
it was a changeling, the peasant sought the advice of his neighbours,
who suggested that he should take it on a pilgrimage to a neighbouring
shrine of the Mother of God. While he was crossing a brook on the way,
an impish voice from under the water called out to the infant, whom he
was carrying in a basket. The brat answered from within the basket,
"Ho, ho!" and the peasant was unspeakably shocked. When the voice from
the water proceeded to ask the child what it was after, and received
the answer from the hitherto inarticulate babe that it was going to
be laid on the shrine of the Mother of God, to the end that it might
prosper, the peasant could stand it no longer, and flung basket and
baby into the brook. The changeling and the little devil played for a
few moments with each other, rolling over and over, and crying "Ho,
ho, ho!" and then they disappeared together. Luther says that these
devilish brats may be generally known by their eating and drinking
too much, and especially by their exhausting their mother's milk, but
they may not develop any certain signs of their true parentage until
eighteen or nineteen years old. The Princess of Anhalt had a child
which Luther imagined to be a changeling, and he therefore advised its
being drowned, alleging that such creatures were only lumps of flesh
animated by the devil or his angels. Some one spoke of a monster which
infested the Netherlands, and which went about smelling at people
like a dog, and whoever it smelt died. But those that were smelt did
not see it, albeit the bystanders did. The people had recourse to
vigils and masses. Luther improved the occasion to protest against the
"superstition" of masses for the dead, and to insist upon his favourite
dogma of faith as the true defence against assaults of the devil.

Among the numerous stories of Satanic compacts, we are told of a monk
who ate up a load of hay, of a debtor who bit off the leg of his Hebrew
creditor and ran off to avoid payment, and of a woman who bewitched
her husband so that he vomited lizards. Luther observes, with especial
reference to this last case, that lawyers and judges were far too
pedantic with their witnesses and with their evidence; that the devil
hardens his clients against torture, and that the refusal to confess
under torture ought to be of itself sufficient proof of dealings with
the prince of darkness. "Towards such," says he, "we should show no
mercy; I would burn them myself." Black magic or witchcraft he proceeds
to characterise as the greatest sin a human being can be guilty of,
as, in fact, high treason against God Himself--_crimen læsæ majestatis

The conversation closes with a story of how Maximilian's father,
the Emperor Friedrich, who seems to have obtained a reputation for
magic arts, invited a well-known magician to a banquet, and on his
arrival fixed claws on his hands and hoofs on his feet by his cunning.
His guest, being ashamed, tried to hide the claws under the table
as long as he could, but finally he had to show them, to his great
discomfiture. But he determined to have his revenge, and asked his
host whether he would permit him to give proofs of his own skill.
The Emperor assenting, there at once arose a great noise outside the
window. Friedrich sprang up from the table, and leaned out of the
casement to see what was the matter. Immediately an enormous pair of
stag's horns appeared on his head, so that he could not draw it back.
Finding the state of the case, the Emperor exclaimed: "Rid me of them
again! Thou hast won!" Luther's comment on this was that he was always
glad to see one devil getting the best of another, as it showed that
some were stronger than others.

All this belongs, roughly speaking, to the side of the matter which
regards popular theology; but there is another side which is connected
more especially with the New Learning. This other school, which sought
to bring the somewhat elastic elements of the magical theory of the
universe into the semblance of a systematic whole, is associated with
such names as those of Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa, and the Abbot
von Trittenheim. The fame of the first named was so great throughout
Germany that when he visited any town the occasion was looked upon
as an event of exceeding importance.[18] Paracelsus fully shared in
the beliefs of his age, in spite of his brilliant insights on certain
occasions. What his science was like may be imagined when we learn
that he seriously speaks of animals who conceive through the mouth,
of basilisks whose glance is deadly, of petrified storks changed into
snakes, of the stillborn young of the lion which are afterwards brought
to life by the roar of their sire, of frogs falling in a shower of
rain, of ducks transformed into frogs, and of men born from beasts; the
menstruation of women he regarded as a venom whence proceeded flies,
spiders, earwigs, and all sorts of loathsome vermin; night was caused,
not by the absence of the sun, but by the presence of the stars, which
were the positive cause of the darkness. He relates having seen a
magnet capable of attracting the eyeball from its socket as far as the
tip of the nose; he knows of salves to close the mouth so effectually
that it has to be broken open again by mechanical means, and he writes
learnedly on the infallible signs of witchcraft. By mixing horse-dung
with human semen he believed he was able to produce a medium from
which, by chemical treatment in a retort, a diminutive human being,
or _homunculus_, as he called it, could be produced. The spirits of
the elements, the sylphs of the air, the gnomes of the earth, the
salamanders of the fire, and the undines of the water, were to him real
and undoubted existences in nature.

Strange as all these beliefs seem to us now, they were a very real
factor in the intellectual conceptions of the Renaissance period, no
less than of the Middle Ages, and amidst them there is to be found at
times a foreshadowing of more modern knowledge. Many other persons
were also more or less associated with the magical school, amongst
them Franz von Sickingen. Reuchlin himself, by his Hebrew studies, and
especially by his introduction of the Kabbala to Gentile readers, also
contributed a not unimportant influence in determining the course of
the movement. The line between the so-called black magic, or operations
conducted through the direct agency of evil spirits, and white magic,
which sought to subject nature to the human will by the discovery of
her mystical and secret laws, or the character of the quasi-personified
intelligent principles under whose form nature presented herself to
their minds, had never throughout the Middle Ages been very clearly
defined. The one always had a tendency to shade off into the other,
so that even Roger Bacon's practices were, although not condemned,
at least looked upon somewhat doubtfully by the Church. At the time
of which we treat, however, the interest in such matters had become
universal amongst all intelligent persons. The scientific imagination
at the close of the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance period
was mainly occupied with three questions: the discovery of the means
of transmuting the baser metals into gold, or otherwise of producing
that object of universal desire; to discover the Elixir Vitæ, by which
was generally understood the invention of a drug which would have the
effect of curing all diseases, restoring man to perennial youth, and,
in short, prolonging human life indefinitely; and, finally, the search
for the Philosopher's Stone, the happy possessor of which would not
only be able to achieve the first two, but also, since it was supposed
to contain the quintessence of all the metals, and therefore of all
the planetary influences to which the metals corresponded, would have
at his command all the forces which mould the destinies of men. In
especial connection with the latter object of research may be noted the
universal interest in astrology, whose practitioners were to be found
at every Court, from that of the Emperor himself to that of the most
insignificant prince or princelet, and whose advice was sought and
carefully heeded on all important occasions. Alchemy and astrology were
thus the recognised physical sciences of the age, under the auspices of
which a Copernicus and a Tycho Brahe were born and educated.


[18] _Cf._ Sebastian Franck, _Chronica_, for an account of a
visit of Paracelsus to Nürnberg.



From what has been said the reader may form for himself an idea of the
intellectual and social life of the German town of the period. The
wealthy patrician class, whose mainstay politically was the _Rath_,
gave the social tone to the whole. In spite of the sharp and sometimes
brutal fashion in which class distinctions asserted themselves then,
as throughout the Middle Ages, there was none of that aloofness
between class and class which characterises the bourgeois society
of the present day. Each town, were it great or small, was a little
world in itself, so that every citizen knew every other citizen more
or less. The schools attached to its ecclesiastical institutions were
practically free of access to all the children whose parents could
find the means to maintain them during their studies; and consequently
the intellectual differences between the different classes were
by no means necessarily proportionate to the difference in social
position. So far as culture and material prosperity were concerned,
the towns of Bavaria and Franconia, Munich, Augsburg, Regensburg,
and perhaps above all Nürnberg, represented the high-water mark of
mediæval civilisation as regards town-life. On entering the burg,
should it have happened to be in time of peace and in daylight, the
stranger would clear the drawbridge and the portcullis without much
challenge, passing along streets lined with the houses and shops of
the burghers, in whose open frontages the master and his apprentices
and _gesellen_ plied their trades, discussing eagerly over their work
the politics of the town, and at this period probably the theological
questions which were uppermost in men's minds, our visitor would make
his way to some hostelry, in whose courtyard he would dismount from
his horse, and, entering the common room, or _Stube_, with its rough
but artistic furniture of carved oak, partake of his flagon of wine or
beer, according to the district in which he was travelling, whilst the
host cracked a rough and possibly coarse jest with the other guests,
or narrated to them the latest gossip of the city. The stranger would
probably find himself before long the object of interrogatories
respecting his native place and the object of his journey (although his
dress would doubtless have given general evidence of this), whether he
were a merchant or a travelling scholar or a practiser of medicine; for
into one of these categories it might be presumed the humble but not
servile traveller would fall. Were he on a diplomatic mission from some
potentate he would be travelling at the least as a knight or a noble,
with spurs and armour, and moreover would be little likely to lodge in
a public house of entertainment.

In the _Stube_ he would probably see drinking heavily, representatives
of the ubiquitous _Landsknechte_, the mercenary troops enrolled for
imperial purposes by the Emperor Maximilian towards the end of the
previous century, who in the intervals of war were disbanded and
wandered about spending their pay, and thus constituted an excessively
disintegrative element in the life of the time. A contemporary
writer[19] describes them as the curse of Germany, and stigmatises
them as "unchristian, God-forsaken folk, whose hand is ever ready in
striking, stabbing, robbing, burning, slaying, gaming, who delight in
wine-bibbing, whoring, blaspheming, and in the making of widows and

Presently perhaps a noise without indicates the arrival of a new guest.
All hurry forth into the courtyard, and their curiosity is more
keenly whetted when they perceive by the yellow knitted scarf round
the neck of the new-comer that he is an _itinerans scholasticus_, or
travelling scholar, who brings with him not only the possibility of
news from the outer world, so important in an age when journals were
non-existent, and communications irregular and deficient, but also a
chance of beholding wonder-workings, as well as of being cured of the
ailments which local skill had treated in vain. Already surrounded by
a crowd of admirers waiting for the words of wisdom to fall from his
lips, he would start on that exordium which bore no little resemblance
to the patter of the modern quack, albeit interlarded with many a
Latin quotation and great display of mediæval learning. "Good people
and worthy citizens of this town," he might say, "behold in me the
great master ... prince of necromancers, astrologer, second mage,
chiromancer, agromancer, pyromancer, hydromancer. My learning is
so profound that were all the works of Plato and Aristotle lost to
the world, I could from memory restore them with more elegance than
before. The miracles of Christ were not so great as those which I can
perform wherever and as often as I will. Of all alchemists I am the
first, and my powers are such that I can obtain all things that man
desires. My shoebuckles contain more learning than the heads of Galen
and Avicenna, and my beard has more experience than all your high
schools. I am monarch of all learning. I can heal you of all diseases.
By my secret arts I can procure you wealth. I am the philosopher of
philosophers. I can provide you with spells to bind the most potent of
the devils in Hell. I can cast your nativities and foretell all that
shall befall you, since I have that which can unlock the secrets of all
things that have been, that are, and that are to come."[20] Bringing
forth strange-looking phials, covered with cabalistic signs, a crystal
globe and an astrolabe, followed by an imposing scroll of parchment
inscribed with mysterious Hebraic-looking characters, the travelling
student would probably drive a roaring trade amongst the assembled
townsmen in love-philtres, cures for the ague and the plague, and
amulets against them, horoscopes, predictions of fate and the rest of
his stock-in-trade.

As evening approaches, our traveller strolls forth into the streets and
narrow lanes of the town, lined with overhanging gables that almost
meet overhead and shut out the light of the afternoon sun, so that
twilight seems already to have fallen. Observing that the burghers,
with their wives and children, the work of the day being done, are
all wending toward the western gate, he goes along with the stream
till, passing underneath the heavy portcullis and through the outer
rampart, he finds himself in the plain outside, across which a rugged
bridle-path leads to a large quadrangular meadow, rough and more or
less worn, where a considerable crowd has already assembled. This is
the _Allerwiese_, or public pleasure ground of the town. Here there
are not only high festivities on Sundays and holidays, but every fine
evening in summer numbers of citizens gather together to watch the
apprentices exercising their strength in athletic feats, and competing
with one another in various sports, such as running, wrestling,
spear-throwing, sword-play, and the like, wherein the inferior rank
sought to imitate and even emulate the knighthood, whilst the daughters
of the city watched their progress with keen interest and applauding
laughter. As the shadows deepen and darkness falls upon the plain, our
visitor joins the groups which are now fast leaving the meadow, and
repasses the great embrasure just as the rushlights begin to twinkle
in the windows, and a swinging oil-lamp to cast a dim light here and
there in the streets. But as his company passes out of a narrow lane
debouching on to the chief market-place their progress is stopped by
the sudden rush of a mingled crowd of unruly apprentices and journeymen
returning from their sports, with hot heads well beliquored. Then from
another side street there is a sudden flare of torches borne aloft by
guildsmen come out to quell the tumult and to send off the apprentices
to their dwellings, whilst the watch also bears down and carries off
some of the more turbulent of the journeymen to pass the night in
one of the towers which guard the city wall. At last, however, the
visitor reaches his inn by the aid of a friendly guildsman and his
torch; and retiring to his chamber with its straw-covered floor, rough
oaken bedstead, hard mattress, and coverings not much better than
horsecloths, he falls asleep as the bell of the minster tolls out ten
o'clock over the now dark and silent city.

Such approximately would have been the view of a German city in the
sixteenth century as presented to a traveller in a time of peace. More
stirring times, however, were as frequent,--times when the tocsin
rang out from the steeple all night long, calling the citizens to
arms. By such scenes, needless to say, the year of the Peasant War was
more than usually characterised. In the days when every man carried
arms and knew how to use them, when the fighting instinct was imbibed
with the mother's milk, when every week saw some street brawl, often
attended by loss of life, and that by no means always among the most
worthless and dissolute of the inhabitants, every dissatisfaction
immediately turned itself into an armed revolt, whether it were of the
apprentices or the journeymen against the guild-masters, the body of
the townsmen against the patriciate, the town itself against its feudal
superior, where it had one, or of the knighthood against the princes.
The extremity to which disputes can at present be carried without
resulting in a breach of the peace, as evinced in modern political
and trade conflicts, exacerbated though some of them are, was a thing
unknown in the Middle Ages, and indeed to any considerable extent until
comparatively recent times. The sacred right of insurrection was then a
recognised fact of life, and but very little straining of a dispute led
to a resort to arms. In the subsequent chapters we have to deal with
the more important of those outbursts to which the ferment due to the
dissolution of the mediæval system of things, then beginning throughout
Central Europe, gave rise, of which the religious side is represented
by what is known as the Reformation.


[19] Sebastian Franck, _Chronica_, ccxvii.

[20] _Cf._ Trittheim's letter to Wirdung of Hasfurt regarding
Faust. _J. Tritthemii Epistolarum Familiarum_, 1536, bk. ii., ep. 47;
also the works of Paracelsus.



We have already pointed out in more than one place the position to
which the smaller nobility, or the knighthood, had been reduced by the
concatenation of causes which was bringing about the dissolution of
the old mediæval order of things, and, as a consequence, ruining the
knights both economically and politically:--economically by the rise of
capitalism as represented by the commercial syndicates of the cities;
by the unprecedented power and wealth of the city confederations,
especially of the Hanseatic League; by the rising importance of the
newly-developed world-market; by the growing luxury and the enormous
rise in the prices of commodities concurrently with the reduction
in value of the feudal land-tenures; and by the limitation of the
possibilities of acquiring wealth by highway robbery, owing to imperial
constitutions on the one hand and increased powers of defence on the
part of the trading community on the other:--politically, by the
new modes of warfare in which artillery and infantry, composed of
comparatively well-drilled mercenaries (_Landsknechte_), were rapidly
making inroads into the omnipotence of the ancient feudal chivalry,
and reducing the importance of individual skill or prowess in the
handling of weapons, and by the development of the power of the princes
or higher nobility, partly due to the influence which the Roman civil
law now began to exercise over the older customary constitution of
the Empire, and partly to the budding centralism of authority--which
in France and England became a national centralisation, but in
Germany, in spite of the temporary ascendancy of Charles V., finally
issued in a provincial centralisation in which the princes were _de
facto_ independent monarchs. The imperial constitution of 1495,
forbidding private war, applied, it must be remembered, only to the
lesser nobility and not to the higher, thereby placing the former in
a decidedly ignominious position as regards their feudal superiors.
And though this particular enactment had little immediate result, yet
it was none the less resented as a blow struck at the old knightly

The mental attitude of the knighthood in the face of this progressing
change in their position was naturally an ambiguous one, composed
partly of a desire to hark back to the haughty independence of
feudalism, and partly of sympathy with the growing discontent among
other classes and with the new spirit generally. In order that the
knights might succeed in recovering their old or even in maintaining
their actual position against the higher nobility, the princes, backed
as these now largely were by the imperial power, the co-operation of
the cities was absolutely essential to them, but the obstacles in the
way of such a co-operation proved insurmountable. The towns hated
the knights for their lawless practices, which rendered trade unsafe
and not infrequently cost the lives of the citizens. The knights for
the most part, with true feudal hauteur, scorned and despised the
artisans and traders who had no territorial family name and were
unexercised in the higher chivalric arts. The grievances of the two
parties were, moreover, not identical, although they had their origin
in the same causes. The cities were in the main solely concerned
to maintain their old independent position, and especially to curb
the growing disposition at this time of the other estates to use
them as milch cows from which to draw the taxation necessary to the
maintenance of the Empire. For example, at the Reichstag opened at
Nürnberg on the 17th November, 1522--to discuss the questions of the
establishment of perpetual peace within the Empire, of organising an
energetic resistance to the inroads of the Turks, and of placing on
a firm foundation the Imperial Privy Council (_Kammergericht_) and
the Supreme Council (_Reichsregiment_)--at which were represented
twenty-six imperial towns, thirty-eight high prelates, eighteen
princes, and twenty-nine counts and barons--the representatives of the
cities complained grievously that their attendance was reduced to a
farce, since they were always out-voted, and hence obliged to accept
the decisions of the other estates. They stated that their position
was no longer bearable, and for the first time drew up an Act of
Protest, which further complained of the delay in the decisions of the
imperial courts; of their sufferings from the right of private war
which was still allowed to subsist in defiance of the constitution;
of the increase of customs-stations on the part of the princes and
prince-prelates; and, finally, of the debasement of the coinage due to
the unscrupulous practices of these notables and of the Jews. The only
sympathy the other estates vouchsafed to the plaints of the cities was
with regard to the right of private war, which the higher nobles were
also anxious to suppress amongst the lower, though without prejudice
of course to their own privileges in this line. All the other articles
of the Act of Protest were coolly waived aside. From all this it will
be seen that not much co-operation was to be expected between such
heterogeneous bodies as the knighthood and the free towns, in spite of
their common interest in checking the threateningly advancing power of
the princes and the central imperial authority, which was for the most
part manned and manipulated by the princes.

Amid the decaying knighthood there was, as we have already intimated,
one figure which stood out head and shoulders above every other
noble of the time, whether prince or knight; and that was Franz von
Sickingen. He has been termed, not without truth, "the last flower of
German chivalry," since in him the old knightly qualities flashed
up in conjunction with the old knightly power and splendour with a
brightness hardly known even in the palmiest days of mediæval life. It
was, however, the last flicker of the light of German chivalry. With
the death of Sickingen and the collapse of his revolt the knighthood of
Central Europe ceased any longer to play an independent part in history.

Sickingen, although technically only one of the lower nobility, was
deemed about the time of Luther's appearance to hold the immediate
destinies of the Empire in his hand. Wealthy, inspiring confidence
and enthusiasm as a leader, possessed of more than one powerful and
strategically-situated stronghold, he held court at his favourite
residence, the Castle of the Landstuhl, in the Rhenish Palatinate,
in a style which many a prince of the Empire might have envied. As
honoured guests were to be found attending on him, humanists, poets,
minstrels, partisans of the new theology, astrologers, alchemists, and
men of letters generally; in short, the whole intelligence and culture
of the period. Foremost among these, and chief confidant of Sickingen,
was the knight, courtier, poet, essayist and pamphleteer, Ulrich von
Hutten, whose pen was ever ready to champion with unstinted enthusiasm
the cause of the progressive ideas of his age. He first took up the
cudgels against the obscurantists on behalf of Humanism as represented
by Erasmus and Reuchlin, the latter of whom he bravely defended in
his dispute with the Inquisition and the monks of Cologne, and in his
contributions to the _Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum_ we see the youthful
ardour of the Renaissance in full blast in its onslaught on the forces
of mediæval obstruction. Unlike most of those with whom he was first
associated, Hutten passed from being the upholder of the New Learning
to the rôle of champion of the Reformation; and it was largely through
his influence that Sickingen took up the cause of Luther and his

Sickingen had been induced by Charles V. to assist him in an abortive
attempt to invade France in 1521, from which campaign he had returned
without much benefit either material or moral, save that Charles was
left heavily in his debt. The accumulated hatred of generations for
the priesthood had made Sickingen a willing instrument in the hands
of the reforming party and believing that Charles now lay to some
extent in his power, he considered the moment opportune for putting his
long-cherished scheme into operation for reforming the constitution
of the Empire. This reformation consisted, as was to be expected, in
placing his own order on a firm footing, and of effectually curbing the
power of the other estates, especially that of the prelates. Sickingen
wished to make the Emperor and the lower nobility the decisive factors
in his new scheme of things political. The Emperor, it so happened,
was for the moment away in Spain, and Sickingen's colleagues of the
knightly order were becoming clamorous at the unworthy position
into which they found themselves rapidly being driven. The feudal
exactions of their princely lieges had reached a point which passed
all endurance, and since they were practically powerless in the
Reichstags no outlet was left for their discontent save by open revolt.
Impelled not less by his own inclinations than by the pressure of his
companions, foremost among whom was Hutten, Sickingen decided at once
to open the campaign.

Hutten, it would appear, attempted to enter into negotiations for the
co-operation of the towns and of the peasants. So far as can be seen,
Strassburg and one or two other imperial cities returned favourable
answers; but the precise measure of Hutten's success cannot be
ascertained, owing to the fact that all the documents relating to the
matter perished in the destruction of Sickingen's Castle of Ebernburg.
It is certain, however, that operations were begun before any definite
assurances of help had been obtained, although had the first attempts
had any appearance of success there is little doubt that such help
would have been forthcoming.

The campaign was unfortunate from the beginning. Nevertheless, but
one of the associated knights saw that the moment was inopportune.
The rest were confident of success, and a pretext was speedily found
in the fact that Sickingen's feudal superior, the Archbishop of Trier
(Treves), had refused to compel two councillors of that city to repay
him 5000 Rhenish guilders (_gulden_) which he had paid as ransom for
them to a certain knight, Gerhard Börner, who had taken them prisoners.
This was a sufficient _casus belli_ for those times; and Sickingen
thereupon issued a manifesto in which he declared himself the champion
of the gospel, and announced his intention to free the subjects of
the archbishop from the temporal yoke of their tyrant, who had acted
against God and the imperial majesty, and from the spiritual yoke of
godless priests, and to place them in possession of that liberty which
the gospel (_i.e._, the new gospel of Luther) alone could afford.

It should be premised that on the 13th of August, previous to this
declaration of war, a "Brotherly Convention" had been signed by a
number of the knights, by which Sickingen was appointed their captain,
and they bound themselves to submit to no jurisdiction save their own,
and pledged themselves to mutual aid in war in case of hostilities
against any one of their number. Through this "Treaty of Landau,"
Sickingen had it in his power to assemble a considerable force at a
moment's notice. Consequently, a few days after the issue of the above
manifesto, on the 27th August, 1522, Sickingen was able to start from
the Castle of Ebernburg with an army of 5000 foot and 1500 knights,
besides artillery, in the full confidence that he was about to destroy
the position of the Palatine prince-prelate and raise himself without
delay to the chief power on the Rhine. The grand chamberlain of the
celebrated patron of letters and Humanism, Albrecht, Archbishop of
Mainz, Frowers von Hutten, was in the conspiracy; and it is almost
certain that Albrecht himself was secretly in accord with Sickingen's
plan for the destruction of his electoral neighbour. This is shown by
the fact that when the Archbishop of Trier appealed to him, as his
colleague, for assistance, Albrecht made a number of excuses which
enabled him to delay the sending of reinforcements until they were too
late to be of any use, whilst at the same time numbers of his retainers
and subjects served under Sickingen's banner.

By an effective piece of audacity, that of sporting the imperial flag
and the Burgundian cross, Franz spread abroad the idea that he was
acting on behalf of the Emperor, then absent in Spain; and this largely
contributed to the result that his army speedily rose to 5000 knights
and 10,000 footmen. The Imperial Diet at Nürnberg now intervened,
and ordered Sickingen to cease the operations he had already begun,
threatening him with the ban of the Empire and a fine of 2000 marks
if he did not obey. To this summons Franz sent a characteristically
impudent reply,[21] and light-heartedly continued the campaign,
regardless of the warning which an astrologer had given him some time
previously, that the year 1522 or 1523 would probably be fatal to
him. It is evident that this campaign, begun so late in the year, was
regarded by Sickingen and the other leaders as merely a preliminary
canter to a larger and more widespread movement the following spring,
since on this occasion the Swabian and Franconian knighthood do not
appear to have been even invited to take part in it.

After an easy progress, during which several trifling places, the most
important being St. Wendel, were taken, Franz with his army arrived on
the 8th of September before the gates of Trier. He had hoped to capture
the town by surprise, and was indeed not without some expectation of
co-operation and help from the citizens themselves. On his arrival he
shot letters within the walls summoning the inhabitants to take his
part against their tyrant; but either through the unwillingness of
the burghers to act with the knights, or through the vigilance of the
archbishop, they were without effect. The gates remained closed; and
in answer to Sickingen's summons to surrender, Richard replied that
he would find him in the city if he could get inside. In the meantime
Sickingen's friends had signally failed in their attempts to obtain
supplies and reinforcements for him, in the main owing to the energetic
action of some of the higher nobles. The Archbishop of Trier showed
himself as much a soldier as a churchman; and after a week's siege,
during which Sickingen made five assaults on the city, his powder ran
out, and he was forced to retire. He at once made his way back to
Ebernburg, where he intended to pass the winter, since he saw that it
was useless to continue the campaign, with his own army diminishing
and the hoped-for supplies not appearing, whilst the forces of his
antagonists augmented daily. In his stronghold of Ebernburg he could
rely on being secure from all attack until he was able to again take
the field on the offensive, as he anticipated doing in the spring.

There is some doubt as to the events which occurred during this
retreat to Ebernburg. Sickingen's adversaries asserted that not only
did his army destroy churches and monasteries, but that the houses
of the peasants in the surrounding country were plundered and burnt.
His friends, on the other hand, maintain with equal vehemence that
Sickingen and his followers confined themselves to wiping out of
existence as many as possible of the hated ecclesiastical foundations.

In spite of the obvious failure of the autumnal campaign, the cause
of the knighthood did not by any means look irretrievably desperate,
since there was always the possibility of successful recruitments the
following spring. Ulrich von Hutten was doing his utmost in Würtemberg
and Switzerland to scrape together men and money, though up to this
time without much success, while other emissaries of Sickingen were
working with the same object in Breisgau and other parts of Southern
Germany. Relying on these expected reinforcements, Franz was confident
of victory when he should again take the field, and in the meantime he
felt himself quite secure in one or other of his strong places, which
had recently undergone extensive repairs and seemed to be impregnable.
In this anticipation he was deceived, as will shortly be seen, for
he had not reckoned with the new and more potent weapons of attack
which were replacing the battering-ram and other mediæval besieging

The princes, meanwhile, were not inactive. Immediately after the
abortive attack on Richard of Trier, Sickingen was placed under the
ban of the Empire (Oct. 8), but although the latter had temporarily
disbanded his army it was impossible for them to attack him at once.
They therefore contented themselves for the moment by wreaking
their vengeance on those of his supporters who were more easily to
be reached. Albrecht of Mainz, whose public policy had been that
of "sitting on the fence all round," was fined 25,000 gulden for
his lukewarmness in supporting his colleague, the Elector of Trier.
Kronberg, near Frankfort, which was held by Sickingen's son-in-law,
Hardtmuth, was taken by a force of 30,000 men (?); Frowen von Hutten,
the cousin of Ulrich, was driven from his Castle of Saalmünster and
dispossessed of his estates, whilst a number of the smaller fry equally
felt the heavy hand of the princely power. The chastisement of more
distant adherents to the cause of the knighthood, like the Counts of
Fürstenberg and Zollern and the knights of Franconia, was left over
until the leader of the movement had been dealt with.

This latter task was set about energetically, as soon as the winter
was past, by the three princes who had specially taken in hand the
suppression of the revolt, Archbishop Richard of Trier, Prince Ludwig
of the Pfalz, and Count Phillip of Hesse. In February, Sickingen's
second son, Hans, was taken prisoner, and shortly after the Castle
of Wartenberg was captured. An armistice which Sickingen had asked
for in order that the reinforcements he expected might have time to
arrive, was refused, since the princes saw that their only chance of
immediately crushing his power was to attack him at once. Towards the
end of April a large army of cavalry, infantry, and siege artillery
was called together at Kreuznach, not far from Sickingen's Castle of
Ebernburg. Franz, however, was no longer there. He appears to have
left Ebernburg for his strongest fortress at Landstuhl some weeks
previously, though how and when is uncertain. Here he hoped to be
able to hold out for at least three or four months, by which time his
friends could deliver him; and when the army of the three princes
appeared before the castle he sent back a mocking answer to their
summons to surrender, to the effect that he had new walls and they
had new guns, so they could now see which were the stronger. But
Sickingen had not realised the power of the new projectiles; and in
a week after the opening of the bombardment, on the 29th of April,
the newly-fortified castle on which he had staked all his hopes was
little better than a defenceless heap of ruins. In the course of the
bombardment Franz himself, as he stood at an embrasure watching the
progress of the siege, was flung against a splintered joist, owing
to the gun-stand against which he was leaning being overturned by a
cannon shot. With his side torn open he was carried down into a dark
rocky vault of the castle, realising at last that all was lost. "Where
are now," he cried, "my knights and my friends, who promised me so much
and who have performed so little? Where is Fürstenberg? where Zollern?
where are they of Strassburg and of the Brotherhood? Wherefore, let
none place their trust in great possessions nor in the encouragements
of men." It must be alleged, however, in their excuse, that his
friends doubtless shared Franz's confidence in the impregnability of
the Landstuhl, and were not aware of the imminent straits he had been
in since the beginning of the attack. The messenger he had sent to
the distant Fürstenberg had been captured by the army of the allied
princes; Zollern knew of the need of his leader only with the news of
his death; Hutten's efforts to obtain help in Switzerland had been in

Seeing that now all was over and he himself on the point of death,
Sickingen wrote to the princes, requesting them to come and see him.
The firing at once ceased, and negotiations were entered upon for the
surrender of the castle. On the 6th of May Sickingen agreed to the
articles of capitulation, which included the surrender of himself and
the rest of the knights in the castle as prisoners of war, his other
retainers giving up their arms and leaving the castle on the following
day. The Landstuhl with all its contents was to fall, of course, into
the hands of the besiegers. As Franz signed the articles, he remarked
to the ambassadors: "Well, I shall not be long your prisoner".

On the 7th of May the princes entered the castle and were at once taken
to the underground chamber where Franz lay dying. He was so near his
end that he could scarcely distinguish his three arch-enemies one from
the other. "My dear lord," he said to the Count Palatine, his feudal
superior, "I had not thought that I should end thus," taking off his
cap and giving him his hand. "What has impelled thee, Franz," asked
the Archbishop of Trier, "that thou hast so laid waste and harmed me
and my poor people?" "Of that it were too long to speak," answered
Sickingen, "but I have done nought without cause. I go now to stand
before a greater Lord." Here it is worthy of remark that the princes
treated Franz with all the knightliness and courtesy which were
customary between social equals in the days of chivalry, addressing
him at most rather as a rebellious child than as an insurgent subject.
The Prince of Hesse was about to give utterance to a reproach, but he
was interrupted by the Count Palatine, who told him that he must not
quarrel with a dying man. The count's chamberlain said some sympathetic
words to Franz, who replied to him: "My dear chamberlain, it matters
little about me. It is not I who am the cock round which they are
dancing." When the princes had withdrawn, his chaplain asked him if
he would confess; but Franz replied: "I have confessed to God in my
heart," whereupon the chaplain gave him absolution; and as he went to
fetch the host "the last of the knights" passed quietly away, alone and
abandoned. It is related by Spalatin that after his death some peasants
and domestics placed his body in an old armourchest, in which they had
to double the head on to the knees. The chest was then let down by a
rope from the rocky eminence on which stood the now ruined castle, and
was buried beneath a small chapel in the village below.

The scene we have just described in the castle vault meant not merely
the tragedy of a hero's death, nor merely the destruction of a faction
or party. It meant the end of an epoch. With Sickingen's death one
of the most salient and picturesque elements in the mediæval life of
Central Europe received its death-blow. The knighthood as a distinct
factor in the polity of Europe henceforth existed no more.

Spalatin relates that on the death of Sickingen the princely party
anticipated as easy a victory over the religious revolt as they had
achieved over the knighthood. "The mock Emperor is dead," so the phrase
went, "and the mock Pope will soon be dead also." Hutten, already
an exile in Switzerland, did not many months survive his patron and
leader, Sickingen. The rôle which Erasmus played in this miserable
tragedy was only what was to be expected from the moral cowardice which
seemed ingrained in the character of the great Humanist leader. Erasmus
had already begun to fight shy of the Reformation movement, from which
he was about to separate himself definitely. He seized the present
opportunity to quarrel with Hutten; and to Hutten's somewhat bitter
attacks on him in consequence he replied with ferocity in his _Spongia
Erasmi adversus aspergines Hutteni_.

Hutten had had to fly from Basel to Mülhausen and thence to Zürich,
in the last stages of syphilitic disease. He was kindly received by
the reformer, Zwingli of Zürich, who advised him to try the waters
of Pfeffers, and gave him letters of recommendation to the abbot of
that place. He returned, in no wise benefited, to Zürich, when Zwingli
again befriended the sick knight, and sent him to a friend of his,
the "reformed" pastor of the little island of "Ufenau," at the other
end of the lake, where after a few weeks' suffering he died in abject
destitution, leaving, it is said, nothing behind him but his pen. The
disease from which Hutten suffered the greater part of his life, at
that time a comparatively new importation and much more formidable
even than now-a-days, may well have contributed to an irascibility
of temper and to a certain recklessness which the typical free-lance
of the Reformation in its early period exhibited. Hutten was never a
theologian, and the Reformation seems to have attracted him mainly
from its political side as implying the assertion of the dawning
feeling of German nationality as against the hated enemies of freedom
of thought and the new light, the clerical satellites of the Roman
see. He was a true son of his time, in his vices no less than in his
virtues; and no one will deny his partiality for "wine, women, and
play". There is reason, indeed, to believe that the latter at times
during his later career provided his sole means of subsistence.

The hero of the Reformation, Luther, with whom Melancthon may be
associated in this matter, could be no less pusillanimous on occasion
than the hero of the New Learning, Erasmus. Luther undoubtedly saw in
Sickingen's revolt a means of weakening the Catholic powers against
which he had to fight, and at its inception he avowedly favoured
the enterprise. In "Karsthans," the brochure quoted from in the
last chapter, Luther is represented as the incarnation of Christian
resignation and mildness, and as talking of twelve legions of angels
and deprecating any appeal to force as unbefitting the character of
an evangelical apostle. That such, however, was not his habitual
attitude is evident to all who are in the least degree acquainted with
his real conduct and utterances. On one occasion he wrote: "If they
(the priests) continue their mad ravings it seems to me that there
would be no better method and medicine to stay them than that kings
and princes did so with force, armed themselves and attacked these
pernicious people who do poison all the world, and once for all did
make an end of their doings with weapons not with words. For even as we
punish thieves with the sword, murderers with the rope, and heretics
with fire, wherefore do we not lay hands on these pernicious teachers
of damnation, on popes, on cardinals, bishops, and the swarm of the
Roman Sodom--yea, with every weapon which lieth within our reach, _and
wherefore do we not wash our hands in their blood_?"

It is, however, in a manifesto published in July, 1522, just before
Sickingen's attack on the Archbishop of Trier, for which enterprise
it was doubtless intended as a justification, that Luther expresses
himself in unmeasured terms against the "biggest wolves," the bishops,
and calls upon "all dear children of God and all true Christians" to
drive them out by force from the "sheep-stalls". In this pamphlet,
entitled "Against the falsely called spiritual order of the Pope and
the bishops," he says: "It were better that every bishop were murdered,
every foundation or cloister rooted out, than that one soul should
be destroyed, let alone that all souls should be lost for the sake
of their worthless trumpery and idolatry. Of what use are they who
thus live in lust, nourished by the sweat and labour of others, and
are a stumbling block to the word of God? They fear bodily uproar and
despise spiritual destruction. Are they wise and honest people? If
they accepted God's word and sought the life of the soul, God would be
with them, for He is a God of peace, and they need fear no uprising;
but if they will not hear God's word, but rage and rave with bannings,
burnings, killings, and every evil, what do they better deserve than a
strong uprising which shall sweep them from the earth? _And we would
smile did it happen._ As the heavenly wisdom saith: 'Ye have hated my
chastisement and despised my doctrine; behold, I will also laugh at ye
in your distress, and will mock ye when misfortune shall fall upon your
heads'." In the same document he denounces the bishops as an accursed
race, as "thieves, robbers, and usurers". Swine, horses, stones, and
wood were not so destitute of understanding as the German people under
the sway of them and their Pope. The religious houses are similarly
described as "brothels, low taverns, and murder dens". He winds up
this document, which he calls his bull, by proclaiming that "all who
contribute body, goods, and honour that the rule of the bishops may be
destroyed are God's dear children and true Christians, obeying God's
command and fighting against the devil's order;" and on the other hand,
that "all who give the bishops a willing obedience are the devil's own
servants, and fight against God's order and law".[22]

No sooner, however, did things begin to look bad with Sickingen than
Luther promptly sought to disengage himself from all complicity or
even sympathy with him and his losing cause. So early as the 19th
of December, 1522, he writes to his friend Wenzel Link: "Franz von
Sickingen has begun war against the Palatine. It will be a very bad
business." (_Franciscus Sickingen Palatino bellum indixit, res pessima
futura est._) His colleague, Melancthon, a few days later, hastened
to deprecate the insinuation that Luther had had any part or lot in
initiating the revolt. "Franz von Sickingen," he wrote, "by his great
ill-will injures the cause of Luther; and notwithstanding that he be
entirely dissevered from him, nevertheless whenever he undertaketh
war he wisheth to seem to act for the public benefit, and not for his
own. He is even now pursuing a most infamous course of plunder on the
Rhine." In another letter he says: "I know how this tumult grieveth
him (Luther),"[23] and this respecting the man who had shortly before
written of the princes, that their tyranny and haughtiness were no
longer to be borne, alleging that God would not longer endure it,
and that the common man even was becoming intelligent enough to deal
with them by force if they did not mend their manners. A more telling
example of the "don't-put-him-in-the-horse-pond" attitude could
scarcely be desired. That it was characteristic of the "great reformer"
will be seen later on when we find him pursuing a similar policy anent
the revolt of the peasants.

After the fall of the Landstuhl all Sickingen's castles and most of
those of his immediate allies and friends were of course taken, and
the greater part of them destroyed. The knighthood was now to all
intents and purposes politically helpless and economically at the door
of bankruptcy, owing to the suddenly changed conditions of which we
have spoken in the Introduction and elsewhere as supervening since the
beginning of the century: the unparalleled rise in prices, concurrently
with the growing extravagance, the decline of agriculture in many
places, and the increasing burdens put upon the knights by their feudal
superiors, and last, but not least, the increasing obstacles in the
way of the successful pursuit of the profession of highway robbery.
The majority of them, therefore, clung with relentless severity to the
feudal dues of the peasants, which now constituted their main, and in
many cases their only, source of revenue; and hence, abandoning the
hope of independence, they threw in their lot with the authorities, the
princes, lay and ecclesiastic, in the common object of both, that of
reducing the insurgent peasants to complete subjection.

Some few of the more chivalrous knights, foremost among whom was
Florian Geyer, retained their rebel instincts against the higher
authorities, and took sides with the popular movement. They fought,
however, in a forlorn hope. As we shall now see, provincial centralism,
as in Italy, and not national centralism as in France, England, and
Spain, was destined to be the political form dominant in Germany
far into the modern period. The disasters and discomfitures of the
Peasants' War, which we shall presently describe, removed the last
obstacle to the complete ascendancy of the provincial potentates, the
princes of the Empire; for this event was the immediate cause of the
final disintegration of mediæval life, and the undermining of the last
survivals of the free institutions of the communal village which had
lasted throughout the Middle Ages.


[21] Franz said to the bystanders when the messengers of the
Council appeared: "Look at these old fiddles of the _Regiment_; only
the dancers lack. There is no dearth of commands, but only of those who
heed them;" and turning to the nuncios themselves, he bade them tell
the Imperial Stadthalter and the other gentlemen of the Council that
"they might make themselves easy, for he was as good a servant of the
Emperor as themselves. He would, if he had enough followers, so work it
that the Emperor would be able to get far more land and gold in Germany
than he could ever get abroad. He only meant to give Richard of Trier
a slight drubbing, and to soak his crowns for him which he had gotten
from France."

[22] _Sämmtliche Werke_, vol. xxviii., 142-201.

[23] _Corpus Reformatorum_, i., 598-599.



For the complete understanding of the events which follow it must be
borne in mind that we are witnessing the end of a distinct historical
period; and, as we have pointed out in the Introduction, the expiring
effort, half conscious and half unconscious, of the people to revert to
the conditions of an earlier age. Nor can the significance be properly
gauged unless a clear conception is obtained of the differences between
country and town life at the beginning of the sixteenth century. From
the earliest periods of the Middle Ages of which we have any historical
record, the _Markgenossenschaft_, or primitive village community of the
Germanic race, was overlaid by a territorial domination, imposed upon
it either directly by conquest or voluntarily accepted for the sake of
the protection indispensable in that rude period. The conflict of these
two elements, the mark organisation and the territorial lordship,
constitutes the marrow of the social history of the Middle Ages.

In the earliest times the pressure of the over-lord, whoever he might
be, seems to have been comparatively slight, but its inevitable
tendency was for the territorial power to extend itself at the expense
of the rural community. It was thus that in the tenth and eleventh
centuries the feudal oppression had become thoroughly settled, and
had reached its greatest intensity all over Europe. It continued thus
with little intermission until the thirteenth century, when from
various causes, economic and otherwise, matters began to improve in
the interests of the common man, till in the fifteenth century the
condition of the peasant was better than it has ever been, either
before or since within historical times, in Northern and Western
Europe. But with all this, the oppressive power of the lord of the soil
was by no means dead. It was merely dormant, and was destined to spring
into renewed activity the moment the lord's necessities supplied a
sufficient incentive. From this time forward the element of territorial
power, supported in its claims by the Roman law, with its basis
of private property, continued to eat into it until it had finally
devoured the old rights and possessions of the village community. The
executive power always tended to be transferred from its legitimate
holder, the village in its corporate capacity, to the lord; and this
was alone sufficient to place the villager at his mercy.

At the time of the Reformation, owing to the new conditions which had
arisen and had brought about in a few decades the hitherto unparalleled
rise in prices, combined with the unprecedented ostentation and
extravagance more than once referred to in these pages, the lord was
supplied with the requisite incentive to the exercise of the power
which his feudal system gave him. Consequently, the position of the
peasant rapidly changed for the worse; and although at the outbreak of
the movement not absolutely _in extremis_, according to our notions,
yet it was so bad comparatively to his previous condition and that less
than half a century before, and tended so evidently to become more
intolerable, that discontent became everywhere rife, and only awaited
the torch of the new doctrines to set it ablaze. The whole course of
the movement shows a peasantry not downtrodden and starved, but proud
and robust, driven to take up arms not so much by misery and despair as
by the deliberate will to maintain the advantages which were rapidly
slipping away from them.

Serfdom was not by any means universal. Many free peasant villages
were to be found scattered amongst the manors of the territorial
lords, though it was but too evidently the settled policy of the
latter at this time to sweep everything into their net, and to compel
such peasant communes to accept a feudal over-lordship. Nor were they
at all scrupulous in the means adopted for attaining their ends. The
ecclesiastical foundations, as before said, were especially expert in
forging documents for the purpose of proving that these free villages
were lapsed feudatories of their own. Old rights of pasture were being
curtailed, and others, notably those of hunting and fishing, had in
most manors been completely filched away.

It is noticeable, however, that although the immediate causes of the
peasant rising were the new burdens which had been laid upon the
common people during the last few years, once the spirit of discontent
was aroused it extended also in many cases to the traditional feudal
dues to which until then the peasant had submitted with little
murmuring, and an attempt was made by the country side to reconquer the
ancient complete freedom of which a dim remembrance had been handed
down to them.

The condition of the peasant up to the beginning of the sixteenth
century, that is to say, up to the time when it began to so rapidly
change for the worse, may be gathered from what we are told by
contemporary writers, such as Wimpfeling, Sebastian Brandt,
Wittenweiler, the satires in the _Nürnberger Fastnachtspielen_, and
numberless other sources, as also from the sumptuary laws of the end
of the fifteenth century. All these indicate an ease and profuseness
of living which little accord with our notions of the word peasant.
Wimpfeling writes: "The peasants in our district and in many parts
of Germany have become, through their riches, stiff-necked and
ease-loving. I know peasants who at the weddings of their sons or
daughters, or the baptism of their children, make so much display that
a house and field might be bought therewith, and a small vineyard to
boot. Through their riches, they are oftentimes spendthrift in food and
in vestments, and they drink wines of price."

A chronicler relates of the Austrian peasants, under the date of 1478,
that "they wore better garments and drank better wine than their
lords"; and a sumptuary law passed at the Reichstag, held at Lindau
in 1497, provides that the common peasant man and the labourer in the
towns or in the field "shall neither make nor wear cloth that costs
more than half a gulden the ell, neither shall they wear gold, pearls,
velvet, silk, nor embroidered clothes, nor shall they permit their
wives or their children to wear such".

Respecting the food of the peasant, it is stated that he ate his full
in flesh of every kind, in fish, in bread, in fruit, drinking wine
often to excess. The Swabian, Heinrich Müller, writes in the year 1550,
nearly two generations after the change had begun to take place: "In
the memory of my father, who was a peasant man, the peasant did eat
much better than now. Meat and food in plenty was there every day, and
at fairs and other junketings the tables did well-nigh break with what
they bore. Then drank they wine as it were water, then did a man fill
his belly and carry away withal as much as he could; then was wealth
and plenty. Otherwise is it now. A costly and a bad time hath arisen
since many a year, and the food and drink of the best peasant is much
worse than of yore that of the day labourer and the serving man."

We may well imagine the vivid recollections which a peasant in the
year 1525 had of the golden days of a few years before. The day
labourers and serving men were equally tantalised by the remembrance
of high wages and cheap living at the beginning of the century. A
day labourer could then earn, with his keep, nine, and without keep,
sixteen groschen[24] a week. What this would buy may be judged from
the following prices current in Saxony during the second half of the
fifteenth century. A pair of good working shoes cost three groschen;
a whole sheep, four groschen; a good fat hen, half a groschen;
twenty-five cod fish, four groschen; a waggon-load of firewood,
together with carriage, five groschen; an ell of the best home-spun
cloth, five groschen; a scheffel (about a bushel) of rye, six or seven

The Duke of Saxony wore grey hats which cost him four groschen.
In Northern Rhineland about the same time a day labourer could, in
addition to his keep, earn in a week a quarter of rye, ten pounds of
pork, six large cans of milk, and two bundles of firewood, and in the
course of five weeks be able to buy six ells of linen, a pair of shoes,
and a bag for his tools. In Augsburg the daily wages of an ordinary
labourer represented the value of six pounds of the best meat, or one
pound of meat, seven eggs, a peck of peas, about a quart of wine, in
addition to such bread as he required, with enough over for lodging,
clothing, and minor expenses. In Bavaria he could earn daily eighteen
pfennige, or one and a half groschen, whilst a pound of sausage cost
one pfennig, and a pound of the best beef two pfennige, and similarly
throughout the whole of the States of Central Europe.

A document of the year 1483, from Ehrbach in the Swabian Odenwald,
describes for us the treatment of servants by their masters. "All
journeymen," it declares, "that are hired, and likewise bondsmen
(serfs), also the serving men and maids, shall each day be given twice
meat and what thereto longith, with half a small measure of wine, save
on fast days, when they shall have fish or other food that nourisheth.
Whoso in the week hath toiled shall also on Sundays and feast days make
merry after mass and preaching. They shall have bread and meat enough,
and half a great measure of wine. On feast days also roasted meat
enough. Moreover, they shall be given, to take home with them, a great
loaf of bread and so much of flesh as two at one meal may eat."

Again, in a bill of fare of the household of Count Joachim von
Oettingen in Bavaria, the journeymen and villeins are accorded in
the morning, soup and vegetables; at mid-day, soup and meat, with
vegetables, and a bowl of broth or a plate of salted or pickled meat;
at night, soup and meat, carrots, and preserved meat. Even the women
who brought fowls or eggs from the neighbouring villages to the
castle were given for their trouble--if from the immediate vicinity,
a plate of soup with two pieces of bread; if from a greater distance,
a complete meal and a cruise of wine. In Saxony, similarly, the
agricultural journeymen received two meals a day, of four courses each,
besides frequently cheese and bread at other times should they require
it. Not to have eaten meat for a week was the sign of the direst famine
in any district. Warnings are not wanting against the evils accruing to
the common man from his excessive indulgence in eating and drinking.

Such was the condition of the proletariat in its first inception,
that is, when the mediæval system of villeinage had begun to loosen
and to allow a proportion of free labourers to insinuate themselves
into its working. How grievous, then, were the complaints when, while
wages had risen either not at all or at most from half a groschen to a
groschen, the price of rye rose from six or seven groschen a bushel to
about five-and-twenty groschen, that of a sheep from four to eighteen
groschen, and all other articles of necessary consumption in a like

In the Middle Ages, necessaries and such ordinary comforts as were to
be had at all were dirt cheap; while non-necessaries and luxuries, that
is, such articles as had to be imported from afar, were for the most
part at prohibitive prices. With the opening up of the world-market
during the first half of the sixteenth century, this state of things
rapidly changed. Most luxuries in a short time fell heavily in price,
while necessaries rose in a still greater proportion.

This latter change in the economic conditions of the world exercised
its most powerful effect, however, on the character of the mediæval
town, which had remained substantially unchanged since its first
great expansion at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the
fourteenth centuries. With the extension of commerce and the opening
up of communications, there began that evolution of the town whose
ultimate outcome was to entirely change the central idea on which the
urban organisation was based.

The first requisite for a town, according to modern notions, is
facility of communication with the rest of the world by means of
railways, telegraphs, postal system, and the like. So far has this
gone now that in a new country, for instance America, the railway,
telegraph lines, etc., are made first, and the towns are then strung
upon them, like beads upon a cord. In the mediæval town, on the
contrary, communication was quite a secondary matter, and more of a
luxury than a necessity. Each town was really a self-sufficing entity,
both materially and intellectually. The modern idea of a town is that
of a mere local aggregate of individuals, each pursuing a trade or
calling with a view to the world-market at large. Their own locality
or town is no more to them economically than any other part of the
world-market, and very little more in any other respect. The mediæval
idea of a town, on the contrary, was that of an organisation of groups
into one organic whole. Just as the village community was a somewhat
extended family organisation, so was, _mutatis mutandis_, the larger
unit, the township or city. Each member of the town organisation owed
allegiance and distinct duties primarily to his guild, or immediate
social group, and through this to the larger social group which
constituted the civic society. Consequently, every townsman felt a kind
of _esprit de corps_ with his fellow-citizens, akin to that, say, which
is alleged of the soldiers of the old French "foreign legion," who,
being brothers-in-arms, were brothers also in all other relations. But
if every citizen owed duty and allegiance to the town in its corporate
capacity, the town no less owed protection and assistance, in every
department of life, to its individual members.

As in ancient Rome in its earlier history, and as in all other early
urban communities, agriculture necessarily played a considerable part
in the life of most mediæval towns. Like the villages they possessed
each its own mark, with its common fields, pastures, and woods. These
were demarcated by various landmarks, crosses, holy images, etc.; and
"the bounds" were beaten every year. The wealthier citizens usually
possessed gardens and orchards within the town walls, while each
inhabitant had his share in the communal holding without. The use of
this latter was regulated by the Rath or Council. In fact, the town
life of the Middle Ages was not by any means so sharply differentiated
from rural life as is implied in our modern idea of a town. Even in the
larger commercial towns, such as Frankfurt, Nürnberg or Augsburg, it
was common to keep cows, pigs, and sheep, and, as a matter of course,
fowls and geese, in large numbers within the precincts of the town
itself. In Frankfurt in 1481 the pigsties in the town had become such a
nuisance that the Rath had to forbid them _in the front_ of the houses
by a formal decree. In Ulm there was a regulation of the bakers' guild
to the effect that no single member should keep more than twenty-four
pigs, and that cows should be confined to their stalls at night. In
Nürnberg in 1475 again, the Rath had to interfere with the intolerable
nuisance of pigs and other farmyard stock running about loose in the
streets. Even in a town like München we are informed that agriculture
formed one of the staple occupations of the inhabitants, while in
almost every city the gardeners' or the winegrowers' guild appears as
one of the largest and most influential.

It is evident that such conditions of life would be impossible with
town-populations even approaching only distantly those of to-day; and,
in fact, when we come to inquire into the size and populousness of
mediæval cities, as into those of the classical world of antiquity, we
are at first sight staggered by the smallness of their proportions. The
largest and most populous free imperial cities in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, Nürnberg and Strassburg, numbered little more than
20,000 resident inhabitants within the walls, a population rather less
than that of (say) Gloucester at the present time. Such an important
place as Frankfurt-am-Main is stated at the middle of the fifteenth
century to have had less than 9000 inhabitants. At the end of the
fifteenth century Dresden could only boast of about 5000. Rothenburg on
the Tauber is to-day a dead city to all intents and purposes, affording
us a magnificent example of what a mediæval town was like, as the bulk
of its architecture, including the circuit of its walls, which remain
intact, dates approximately from the sixteenth century. At present a
single line of railway branching off from the main line with about
two trains a day is amply sufficient to convey the few antiquarians
and artists who are now its sole visitors, and who have to content
themselves with country-inn accommodation. Yet this old free city has
actually a larger population at the present day than it had at the time
of which we are writing, when it was at the height of its prosperity
as an important centre of activity. The figures of its population are
now between 8000 and 9000. At the beginning of the sixteenth century
they were between 6000 and 7000. A work written and circulated in
manuscript during the first decade of the sixteenth century, "A
Christian Exhortation" (_Ein Christliche Mahnung_), after referring to
the frightful pestilences recently raging as a punishment from God,
observes, in the spirit of true Malthusianism, and as a justification
of the ways of Providence, that "an there were not so many that died
there were too much folk in the land, and it were not good that such
should be lest there were not food enough for all".

Great population as constituting importance in a city is comparatively
a modern notion. In other ages towns became famous on account of their
superior civic organisation, their more advantageous situation, or the
greater activity, intellectual, political, or commercial, of their

What this civic organisation of mediæval towns was, demands a few words
of explanation, since the conflict between the two main elements in
their composition plays an important part in the events which follow.
Something has already been said on this head in the Introduction. We
have there pointed out that the Rath or Town Council, that is the
supreme governing body of the municipality, was in all cases mainly,
and often entirely, composed of the heads of the town aristocracy, the
patrician class or "honorability" (_Ehrbarkeit_), as they were termed,
who on the ground of their antiquity and wealth laid claim to every
post of power and privilege. On the other hand were the body of the
citizens enrolled in the various guilds, seeking, as their position
and wealth improved, to wrest the control of the town's resources from
the patricians. It must be remembered that the towns stood in the
position of feudal over-lords to the peasants who held land on the
city territory, which often extended for many square miles outside
the walls. A small town like Rothenburg, for instance, which we have
described above, had on its lands as many as 15,000 peasants. The
feudal dues and contributions of these tenants constituted the staple
revenue of the town, and the management of them was one of the chief
bones of contention.

Nowhere was the guild system brought to a greater perfection than in
the free imperial towns of Germany. Indeed, it was carried further
in them, in one respect, than in any other part of Europe, for the
guilds of journeymen (_Gesellenverbände_), which in other places never
attained any strength or importance, were in Germany developed to the
fullest extent, and of course supported the craft-guilds in their
conflict with the patriciate. Although there were naturally numerous
frictions between the two classes of guilds respecting wages, working
days, hours, and the like, it must not be supposed that there was
that irreconcilable hostility between them which would exist at the
present time between a trades union and a syndicate of employers. Each
recognised the right to existence of the other. In one case, that of
the strike of bakers towards the close of the fifteenth century, at
Colmar in Elsass, the craft-guilds supported the journeymen in their
protest against a certain action of the patrician Rath which they
considered to be a derogation from their dignity.

Like the masters the journeymen had their own guild-house, and their
own solemn functions and social gatherings. There were, indeed,
two kinds of journeymen-guilds: one whose chief purpose was a
religious one, and the other concerning itself in the first instance
with the secular concerns of the body. However, both classes of
journeymen-guilds worked into one another's hand. On coming into a
strange town a travelling member of such a guild was certain of a
friendly reception, of maintenance until he procured work, and of
assistance in finding it as soon as possible.

Interesting details concerning the wages paid to journeymen and their
contributions to the guilds are to be found in the original documents
relating exclusively to the journeymen-guilds, collected by Georg
Schanz.[26] From these and other sources it is clear that the position
of the artisan in the towns was in proportion much better than even
that of the peasant at that time, and therefore immeasurably superior
to anything he has enjoyed since. In South Germany at this period the
average price of beef was about two denarii[27] a pound, while the
daily wages of the masons and carpenters, in addition to their keep and
lodging, amounted in the summer to about twenty, and in the winter to
about sixteen of these denarii. In Saxony the same journeymen-craftsmen
earned on the average, besides their maintenance, two groschen four
pfennige a day, or about one-third the value of a bushel of corn.

In addition to this, in some cases the workman had weekly gratuities
under the name of "bathing money"; and in this connection it may be
noticed that a holiday for the purpose of bathing once a fortnight,
once a week, or even oftener, as the case might be, was stipulated for
by the guilds, and generally recognised as a legitimate demand. The
common notion of the uniform uncleanliness of the mediæval man requires
to be considerably modified when one closely investigates the condition
of town life, and finds everywhere facilities for bathing in winter and
summer alike. Untidiness and uncleanliness, according to our notions,
there may have been in the streets and in the dwellings in many cases,
owing to inadequate provisions for the disposal of refuse and the like;
but we must not therefore extend this idea to the person, and imagine
that the mediæval craftsman or even peasant was as unwholesome as, say,
the Roumanian peasant of to-day.

When these wages received by the journeymen artisans are compared
with the prices of commodities previously given, it will be seen how
relatively easy were their circumstances; and the extent of their
well-being may be further judged from the wealth of their guilds,
which, although varying in different places, at all times formed a
considerable proportion of the wealth of the town. The guild system
was based upon the notion that the individual master and workman
was working as much in the interest of the guild as for his own
advantage. Each member of the guild was alike under the obligation to
labour, and to labour in accordance with the rules laid down by his
guild, and at the same time had the right of equal enjoyment with his
fellow-guildsmen of all advantages pertaining to the particular branch
of industry covered by the guild. Every guildsman had to work himself
_in propriâ personâ_; no contractor was tolerated who himself "in
ease and sloth doth live on the sweat of others, and puffeth himself
up in lustful pride". Were a guild-master ill and unable to manage
the affairs of his workshop, it was the council of the guild, and
not himself or his relatives, who installed a representative for him
and generally looked after his affairs. It was the guild again which
procured the raw material, and distributed it in relatively equal
proportions amongst its members; or where this was not the case, the
time and place were indicated at which the guildsman might buy at a
fixed maximum price. Every master had equal right to the use of the
common property and institutions of the guild, which in some industries
included the essentials of production, as, for example, in the case
of the woollen manufacturers, where wool kitchens, carding rooms,
bleaching houses and the like were common to the whole guild.

Needless to say, the relations between master and apprentices and
master and journeymen were rigidly fixed down to the minutest detail.
The system was thoroughly patriarchal in its character. In the
hey-day of the guilds, every apprentice and most of the journeymen
regarded their actual condition as a period of preparation which
would end in the glories of mastership. For this dear hope they were
ready on occasion to undergo cheerfully the most arduous duties.
The education in handicraft, and, we may add, the supervision of
the morals of the blossoming members of the guild, was a department
which greatly exercised its administration. On the other hand,
the guild in its corporate capacity was bound to maintain sick or
incapacitated apprentices and journeymen, though after the journeymen
had developed into a distinct class, and the consequent rise of the
journeymen-guilds, the latter function was probably in most cases taken
over by them. The guild laws against adulteration, scamped work, and
the like, were sometimes ferocious in their severity. For example, in
some towns the baker who misconducted himself in the matter of the
composition of his bread was condemned to be shut up in a basket which
was fixed at the end of a long pole, and let down so many times to the
bottom of a pool of dirty water. In the year 1456 two grocers, together
with a female assistant, were burnt alive at Nürnberg for adulterating
saffron and spices, and a similar instance happened at Augsburg in
1492. From what we have said it will be seen that guild life, like the
life of the town as a whole, was essentially a social life. It was
a larger family, into which various blood families were merged. The
interest of each was felt to be the interest of all, and the interest
of all no less the interest of each.

But in many towns, outside the town population properly speaking,
outside the patrician families who generally governed the Rath,
outside the guilds, outside the town organisation altogether, there
were other bodies dwelling within the walls and forming _imperia in
imperiis_. These were the religious corporations, whose possessions
were often extensive, and who, dwelling within their own walls,
shut out from the rest of the town, were subject only to their own
ordinances. The quasi-religious, quasi-military Order of the Teutonic
Knights (_Deutscher Orden_), founded at the time of the Crusades, was
the wealthiest and largest of these corporations. In addition to the
extensive territories which it held in various parts of the Empire,
it had establishments in a large number of cities. Besides this there
were, of course, the Orders of the Augustinians and Carthusians,
and a number of less important foundations, who had their cloisters
in various towns. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the
pomp, pride, and licentiousness of the Teutonic Order drew upon it
the especial hatred of the townsfolk; and amid the general wreck of
religious houses none were more ferociously despoiled than those
belonging to this Order. There were, moreover, in some towns, the
establishments of princely families, which were regarded by the
citizens with little less hostility than that accorded to the religious

Such were the explosive elements of town life when changing conditions
were tending to dislocate the whole structure of mediæval existence.
The capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 had struck a heavy
blow at the commerce of the Bavarian cities which had come by way of
Constantinople and Venice. This latter city lost one by one its trading
centres in the East, and all Oriental traffic by way of the Black Sea
was practically stopped. It was the Dutch cities who inherited the
wealth and influence of the German towns when Vasco da Gama's discovery
of the Cape route to the East began to have its influence on the trade
of the world. This diversion of Oriental traffic from the old overland
route was the starting point of the modern merchant navy, and it must
be placed amongst the most potent causes of the break-up of mediæval
civilisation. The above change, although immediately felt by the German
towns, was not realised by them in its full importance either as to its
causes or its consequences for more than a century; but the decline of
their prosperity was nevertheless sensible, even now, and contributed
directly to the coming upheaval.


[24] One silver groschen = 1-1/5d.

[25] The authorities for the above data are to be found in
Janssen, i., vol. i., bk. iii., especially pp. 330-346.

[26] _Zur Geschichte der deutschen Gesellenverbände._ Leipz.,

[27] C. 1/5d. The _denarius_ was the South German equivalent
of the North German _pfennig_, of which twelve went to the _groschen_.



The impatience of the prince, the prelate, the noble, and the wealthy
burgher at the restraints which the system of the Middle Ages placed
upon his activity as an individual in the acquisition for his own
behoof and the disposal at his own pleasure of wealth, regardless of
the consequences to his neighbour, found expression, and a powerful
lever, in the introduction from Italy of the Roman law in place of the
old canon and customary law of Europe. The latter never regarded the
individual as an independent and autonomous entity, but invariably
treated him with reference to a group or social body, of which he
might be the head or merely a subordinate member; but in any case
the filaments of custom and religious duty attached him to a certain
humanity outside himself, whether it were a village community, a
guild, a township, a province, or the Empire. The idea of a right to
individual autonomy in his dealings with men never entered into the
mediæval man's conception. Hence the mere possession of property was
not recognised by mediæval law as conferring any absolute rights in its
holder to its unregulated use, and the basis of the mediæval notions of
property was the association of responsibility and duty with ownership.
In other words, the notion of _trust_ was never completely divorced
from that of _possession_.

The Roman law rested on a totally different basis. It represented
the legal ethics of a society on most of its sides brutally and
crassly individualistic. That that society had come to an end instead
of evolving to its natural conclusion--a developed capitalistic
individualism such as exists to-day--was due to the weakness of its
economic basis, owing to the limitation at that time of man's power
over nature, which deprived it of recuperative and defensive power,
thereby leaving it a prey not only to internal influences of decay but
also to violent destructive forces from without. Nevertheless, it left
a legacy of a ready-made legal system to serve as an implement for the
first occasion when economic conditions should be once more ready for
progress to resume the course of individualistic development, abruptly
brought to an end by the fall of ancient civilisation as crystallised
in the Roman Empire.

The popular courts of the village, of the mark and of the town, which
had existed up to the beginning of the sixteenth century with all their
ancient functions, were extremely democratic in character. Cases were
decided on their merits, in accordance with local custom, by a body
of jurymen chosen from among the freemen of the district, to whom the
presiding functionaries, most of whom were also of popular selection,
were little more than assessors. The technicalities of a cut-and-dried
system were unknown. The Catholic Germanic theory of the Middle Ages
proper, as regards the civil power in all its functions, from the
highest downward, was that of the mere administrator of justice as
such; whereas the Roman law regarded the magistrate as the vicegerent
of the _princeps_ or _imperator_, in whose person was absolutely vested
as its supreme embodiment the whole power of the State. The Divinity
of the Emperors was a recognition of this fact; and the influence
of the Roman law revived the theory as far as possible under the
changed conditions, in the form of the doctrine of the Divine Right
of Kings--a doctrine which was totally alien to the Catholic feudal
conception of the Middle Ages. This doctrine, moreover, received added
force from the Oriental conception of the position of the ruler found
in the Old Testament, from which Protestantism drew so much of its

But apart from this aspect of the question, the new juridical
conception involved that of a system of rules as the crystallised
embodiment of the abstract "State," given through its representatives
which could under no circumstances be departed from, and which could
only be modified in their operation by legal quibbles that left to
them their nominal integrity. The new law could therefore only be
administered by a class of men trained specially for the purpose, of
which the plastic customary law borne down the stream of history from
primitive times, and insensibly adapting itself to new conditions but
understood in its broader aspects by all those who might be called
to administer it, had little need. The Roman law, the study of which
was started at Bologna in the twelfth century, as might naturally be
expected, early attracted the attention of the German Emperors as a
suitable instrument for use on emergencies. But it made little real
headway in Germany itself as against the early institutions until the
fifteenth century, when the provincial power of the princes of the
Empire was beginning to overshadow the central authority of the titular
chief of the Holy Roman Empire. The former, while strenuously resisting
the results of its application from above, found in it a powerful
auxiliary in their courts in riveting their power over the estates
subject to them. As opposed to the delicately adjusted hierarchical
notions of Feudalism, which did not recognise any absoluteness of
dominion either over persons or things, in short for which neither
the head of the State had any inviolate authority as such, nor
private property any inviolable rights or sanctity as such, the new
jurisprudence made corner-stones of both these conceptions.

Even the canon law, consisting in a mass of Papal decretals dating
from the early Middle Ages, and which, while undoubtedly containing
considerable traces of the influence of Roman law, was nevertheless
largely customary in its character with an infusion of Christian
ethics, had to yield to the new jurisprudence, and that too in
countries where the Reformation had been unable to replace the old
ecclesiastical dogma and organisation. The principles and practice
of the Roman law were sedulously inculcated by the tribe of civilian
lawyers who by the beginning of the sixteenth century infested every
Court throughout Europe. Every potentate, great and small, little as
he might like its application by his feudal over-lord to himself, was
yet only too ready and willing to invoke its aid for the oppression of
his own vassals or peasants. Thus the civil law everywhere triumphed.
It became the juridical expression of the political, economical, and
religious change which marks the close of the Middle Ages and the
beginnings of the modern commercial world.

It must not be supposed, however, that no resistance was made
to it. Everywhere in contemporary literature, side by side with
denunciations of the new mercenary troops, the _Landsknechte_, we
find uncomplimentary allusions to the race of advocates, notaries,
and procurators who, as one writer has it, "are increasing like
grasshoppers in town and in country year by year". Wherever they
appeared, we are told, countless litigious disputes sprang up. He who
had but the money in hand might readily defraud his poorer neighbour
in the name of law and right. "Woe is me!" exclaims one author, "in
my home there is but one procurator, and yet is the whole country
round about brought into confusion by his wiles. What a misery will
this horde bring upon us!" Everywhere was complaint and in many places

As early as 1460 we find the Bavarian estates vigorously complaining
that all the courts were in the hands of doctors. They demanded that
the rights of the land and the ancient custom should not be cast
aside; but that the courts as of old should be served by reasonable
and honest judges, who should be men of the same feudal livery and of
the same country as those whom they tried. Again in 1514, when the
evil had become still more crying, we find the estates of Würtemberg
petitioning Duke Ulrich that the Supreme Court "shall be composed of
honourable, worthy, and understanding men of the nobles and of the
towns, who shall not be doctors, to the intent that the ancient usages
and customs should abide, and that it should be judged according to
them in such wise that the poor man might no longer be brought to
confusion". In many covenants of the end of the fifteenth century,
express stipulation is made that they should not be interpreted by a
doctor or licentiate, and also in some cases that no such doctor or
licentiate should be permitted to reside or to exercise his profession
within certain districts. Great as was the economical influence of the
new jurists in the tribunals, their political influence in the various
courts of the Empire, from the _Reichskammergericht_ downwards, was,
if anything, greater. Says Wimpfeling, the first writer on the art of
education in the modern world: "According to the loathsome doctrines of
the new jurisconsults, the prince shall be everything in the land and
the people naught. The people shall only obey, pay tax, and do service.
Moreover, they shall not alone obey the prince but also those he has
placed in authority, who begin to puff themselves up as the proper
lords of the land, and to order matters so that the princes themselves
do as little as may be reign." From this passage it will be seen that
the modern bureaucratic state, in which government is as nearly as
possible reduced to mechanism and the personal relation abolished,
was ushered in under the auspices of the civil law. How easy it was
for the civilian to effect the abolition of feudal institutions may be
readily imagined by those cognisant of the principles of Roman law.
For example, the Roman law of course making no mention of the right of
the mediæval "estates" to be consulted in the levying of taxes or in
other questions, the jurist would explain this right to his too willing
master, the prince, as an abuse which had no legal justification, and
which, the sooner it were abolished in the interest of good government
the better it would be. All feudal rights as against the power of an
over-lord were explained away by the civil jurist, either as pernicious
abuses, or, at best, as favours granted in the past by the predecessors
of the reigning monarch, which it was within his right to truncate or
to abrogate at his will.

From the preceding survey will be clearly perceived the important
rôle which the new jurisprudence played on the continent of Europe in
the gestation of the new phase which history was entering upon in the
sixteenth century. Even the short sketch given will be sufficient to
show that it was not in one department only that it operated; but
that, in addition to its own domain of law proper, its influence was
felt in modifying economical, political, and indirectly even ethical
and religious conditions. From this time forth Feudalism slowly but
surely gave place to the newer order, all that remained being certain
of its features, which, crystallised into bureaucratic forms, were
doubly veneered with a last trace of mediæval ideas and a denser
coating of civilian conceptions. This transitional Europe, and not
mediæval Europe, was the Europe which lasted on until the eighteenth
century, and which practically came to an end with the French



The following is a rescript issued by a Commission of the Reichstag
held at Nürnberg in 1522-23, anent the commercial syndicates which
the sudden development of the world-market had recently called into

 "What the small Commission by order of the great Commission hath
 determined concerning the Monopolia or pernicious and prohibited
 commerce is hereafter related."

 (MSS. of 61 pages in the Ernestine General Archives at Weimar, Margin
 E. Quoted by Egelhaaf. Appendix, vol. i.)

 "In the first place, concerning the origin of the word Monopolia.
 Monopolia is a Greek word, from the word Monos, that is, alone, and
 Polonia, that is, a selling. As if one should say: I alone sell this
 or that, or my Company or I alone sell. Therefore, such separate
 dealing whereby several dealers or traders unite together in such wise
 that they alone obtain profit from their handicraft or merchandy is
 called Monopolia. This is discoursed of in Lege Unica (?), Cod. de

 "Item, the aforesaid Monopolia, Uniting, Combining, Associatings and
 their Sellings have not now for the first time been found not to be
 borne; but the same were regarded and known as very noxious to the
 Commonweal, destructive and worthy to be punished, as aforetime by the
 Roman Emperors and Jurisconsults, and more especially by the blessed
 Emperor Justinian, so that such trespassers should be made to lose all
 their goods, and moreover should be adjudged to eternal misery (exile)
 from their own homes, as standeth written Lege Unica, Cod. de Monop.
 Honorius also and Theodosius forbade those of noble birth and those of
 the richer sort from harmful commerce; so that the common folk might
 the more easily buy of the Merchants; and in the Reichstag at Köln
 in 1512 the matter was much debated by the Emperor Maximilian, the
 Electors, the Princes and the Estates, and the aforesaid increase in
 the price of Wares was forbidden under great pains and penalties. The
 decree of the Reichstag sayeth:--

 "And since much great fellowship in Trade hath arisen within the Realm
 in the last years, and also there be several and sundry persons who
 venture to bring all kinds of Wares and Merchants' goods, such as
 Spices, Arras, Woollen Cloth, and such-like into their own hand with
 power to trade in them, to set or to make their own advantage out
 of them, as it them pleaseth, and do greatly harm thereby the Holy
 Empire and all Estates thereof, contrary to the Imperial written Law
 and to all honesty: we have ordered and enacted for the furthering
 of the common profit and according to necessity, and we do desire
 that earnestly, and we will, that such noxious dealing be henceforth
 forbidden, and that they abstain [from it], and that henceforth they
 may [not] carry it on or exercise it. Those who shall do this contrary
 to the aforesaid, their Goods and Chattels shall be confiscated
 and fall to the Authority of the place. And the same Companies and
 Merchants [shall] henceforth not be conducted [on their journeys] by
 any authority in the Empire, nor shall it be lawful for such to do so
 with whatsoever words, opinion or clauses the convoy hath been given.
 Yet shall it not be forbidden to any man on this account to enter into
 company with any other save only if he undertake to bring the Wares
 into one hand and to place upon the Wares a worth according to his
 own mind and pleasure; or shall pledge the buyer or seller to sell,
 to give, or to keep such Wares to or for no man but himself, or that
 he shall not give them save such wise as he hath agreed with him.
 But when they, to whom it is permitted to pursue such trade, shall
 seek to make an unbecoming dearness, the Authority shall with zeal
 and earnestness forbid such dearness, and command an honest sale; but
 where an Authority be careless, the Fiscal shall exhort the same to
 perform his duty within the space of one month, failing such hath the
 Fiscal power to enter process against him.

 "But the Authority and the Fiscal have neither done their duty, as
 is not right nor just, forasmuch as in the present times other small
 robbers and thieves are punished sorely, and these rich Companies,
 even one of them, do in the year compass much more undoing to the
 Commonweal than all other robbers and thieves in that they and their
 servants give public display of luxuriousness, pomp and prodigal
 wealth, of which there is no small proof in that Bartholomew Rhem
 did win, in so short a time and with so little stock of trade, such
 notable riches in the Hochstetter Company--as hath openly appeared in
 the justifying before the City Court at Augsburg and at the Reichstag
 but lately held at Worms. Therefore hath the said Rhem been made
 prisoner in Worms, and is even still kept in durance. Moreover shall
 he be sent here to Nürnberg that he may bear witness, and that it may
 be known with what perils the aforesaid forbidden Monopolies and Trade
 be practised, also through what good ways and means such may be set
 aside and prevented.

 "There are three questions to be discoursed of: (1) Whether the
 Monopolies be hurtful to the Holy Empire and therefore are to be
 destroyed; (2) Whether all Companies without difference shall be done
 away, or whether a measure shall be set to them; (3) By what means
 this shall be done, and how these things may be remedied.

 "I. Firstly, that the great Companies and the heaping up of their
 Stocks are everywhere harmful is the one cause as may be seen from
 the Spice, which is the most considerable Merchandise thus dealt and
 traded with, in the German nation. It is said with credibility that
 the King of Portugal hath not to pay more for one pound's weight
 of Pepper sent from the Indies to Antwerp than three shillings in
 gold, twenty of which shillings go to a Rhenish Gulden. But also
 if a Company in Portugal doth send for Spices it hath no trouble
 and excuse. How dear soever the King doth offer or give the Wares,
 it payeth him sometimes yet more, but on condition that he shall
 not furnish such Wares to them who will hereafter buy, save for a
 still greater price. To this example it may be added that he who
 hath offered an hundred-weight of Pepper from Portugal for eighteen
 ducats hath received for them twenty ducats or even more, with the
 condition that the Royal Majesty shall furnish to none other for
 the space of one or two years the same Pepper or Wares cheaper than
 twenty-four ducats, and thereby one hath so outbidden the other that
 the Spice which at the first could be sold but for eighteen ducats
 is now sold in Portugal for thirty-four ducats and up-wards. And it
 hath become at one time well-nigh as dear as it was ever before. The
 same hath also happened to other Spices with which such Merchants
 are nothing burdened, nor do they have any loss there-withal, but
 great over-abounding gain, the while they, for their part, will sell
 as dearly as they may, and none else in the Holy Empire may have or
 obtain the same. What loss and disadvantage resulteth to most men,
 even to the least, is not hard to be comprehended. We may prove this
 from the Nürnberg Spice convoys. The Saffron of most price, so called
 from the Catalonian place Saffra, hath cost some years ago, as namely
 in the sixteenth year, two and a half Gulden, six Kreutzers; now in
 the twenty-second year it costeth five and a half Gulden, fifteen
 Kreutzers. The best Saffron, which is called Zymer by the Merchants,
 hath cost from 1516 to 1519 two Gulden the pound, and even in 1521
 two Gulden, twenty-four to twenty-six Kreutzers; now it costeth four
 Gulden; and even so are all Saffrons more dear, Arragonian, Polish,
 Avernian, etcetera.

 "The Merchants, moreover, do not make dear everything at the same
 time, but now with Saffron and Cloves, the one year with Pepper and
 Ginger, then with Nutmeg, etcetera, to the intent that their advantage
 may not at once be seen of men. It is therefore purposed to make an
 enquiry of how much Spices are brought into Germany each year, so
 that it may be known how much the tax upon these Spices would bring
 in, in so far as the Merchants make a small increase to each pound,
 as happeneth very commonly. It hath been ordered to the Merchants to
 make estimation thereof, but their estimations were diverse; yet are
 the numbers told for the Spices which each year go in from Lisabon
 [Lisbon] alone, so that there may be had better knowledge. 36,000
 hundred-weight of Pepper and not less but rather the more; 2400
 hundred-weight of Ginger, about 1000 balls of Saffron do come from
 Lisabon alone, without that which cometh from Venice. For the other
 Spices they do not make known the sum. At Antwerp this may be known
 the more surely, through the due which is there levied.

 "The Companies have paid especial note to such Wares as can be the
 least spared; and if one be not rich enough, it goeth for help to
 another, and the twain together do bring the Wares, whatsoever they
 be, wholly into their own hand. If a poor, small Merchant buy of them
 these same Wares, whose worth hath been cunningly enhanced, and if he
 desireth to trade with these Wares, according to his needs, then these
 aforesaid great hucksters are from that hour upon his neck, they have
 the abundance of these same Wares, and can give them cheaper and on
 longer borrowing; thereby is this poor man oppressed, cometh to harm
 and some to destruction. Ofttimes do they buy back their Wares through
 unknown persons, but not to the gain of them that sell; therefore it
 is that they have their Storehouses in well-nigh all places in Europe;
 and here lieth the cause of the magnificence of the heaping up of

 "The great Companies do lessen trading and consuming in the lands.
 They do all their business in far countries and by letters; where
 now there is a great Company, there aforetime did twenty or more
 [persons], it may be, nourish themselves, who must all now wander
 afar, because they cannot hold a storehouse and servants in other
 places. By these means came it to pass that roads, tolls and convoy
 dues were multiplied, as innkeepers and all handiworkers of use
 and pleasure have knowledge; for many sellers bring good sale and
 cheapness into the Wares.

 "Furthermore, the good gold and silver Monies are brought out of the
 land by the Companies, who everywhere do buy them up and change them.
 Within a short time Rhenish gold will have been changed and melted
 from far-seeking lust of gain. Therefore are there already in divers
 towns risings of the poor man, which, where it be not prevented,
 will, it is to be feared, extend further and more.

 "II. _Now it be asked, are all Companies to be therefore destroyed?_
 We have now already shown cause why the great Companies mighty in
 money should be scattered and not be borne with. But, therefore, it is
 not said that all Companies and common trading should be wholly cut
 away; this were indeed against the Commonweal and very burdensome,
 harmful and foolish to the whole German nation; for therefrom would
 follow (1) that one should give strength, help and fellowship to
 Frenchmen and foreign nations, that they should undertake and carry
 out that which with so much pains we have gone forth to destroy.
 These foreign nations would then suck out the whole German land. (2)
 Furthermore, if each would trade singly and should lose thereby, that
 would then be to his undoing, and also to theirs who had entrusted
 to him their Goods. That may not happen where divers persons join
 together with moderation. (3) Such a forbidding would solely serve
 the rich to their advantage, who in all cases everywhere do pluck
 the grain for themselves and do leave the chaff for others. Of these
 rich, some are so placed that they are able even to do that which now
 great Companies do and which is thought to be so sore an oppression.
 Therewith would the matter not be bettered, but only a covering would
 be set upon it. (4) Trading and industry do bring this with them, that
 the Wares should not be sought in one place alone. One man is not
 able, and more especially not at the time when there is need thereof.
 The issue would be that trade in the land would be forbidden and it
 would serve the gain of foreign nations, and especially at this time
 [hurt?] the Germans; but to hire servants and to send such in his
 stead to another place needs money, and small Stocks will hardly bear
 the holding of domestics; many there be, indeed, who are not able to
 provide for themselves, let alone for servants.

 "III. What proposals are now to be put forth for the staying of the
 aforesaid forbidden practice?

 "(1) Companies or single persons shall use no more than twenty
 thousand, forty thousand, or for the most fifty thousand Gulden Stock
 for trade, and shall have no more than three Storehouses outside their
 family dwelling.

 "(2) They shall be held by their bodily sworn vows to declare to their
 Authority that they have no more money in trade.

 "(3) Their Stock may not be enhanced by gain; but rather, at farthest,
 account must be made every two years and the gain divided, also a
 notifying to the Authority must be made that the reckoning and the
 distributing hath been fulfilled.

 "(4) No Money may be lent with usury for purpose of trade, for this
 is ungodly and usurious, also harmful and noxious to the Commonweal,
 without weighing of gain and of loss to take or to give monies or

 "(5) No sort of Ware may be brought into one hand.

 "(6) Dispersed Companies may not join themselves together, on pain of
 losing all their goods.

 "(7) No Merchant may buy at one buying more than 100 hundred-weight of
 Pepper, 100 hundred-weight of Ginger, and of no manner of Spice which
 hath the name, more than 50 hundred-weight; also after such buying he
 may not buy or trade any more of the same Ware for the fourth part of
 a year.

 "(8) Inasmuch as especial nimbleness is used by the great Companies,
 the which have their knowledge in many lands, when the Wares spoil
 or when they come into greater worth, so as they make foreign
 Merchants buy up from others that have such Wares and bring the same
 into their hands before the others do know of such loss. Therefrom
 there followeth a great dearness of the Ware. For the other part the
 punishment may be best set in such wise that should such a harmful
 sale be disclosed within four weeks from the making thereof, the buyer
 shall be bound thereunto that he surrender his Ware again to the
 seller for the one half that was paid therefor; the other half part of
 the price falleth to the Authority.

 "(9) On pain of loss of the Goods, as hath been determined in Köln,
 the seller may not make condition that the buyer shall not dare to
 give away the Wares for a lesser price.

 "(10) In order that foreign nations may not be healed and bettered
 the while German land is oppressed and despoiled, it is commanded
 that this ordinance shall bind all foreigners born without who have
 their Storehouse within the Empire; so that a foreigner, whether a
 Frenchman or whatsoever he may be, that tradeth in the Holy Empire and
 is encompassed by this ordinance, shall and must suffer all penalties
 even as other Merchants born in this country, that do transgress. This
 shall also bind all Principalities, Lordships and Cities, even though
 they be free, to the intent that it shall be held equally for all men,
 and that none shall therein be spared.

 "(11) Through the voyaging of German Merchants to Portugal there
 ariseth great evil, in that in Lisabon, because of the shipping from
 Portugal to the Indies with Spices and other matters, there be great
 Storehouses and very bold buying and selling, such as can in no wise
 else exist in one place, and therefore in that place ariseth the great
 due and enhancement of every manner of Spice and Ware which are borne
 away from thence, the same also with the pennyworths which they use
 up even in Portugal, and may not succeed with till they be once more
 shipped from the Indies to that city. To this end must every Ware that
 cometh from Portugal be ventured on the sea by Germans and be bound
 upon the Wheel of Fortune; and the voyage to Portugal is well-nigh
 more fearsome and dangerous than is that to the Indies. In few years
 on this same sea hath the worth of fifteen hundreds of thousands
 of Gulden been drowned and perished; and yet nevertheless are the
 Merchant folk, who have inherited but little, become so unspeakably
 rich. Therefore shall all shipping to Portugal be forbidden; the
 Portuguese shall themselves take in hand the venture and their Wares,
 and those that they may not keep they shall bring to Germany; for if
 one doth not thus pursue them, they must perforce sell at a lesser
 price. Others do affirm, indeed, that if the Portuguese do bring their
 Wares to Antorff (Antwerp), then would the great Companies find there
 also means to buy up the Wares; and the King of Portugal may be moved
 to get the Ware to Danzig or Egen Merten (Aigues Mortes) in France,
 so that the Germans must fetch them thence. But others would show,
 forsooth, that because of his receiving of the metals he cannot spare
 Germany, and without them he can do no trade to the Indies; one must
 therefore but hinder his receiving of the metals, and thus shall one
 compel him not to trade to France.

 "(12) There shall be a fixing of the price of some Wares, to the end
 that not merely is it ordered for the common hucksters and Merchant
 folk, but also for them that buy these Wares for their own use and
 pleasure. It is to fear that also the scattered Companies do agree
 together secretly to sell over the price; moreover, hath the King of
 Portugal the Spices in his power alone, and since that time can he
 set the prices as he will, because for no manner of dearness will
 they rest unsold among the Germans. Moreover, it hath been related
 from Refel and Lubeck that the King of Denmark and the Fuggers stand
 in trade, the one with the other, that all Merchants' goods that have
 hitherto come from Muscey (Moscow) into the German trading cities
 shall further come to Denmark, and into the might of the King thereof
 and of the Fuggers, to the end that they may enhance the same at their
 pleasure. Thus far have men not punished such things with just pains,
 but have wittingly borne with them. Such can alone be made riddance of
 by a forbidding, that they and the Wares may not be sold in Germany
 higher than for a price determined. _The Regiment (Imperial Governing
 Body) shall tax each Ware by the hundred-weight to a fixed sum._ As
 measure shall the customary middle prices serve as they have been
 wont to be before the Wares have come into the power of the King of
 Portugal and of the great, hurtful, forbidden Companies. But question
 may be made: what though the Wares should miscarry? Then shall the
 Merchant folk recover themselves in them that do succeed. But what if
 there be lack of those Wares? The foreigners can far less spare our
 money than we their Wares; therefore is there in the Empire no long
 enduring, hurtful lack to be feared; _unless it should be that one
 should esteem the not giving out in vain of Money for a lack_. By such
 ordinance shall the danger of the overweening raising of prices be
 best hindered. In the matter of the dues the remoteness of the places
 can be made consideration of, also the diversness of the measures and
 the weights; thus will the Pepper in the storehouse in Frankfort be
 taxed at one Kreutzer the pound and even so in Nürnberg. The due shall
 begin one half-year after the determination thereof by the Imperial

 "Further, it shall not be that the Merchants shall lend money to the
 poor folk upon pledge of the seed that standeth in the field, or upon
 the grapes of the vine-stems and other fruits, whereby these poor,
 needy people have that taken from them that they do hardly earn.

 "Thereupon shall follow penalties for all transgressors as for
 careless Authorities; the leave that each may indite before the
 Fiscal; the determination that all confiscated goods wherewith
 transgressions have been committed shall fall, the half to the
 Imperial Fiscus, the half to the [local] Authority. The Fiscal shall
 also proceed against the Companies which have enriched themselves
 openly against right and justice; if this do befal, it shall not alone
 feed the Fiscus but shall also warn others to guard themselves from
 such evil hurtfulness. The ordinance concerning the sale, etc., shall
 be put in work two months after it hath been proclaimed.

 "It be also considered that the safe conduct of the highways is
 beneficial to the Merchants' calling, so that all traders may traffic
 and travel more safely on the highways of the Holy Empire than hath
 befallen for long time past.

 "It chanceth that certain Merchants deceitfully in the seeming of
 trust and faith do take the Goods of other men by making bankruptcy,
 which is like unto a theft, and he who doth of purpose strive after
 another man's Money and Goods shall be punished hardly.

 "In fine, there be Imperial Measures and Weights needed; for the
 falsifying of Cloths and Wares it behoveth a grievous treatment, and
 the Estates are warned to beware of cunning and greedy and suborned
 procurations, whereby this ordinance may be brought to nought by the
 Companies." (N.B.--Hereby is meant according to a notice from another
 hand: "by a bribing of the Authorities so that by their _favor_ and
 _patrocinium_ the pains of this ordinance may be escaped".)

       *       *       *       *       *

I have given the above document at length, as it is curious and
instructive, for more than one reason. In the first place, it indicates
the Imperial German centralisation in several ways attempted during
the reigns of Maximilian and Charles V., on the lines of the recent
centralising administrations of England, France and Spain. It also
shows us Germany commanding the bullion of Europe to a great extent.
This was, of course, in consequence of the wealth of the trading
cities, especially of the Hanse and Bavarian towns. The importance of
the spice trade is also strikingly illustrated; and on this point the
document may well give rise to various reflections as to the character
of late mediæval cookery. Last, but not least, we see the hostility
of the proud feudal prince or baron and his legal assessor to the
_Parvenu_ and _Nouveau riche_ then for the first time appearing on the

_I._ (_IM AUSZUG_).

1522. _Was der Kleine Ausschuss auf Befehl des grossen Ausschusses, der
Monopolia oder schädlichen verbotenen Verkauf halb geratschlagt hat,
wird nachher erzählt._

(_Handschrift von 61 Seiten im Ernestinischen Gesamt Archiv zu Weimar.
Registrande E._)

_Erstlich von dem Ursprung des Wortes Monopolia. Monopolia ist ein
kriegerisch Wort, welches seinen Ursprung hat von dem Worte Monos, das
ist allein, und Polonie, das ist Verkauf. Gleich als spräche jemand:
ich allein verkauf das oder jenes, Oder; meine Gesellschaft oder ich
allein verkaufe. Darum wird solche sonderliche Hantierung, als ob sich
etliche Hantierer oder Kaufleute dermassen vereinigen, dass sie allen
den Nutzen aus ihrem Handwerk oder Kaufmannschaft empfangen, Monopolia
genannt. Davon ist gesagt in lege Vinca (?) Cod. de Monopoliis._

_Item obengemeldete Monopolia, Vereinigung, Verbindung, Gesellschaften
und ihr Verkauf wird nicht allein allererst jetzt dem gemeinen
Nutzen unleidlich und unerträglich erfunden, sondern sind dieselben
wie vor durch den römischen Kaiser und Rechtsetzer und sonderlich
durch den löblichen Kaiser Justinio, dem gemeinen Nutzen als fast
schädlich, verderblich und sträflich geacht und erkannt, dass
dieselben Überführer_ [_Übertreter_] _alle ihre Güter verloren und
dazu ausserhalb ihrer Wohnung in ewiges Elend (Verbannung) verurteilt
sein sollen, als geschrieben steht lege Vinca Cod. de Mono. Auch
Honorius und Theodosius haben denen vom Adel und den Reicheren die
schädliche Kaufmannschaft verboten, damit das gemeine Volk leichter
bei den Kaufleuten kaufen könne, und auf dem Reichstag zu Köln ist
1512 die Sache von Kaiser Maximilian, Kurfürsten, Fürsten und Ständen
hoch bewegt und gemeldete Verteurung der Waren bei grossen Peenen und
Strafen verboten worden. Der Abschied dieses Reichstags sagt:--_

_Und nachdem etwa viel grosse Gesellschaft in Kaufmannschaft in kurzen
Jahren im Reich aufgestanden, auch etliche sondere Personen seien, die
allerlei Waren und Kaufmannsgüter wie Spezerei, Artz, wollene Tücher
und dergleichen in ihre Hand und Gewalt zu bringen unterstehn, Verkauf
damit zu treiben, setzen und machen ihnen zu Vorteil gewertet ihres
Gefallens, fügen damit dem heiligen Reiche und allen Ständen desselben
merklichen Schaden zu, wider gemein geschriebenes kaiserliche Recht
und aller Ehrbarkeit: haben wir zu Förderung gemeinen Nutzens und der
Notdurft nach georduct und gesetzt, und tun das hiermit ernstlich,
und wollen dass solche schädliche Handierung hinfüro verboten und
abstehn und die hinfüro treiben oder üben. Welche herwider solches tun
wurden [werden] der [deren] Habe und Güter soll confisciert und der
Oberkeit jiglichs Orts verfallen sein. Und dieselben Gesellschaften und
Kaufleute hinfüro durch keine Obrigkeit im Reich geleitet werden, sie
auch desselben nicht fähig sein, mit was Worten, Meinung oder Clauseln
solch Geleit gegeben wurden. Doch soll hiedurch niemand verboten sein
sich mit jemand in Gesellschaft zu tun, um Waren die ihm gefallen
zu kaufen und zu verhandieren, dann allein, dass er die Ware nicht
unterstehe in eine Hand zu bringen und derselben Ware einen Wert nach
seinem Willen und Gefallen zu setzen, oder dem Käufer oder Verkäufer
andingen, solche Ware niemandem denn ihm zu kaufen, zu geben oder
zu behalten, oder dass er sie nicht mehr geben will, wie er mit ihm
überein gekommen sei (wa wie er mit ihme überkomen hette). Wenn aber
die, welchen so Kaufmannschaft zu treiben erlaubt ist, unziemliche
Teurung zu machen sich unterstehn, so soll die Oberkeit mit Fleiss und
Ernst, solche Teuerung abschaffen und redlichen Kauf verfügen. Wo aber
eine Oberkeit lässig wäre, soll der Fiscal sie mahnen in Monatsfrist
das Ihre zu tun; andernfalls hat er Macht gegen sie zu procedieren._

_Allein die Oberkeit und der Fiscal haben das Ihre nicht getan, das
denn weder gut noch Recht ist, dieweil doch je zu Zeiten andere kleine
Räuber und Diebe hart (als hertiglich) gestraft werden, und diese
reichen Gesellschaften eine des Jahrs den gemeinen Nutzen viel mehr
weder [als] alle andere Strachräuber und Diebe beschädigen, wie dann
das ihr und ihrer Diener Köstlichkeit, Pracht und überschwenglicher
Reichtum öffentliche Anzeigung gibt. Derselben nicht kleine Anzeigung
hat man auch daraus, dass Bartholome Rhem gar in kurzer Zeit mit so
wenigem Hauptgut in der Hochsteter Gesellschaft als einmerklich Gut
gewonnen hat, wie dann das in der Rechtfertigung am Stadtgericht zu
Augsburg und auf jüngst gehaltenem Reichstag zu Worms offenbar gemacht
ist. Man hat den Rhem deshalb in Worms gefänglich eingebracht, da
er denn noch jetzt gefänglich enthalten wird. Man soll ihn hieher
nach Nürnberg erfordern, damit er Zeugnis ablegt und man erfährt,
mit waserlei Gefährlichkeit obengemeldete verbotene Monopolien und
Verkauf geübt werden, auch durch welche guten Mitteln Wege solchem
zuvorzukommen und abzuwenden ist._

_Drei Fragen sind hierüber zu stellen. (1) Ob die Monopolien dem
heiligen Reiche schädlich und deshalb abzuthun sind. (2) Ob alle
Gesellschaften ohne Unterschied abgethan werden sollen oder ob ihnen
ein Mass zu setzen sei. (3) Durch was für Mittel dieses geschehen und
wie diesen Sachen geholfen werden kann._

_I. Erstlich dass die grossen Gesellschaften und Haufung ihrer
Hauptgüter männiglich nachteilig sind, ist die eine Ursache und will
es an der Spezerei, welches der vornehmste Stücke eines ist, so in
deutscher Nation verführt und hantiert werden, ansehen. Man sagt
glaublich, dass der [dem?] König von Portugal 1 Pfund Pfeffer aus
Indien bis nach Antwerpen zu liefern, über drei Schilling in Gold,
deren zwanzig ein Rheinischer Gulden tut, nicht zu stehen komme. So
aber eine Gesellschaft in Portugal nach Spezerei schickt, so habe sie
keine Beschwerde und Einrede, wie teuer der König solche Waare beut
oder gibt, bezahle ihm sogar zu Zeiten noch mehr, nur mit dem Geding,
dass er solche Ware andern, die hernach kaufen wollen, noch teurer
gebe. Des zu einem Exempel mag gesetzt werden: so der von Portugal
einen Centner Pfeffer um 18 Dukaten etwa geboten hat, haben sie ihm 20
oder noch mehr darum gegeben, doch mit dem Geding, dass die königliche
Würde in einem oder zwei Jahren keinem andern desselben Pfeffer oder
Ware näher [billiger] denn um 24 Dukaten geben soll, und so einer den
andern gesteigert, dass die Spezerei, so erstlich um 18 Dukaten erlangt
werden mochte, itzund [jetzt] in Portugal über 34 Dukaten kauft wird.
Und ist also shier noch einsten [einmal] so teuer geworden als es
vorher gewesen. Dergleichen mit andern Spezereien auch geschehen ist,
davon solchen Kaufleuten nichts gelegen, noch sie einigen Verlust,
sondern grossen überschwänglichen Gewinn haben dieweil sie wiederum,
so teuer sie wollen, geben mögen, und sonst niemand im heiligen
Reiche dieselbe haben oder bekommen mag. Was Schätzung und Nachteil
den meisten bis auf den mindesten daraus erfolgt, ist nicht schwer zu
gedenken. Man kann dies aus den Nürnberger Spezerei-Reisen beweisen.
Der höchste Saffra, so kathelonisch Ort Saffra genannt wird, hat vor
etlichen Jahren, als nämlich im 16, dritthalb Gulden sechs Kreuzer
gegolten; jetzt kostet er, im 22 Jahr, fünfhalb Gulden 15 Kreuzer. Der
beste Saffran, so von den Kaufleuten Zymer genannt wird, hat pro Pfund
1516-1519 2 Gulden und noch 1521 2 Gulden 24-26 Kreuzer gegolten, jetzt
gilt er 4 Gulden; ebenso sind alle Saffrane, arragonischer, polnischer,
avernischer aufgestiegen, u. s. w._

_Die Kaufleute schlagen auch nicht mit allem auf einmal auf, sondern
jetzt mit Saffran und Nägelien, das eine Jahr mit Pfeffer und Ingwer,
dann noch mit Muskatnuß u. s. w., damit ihr Vorteil nicht verstanden
werden soll. Man will deshalb eine Erhebung anstellen, wie viel
Spezerei jährlich nach Deutschland gebracht wird, damit man weiss, so
die Kaufleute auf ein jedes Pfund einen kleinen Anschlag machen, was es
in solch grosser Menge tut, und damit abnehmen kann, was ein Zoll auf
diese Spezerei ertrüge. Man hat auch schon von Kaufleuten sich Angaben
machen lassen, welche aber abweichend waren, doch werden die Ziffern
genannt für die Spezereien, welche allein jährlich aus Lissabon
eingehen, damit man bessere Erkundigung einziehen könne. 36,000
Centner Pfeffer und nicht darunter; che darüber; 2400 Centner Ingwer;
auf 1000 Ballen Saffran kommen allein von Lissabon, ohne das was von
Venedig kommt. Der andern Spezereien wissen sie keine Summe anzuzeigen.
Genaueres kann man in Antwerpen vermittelst des dort erhobenen Zolls

_Die Gesellschaften haben es besonders auf die Waren abgesehen,
deren man am wenigsten geraten [entbehren] mag; und wenn eine nicht
reich genug ist, so nimmt sie eine andere zu Hilfe und beide bringen
dann die betreffende Ware ganz in ihre Hand. Wenn ein armer kleiner
Kaufmann von ihnen dieselbe aufgezurgene Ware kaufen und dann die Ware
andernfalls seiner Nahrung nach vertreiben will, so sind ihm gedachte
grosse Hantierungen von stund an auf dem Nacken, haben den Überschwall
derselben Ware, können sie wohlfeiler, auch auf langem Burgk [Borg]
hingeben; damit wird dieser Armer bedrängt, kommt zu Schaden und
etliche zu Verderb. Manchmal kaufen sie auch ihnen ihre Waren durch
urkundliche Personen, doch nicht ihnen zu gut, wieder ab; das schafft,
dass sie schier an allen Orten im ganzen Europa ihre Gelager halten;
Ursach das ist der Pracht des grossen Haubtgutz._

_Die grossen Gesellschaften mindern die Hantierung und Zehrung in den
Landen. Sie richten alles über Land und in Briefen aus; wo jetzt eine
grosse Gesellschaft ist, da nährten sich sonst wohl 20 oder mehr,
die alle webern und wandeln mussten, weil sie keine Lager und Diener
an andern Orten halten konnten. Dadurch wurden die Strassen gebaut,
Zoll und Geleit gemehrt, desgleichen wie Wirte und alle Handwerk des
Nutzens und Geniessen empfinden; denn viel Verkäufer bringen gut Kauf
und Wohlfeilheit der Waren._

_Weiter kommt die gute goldene und silberne Münz durch die
Gesellschaften, welche sie überall aufkaufen und einwechseln, ausser
Landes. Binnen kurzer Zeit wird aus weit gesuchtem Eigennutz Rheinisch
Gold ausgewechselt, verführt und verschmelzt sein. Deshalb sind auch
schon in etlichen Städten Empörungen des gemainen Mannes entstanden,
was, wo es nicht abgewendet wird, noch weiter und mehr zu besorgen ist._

_Man fragt sich II., sollen deshalb alle Gesellschaften abgetan werden?
Das die grossen geldmächtigen Gesellschaften zu vertrennen und nicht zu
dulden sind ist die Ursach oben angezeigt. Deshalb sollen aber nicht
alle Gesellschaften und versammelte Hantierungen gänzlich abgeschnitten
sein; wär wider gemeinen Nutzen, auch ganzer deutscher Nation sehr hoch
beschwerlich, nachteilig und verfächtlich; dann daraus würde folgen (1)
dass man Franzosen und äussern Nationen Stärke, Hilf und Handreichung
gäbe, dasjenige für zu nehmen und zu treiben, das man jetzt so hoch
beschwerlich abzutun fürhat. Diese fremden Nationen würden das ganze
deutsche Land dann aussaugen. (2) Wenn ferner alle allein handeln
würden und einem Schaden entstünde, so würde ihm das zum Verderben
gereichen, und auch denen, welche ihm das Ihre anvertraut hätten. Das
kann nicht geschehen, wo mehrere Personen mit Mass sich vereinigen.
(3) Würde ein solches Verbot allein den Reichen zum Vorteil dienen,
welche ohnehin allenthalben die Körner für sich ziehen und die Spreu
den andern lassen. Von diesen Reichen sind einige so gestellt, dass
sie eben dasjenige zu tun vermöchten, was jetzt grosse Gesellschaften
tun und was man für so herb beschwerlich achtet. Damit würde der
Sache nicht geholfen, sondern ihr nur ein Deckel aufgesetzt sein. (4)
Hantierung und Gewerb bringen es mit sich, dass man die Ware nicht
blos an einem Orte suchen muss; dazu ist eine einzige Person nicht im
Stande, und namentlich nicht zu der Zeit, wo es etwa Notdurft ist. Die
Folge wäre, dass man dem Handel das Land verbieten, fremden Nationen
Nutzen schaffen, die Deutschen aber drucken und bösern würde. Diener
aber anzunehmen und solche an seiner Statt an andere Orte zu schicken
erfordert Geld, und kleine Hauptgüter ertragen kaum das Halten von
Knechten; viele können sich selbst nicht, zu geschweigen Diener,

_III. Welche Vorschläge sind nun zur Ablehnung gemeldeter verbotener,
böser Verkäufe zu machen?_

(1) _Es sollen Gesellschaften oder sondere Personen nur bis zu 20,000,
40,000 oder zum meisten 50,000 Gulden Hauptgut zum Handel gebrauchen
und nicht mehr als drei Lager ausserhalb ihrer häuslichen Wohnung

(2) _Sie sollen gehalten sein, bei ihren leiblichen geschworenen
Eidespflichten ihrer Obrigkeit anzusagen, dass sie nicht mehr Geld im
Handel haben._

(3) _Dieses Hauptgut darf nicht durch Gewinn vermehrt werden; vielmehr
muss längstens alle zwei Jahre Rechnung getan und der Gewinn verteilt,
auch der Oberkeit davon Anzeige gemacht werden, dass die Rechnung und
Austeilung erfolgt ist._

(4) _Es darf zu Handelszwecken kein Geld um Zinskauf entlehnt werden,
da dies ungottlich und wucherlich, auch gemeinem Nutzen nachteilig
und schädlich ist, ohne Wagnis Gewinns und Verlusts Geld oder Zins zu
nehmen oder zu geben._

(5) _Keinerlei Ware darf in eine Hand gebracht werden._

(6) _Zertrennte Gesellschaften dürfen sich nicht vereinigen, bei
Verlierung aller ihrer Güter._

(7) _Kein Kaufmann darf auf einen Kauf mehr über 100 Centner Pfeffer,
100 Centner Ingwer und von keinerlei Spezerei, wie die Namen hat,
über 50 Centner kaufen, auch nach solchem Kauf in einem Vierteljahr
derselben Ware keine mehr führen oder kaufen._

(8) _Nachdem von den grossen Gesellschaften eine sondere Behendigkeit
gebraucht wird, dieweil sie in vielen Landen ihr Wissen haben, wann
die Waren verderben oder in Aufschlag kommen, so machen sie fremde
Kaufleute, die andern, so solche Waren haben, abkaufen, und bringen
dieselben zu ihren Händen, ehe die andern solchs Schadens gewahr
werden. Daraus folgt dann ein grosser Aufschlag der Ware. Dagegen setzt
man am besten die Strafe, dass, so sich ein solcher gefährlicher
Verkauf in vier Wochen den nächsten darnach erfunden, dass dann der
Abkäufer soll verpflichtet sein, dem Verkäufer seine Ware um das halbe
Kaufgeld wieder zuzustellen, weil er es ihm abgekauft hat der andere
halbe Teil der Kaufsumme soll dann der Obrigkeit verfallen sein._

(9) _Bei Strafe des Verlusts der Güter, wie in Köln bestimmt worden
ist, darf der Verkäufer die Bedingung nicht machen, dass der Käufer die
Ware nicht näher [billiger] geben dürfe._

(10) _Damit nicht fremde Nationen geheilt und gebessert, aber das
deutsche Land bezwungen und verderbt werden, ist bedacht, dass diese
Ordnung auch alle Fremden, die Lager im Reiche haben, binden soll.
So indem ein Walch [Welscher], Franzos oder wer er sei, im heiligen
Reich hantierte und in dieser Ordnung begriffen, soll und muss er
alle Strafen wandeln und kehren, wie andere inländische überfahrende
Kaufleute. Dass soll alle Fürstentümer, Herrschaften und Städte, ob die
gleich indem dafür gefreiet wären, auch beflissen und binden, damit es
gegen männiglich gleich gehalten und niemand hierin geschont werde._

(11) _Durch das Fahren deutscher Kaufleute nach Portugal entsteht
grosser Schaden, weil in Lissabon wegen der Schiffung von Portugal
nach Indien mit Spezerei und anderem die grossen Niederlagen und
tapfersten Käufe und Gewerbe sind, die sonst mindert an einigen Orten
bestehen könnten, und deshalb dort die grossen Zoll Schatzung von
allerlei Spezereien und Waren, die von dannen weggeführt werden, der
gleichen auch von der Pfennigwerten [Verkaufsartikeln] die sie in
Portugal selbst verbrauchen und nicht geraten, mögen als die wieder
hinein in India und an den Ort geschifft werden, aufkommen. Dazu muss
alle Ware, welche von Portugal kommt, von Deutschen auf der See gewagt
und aufs Glücksrad gebunden werden, und die Fahrt nach Portugal ist
schier mehr sorglich und gefährlich als die nach Indien; in wenig
Jahren sind auf derselben See über 1,500,000 Gulden Wert ertrunken und
verdorben, und trotzdem sind die Kaufleute, welche wenig ererbt haben,
so unaussprechlich reich geworden. Deshalb soll alle Schiffung nach
Portugal verboten werden; die Portugiesen sollen selbst das Wagnis
übernehmen und ihre Ware, die sie doch nicht behalten können, nach
Deutschland bringen; wenn man ihnen so nicht nachläuft, werden sie
auch billiger verkaufen müssen. Andere bemerken nun freilich, dass
wenn die Portugiesen auch die Ware nach Antorff [Antwerpen] bringen,
so würden die grossen Gesellschaften auch dort Wege finden, die Waren
aufzukaufen; auch könne der König von Portugal bewogen werden, die Ware
nach Danzig oder Egen Merten [Aigues Mortes] in Frankreich zu schaffen,
so dass die Deutschen sie dort holen müssten. Allein andere zeigen an,
dass er wegen des Zugangs der Metalle Deutschland nicht entbehren und
ohne dieselben gegen India nichts schaffen könnte; man dürfe ihm also
nur den Zugang der Metalle versperren, so werde man ihn zwingen können,
nicht nach Frankreich zu handeln._

(12) _Soll eine Satzung etlicher Waren vorgenommen werden, damit nicht
blos für die gemeinen Hantierer und Kaufleute gesorgt ist, sondern
auch für die, so diese Waren zu ihrer Niessung und Gebrauch kaufen. Es
ist zu besorgen, dass auch die getrennten Gesellschaften sich heimlich
über die Preise verständigen; auch hat der König von Portugal die
Spezerei allein in seiner Gewalt, und seither kann er Preise setzen wie
er will, weil sie bei den Deutschen wegen keiner Verteuerung ungekauft
blieben. Auch ist von Refel [Reval] und Lübeck angezeigt worden, dass
der König von Dänemark und die Fucker miteinander in Handlung stehen,
dass alle Kaufmannsgüter, so seither aus der Muscey [Moskau] in
deutsche Handelsstädte kommen, fürder nach Dänemark und in des Königs
und der Fucker Gewalt kommen sollen, damit sie dieselben nach Gefallen
verteuern können. Bisher hat man solche Dinge nicht mit rechter
Peen gestraft, sondern wissiglich geduldet. Dem kann nur ein Verbot
abhelfen, dass die und die Waren in Deutschland nicht höher als zu
einem bestimmten Satz verkauft werden dürften. Das Regiment soll eine
jede Ware den Zentner auf eine Hauptsumme taxieren. Als Massstab sollen
die gewöhnlichen Mittelpreise gelten, wie sie bestanden haben, ehe die
Waren in die Gewalt des Königs von Portugal und der grossen schädlichen
verbotenen Gesellschaften kamen. Man wendet freilich ein; wenn die
Waren missraten? Dann werden die Kaufleute sich bei den wohlgeratenen
erholen. Wenn Mangel an solchen Waren entsteht? Die Fremden können
unser Geld gar viel weniger entbehren, als wir ihre Waren; deshalb
ist im Reich kein langwieriger schädlicher Mangel zu besorgen; man
wollt denn unnütz Geld ausgeben für einen Mangel achten. Durch
solche Satzung wird die Gefahr übermässiger Steigerung der Preise am
besten verhütet werden. Bei den Taxen kann die Entlegenheit der Örter
in Betracht gezogen werden auch die Verschiedenheit der Ellen und
Gewichte; so wird der Pfeffer an der Hand in Frankfurt das Pfund auf 1
Kreuzer taxiert, ebenso in Nürnberg. Die Taxe soll ein halbes Jahr nach
Beschliessung durch die Reichsstände angehen._

_Weiter soll nicht sein, dass die Kaufleute dem armen Volke auf den
Samen, so noch auf dem Feld steht, auf die Trauben an den Stöcken und
andere Frucht Geld leihen; dadurch diesen armen notdürftigen Lenten das
genommen wird, was sie härtiglich erarbeiten._

_Darauf folgen Strafen für alle Überfahrer, für die lässigen
Obrigkeiten; die Erlaubnis, dass jeder Fiskal klagen darf; die
Bestimmung, dass alle konfiszierten Güter hälftig dem Reichsfiskus,
hälftig der Obrigkeit zufallen sollen, darunter solche Verbrechen
geschehen. Der Fiskal soll auch gegen die Gesellschaften, welche sich
seither offenbar widerrechlich bereichert haben, vorgehen; geschicht
dies, so wird das nicht allein den Fiskus speisen, sondern auch
andere warnen; sich vor dergleichen böser Beschädigung zu hüten. Die
Ordnung, betreffend den Verkauf u. s. w. soll zwei Monate nach ihrer
Verkündigung angehen._

_Ist auch bewogen, dass Befriedung der Strassen dem Kaufmannsgewerb
fürträglich sei, damit alle Hantierer auf des heiligen Reichs Strassen
sicherer, dann etliche Zeit her geschehen ist, webern und ziehen

_Es kommt vor, dass etliche Kaufleute betrüglich im Schein Trauens und
Glaubens den Leuten das ihre nehmen durch Bankrottieren, was einem
Diebstahl vergleichbar ist, und wer andere fürsätzlich an Geld und Gut
ansetzt soll streng gestraft werden._

_Endlich werden Reichsmasse und-Gewichte gefordert, für Fälschung der
Tücher und Waren eine strengliche Handhabung verlangt und die Stände
gewarnt, gegen arglistige und erkaufte Prokurei auf der Hut zu sein,
wodurch diese Ordnung von den Gesellschaften bekämpft werden kann.
(N.B.--Gemeint ist, nach einer Notiz von andrer Hand, Bestechung der
Obrigkeiten, um durch ihren favor und patrocinium den Folgen dieser
Ordnung zu entgehen.)_


Ten closely printed folio pages of Sebastian Franck's _Chronica_
(published in 1531) are taken up with a seemingly exhaustive narrative
of the incident referred to in the text; albeit Franck himself tells us
that it only represents a small portion--the "kernel," as he expresses
it--of what he had prepared, and indeed actually written, on the
subject, the bulk of which, however, the exigencies of space compelled
him to suppress.

"In the year 1509," says Franck, "the two Orders of the 'Preachers'
(Dominicans) and 'Barefooted Friars' (Franciscans) did wax hot against
one another concerning the conception of Mary. The 'Barefooted'
did hold that she was pure from all original sin and spotless; the
'Preachers,' that she was conceived in original sin even as other
children of men. Now there was much debate thereon, and at Heidelberg
was there a disputation.... In the end came it to pass that the
'Preachers' (Dominicans) did devise to further their matter and opinion
with false signs and wonders."

A certain Dominican preacher, Wigandus by name, who had written a book
against the Immaculate Conception, advised resort to trickery. The
suggestion was adopted in a full Chapter of the Order held at Wimpfen
in 1506. Nürnberg and Frankfort were thought of as suitable places,
but on consideration were rejected on the ground that the townsfolk
of these two commercial centres were too sharp-witted. Eventually,
Bern was decided upon. Accordingly, four Dominicans, the Prior, the
sub-Prior, the chief preacher and another monk, connected with a
foundation possessed by the Order at that place, were instructed to
set about the business. They got hold of a young journeyman tailor,
who applied to be received into the Order, and whom they admitted with
apparent reluctance on payment of fifty-three gulden, besides the gift
of some damascene and silk. As soon as they had him well in hand,
they began to test his credulity by playing practical jokes on him
at night--by throwing things into his cell, making mysterious noises
and the like, pretending that it was the work of a spirit. At last
the Prior came one night enveloped in a white linen sheet, and with
horrible noises and gestures seized the trembling novice as he lay in
his bed. The latter, of course, screamed and invoked the Mother of God.
Upon this, the ghost adjured him, alleging that he and his colleagues
could render him inestimable aid if they would but scourge themselves
for eight days in succession, and read eight masses in the chapel of
St. John. With this the spectre left him.

The youth next day told everything in an agony of fear. The chief
preacher of the Order, Dr. Steffan, improved the occasion by an
harangue against the Franciscans, declaring that no distressed spirit
ever held parley with such unmitigated scoundrels as they were, or
sought the aid of such notorious evil-livers. Finally, he succeeded in
stirring up a strong feeling in the town against the rival Order.

The four conspiring monks having tested the silly youth, and finding
him staunch in his belief, exhorted him to be of good courage the
following night, the Prior having purified his cell with holy water
and guarded it with relics. But the spirit came again; and on being
interrogated, in accordance with instructions given to the novice, the
ghost declared itself the soul of a former Prior of the monastery, who
had been deposed for loose living, had left the cloister in lay attire,
had become involved in a "bad business," and had been stabbed to death
in a brawl unshrived. The spirit went on to extol the Dominican Order
at the expense of the Franciscans, who would shortly, it predicted, be
the ruin of the town of Bern.

Visions of a similar character occurred on the following nights. The
preacher, Dr. Steffan, entrusted the novice with a letter containing
leading questions favourable to the Order which he was to endeavour
to get delivered to the Mother of God, and return with the answers
affixed. The letter was subsequently found deposited miraculously in
the pyx, and sprinkled with blood said to be of Christ, and sealed with
the same. The letter was the following day laid with great pomp on
the high altar. The next night one of the four monks appeared to the
novice, dressed as the Virgin, with exuberant praises of the Order,
and with instructions to implore the Holy Man, Pope Julius II., to
institute a festival in honour of the "spotted conception" of the
Virgin, promising at the same time to convey to him a cross with three
spots of the blood of her Son upon it, as a testimony of the truth
of her having been born in original sin. She gave him a cloth soaked
in blood from the wound in the side, and other relics. She further
pierced the guileless youth's hand with a pin, and made him call out,
comforting him with the assurance that the wound would reopen afresh
twice a year--on Good Friday and Corpus Christi Day. Thereupon the
monk-Virgin disappeared.

All things had gone successfully up to this time, and the four monks
now decided to officially announce the novice as an inspired person.
To this end they succeeded--"by magical practices," says Franck--in
preparing a water which deprived the new Brother of his senses, and
another water which, while in this state, they rubbed into his hands
and feet, producing wounds. With a third water they caused him to
wake up--delighted to see the new miracles worked upon him. They then
gave him a special room to himself, where the "faithful laity" might
see him; but no one was allowed to speak to him, for fear of his
compromising the Order.

Meanwhile these things began to be noised abroad and were eagerly
discussed, everybody wishing to get a sight of the new god. At length
the long-suffering novice, on another visitation, recognised the voice
of the Prior in the sham Virgin, and drawing a knife, stabbed him in
the right hip, after which the Prior, seizing a dish from the wall,
flung it at the novice and decamped. No blandishments or warnings from
the sub-Prior or other monks would induce the now disillusionised
novice to allow himself to be made a fool of any longer. Finding this
side of the business at an end, they next entreated him with promises
not to ruin himself and them, but to throw in his lot with them and
consent to hoodwink the people. He, at length, agreed with some
reluctance. Then they instructed him in the rôle he was to play. He
was to represent an image of the Virgin in the Lady Chapel, whilst Dr.
Steffan was to be concealed behind a curtain, and, speaking through a
tube, to personify her "Divine Son". The "Son" asked the "Mother" why
she wept. The "Mother" answered that she wept because her commands had
not been carried out fully as yet. In the meantime some old women, who
had been admitted into the chapel, rushed away spreading the report
everywhere that the image of the Virgin had wept and spoken. A large
concourse assembled in the chapel, amongst them being the four monks,
who affected great astonishment. Presently the Bürgermeister with three
other high civic functionaries arrived, and demanded of the Prior and
monks what was the meaning of the great commotion. The Prior replied
that the Virgin had wept for the approaching ruin of the whole town
of Bern, because it was receiving a pension from the French king, and
because it tolerated in its midst the Franciscans with their wicked
heresy of the Immaculate Conception, whereby they imputed to her an
honour that did not belong to her and which she repudiated. The elders
of the city thought it a remarkable occurrence, and looked grave.

The monks now thought to give the novice, the alleged intermediary of
so many divine messages, a poisoned sacrament in the presence of the
people, so that he might die suddenly, and that they might thus gain
two points--be rid of a dangerous witness, and supply their Order with
a saint, whom Christ had taken to Himself during the reception of the
Holy Elements. But our novice declined the wafer with the red spots,
which was offered him, and which was alleged to be sprinkled with the
blood of Christ; and insisted on partaking of a less miraculous-looking
one. Nevertheless, the monks did not give up their project, for the
novice overheard the next night a secret conclave of the four as to the
best way of getting rid of him, whether they should starve him, drown
him, strangle him, run him through the body, or choke him. He now began
to feel seriously anxious, more especially as he found his rations
diminishing daily. Accordingly, one day he crept out of his cell and
followed one of the four monks into the refectory, where he saw them
eating capons and drinking wines with girls, who, to his intense
disgust, he observed wore dresses made of the very damascene and silk
he had contributed to the monastery on his initiation. His presence
was detected, and Dr. Steffan tried to pass the girls off as sisters
of his own. The monks thought, notwithstanding, that it was high time
"to leave their damnable faces and begin". So they gave the novice
cabbage stewed in a solution of crushed spiders, but this did him no
harm. They then tried it on a cat, which died. The Prior next brought
him a poisoned soup, which he did not eat but threw away. Five young
wolves kept in the monastery thereupon ate it and died. Then they tried
the sacrament trick again, forcing it into his mouth, but he threw it
up on to a footstool, which the worthy Sebastian assures us immediately
began to sweat blood. This alarmed the conspirators, and they changed
their tactics, chaining the youth up, fettling him in various parts of
the body with hot irons, until he swore a solemn oath not to divulge
anything. At last, says Sebastian, the matter "became too heavy for the
Brother," and he resolved to escape at once. He succeeded in doing so
by cunning and stealth, and rushing into the town he informed everybody
he met of all that had happened. The authorities, however, were
unwilling to lay violent hands on a spiritual Order.

The monks, on their side, lost no time in sending their preacher and
the sub-Prior to Rome, in order to get the Pope's attestation of their
story. They were supported by the whole influence of the Dominican
Order throughout Central Europe. The Rath of Bern then also sent to
Rome to demand an impartial judge for the matter, and Pope Julius II.
nominated a commission consisting of three priests and a Dominican
Provincial. The latter, being seen by one of the bishops admonishing
Dr. Steffan how to act, was removed from the court, and died at
Constance from vexation. The four monks were then placed on the rack,
and revealed everything. The poor novice was also given a few turns
on the rack, in order to make sure that he had told all he knew. He
rehearsed everything, including the story of the girls.

It came out in the course of the trial that Jews' blood, nineteen hairs
from the black eyebrow of a Jew child, and other ingredients, which
our modest Sebastian informs us "it were not seemly to tell of," went
to constitute the magical decoction that the monks had used in order
to make the novice subservient to them. It was found also that the
sub-Prior had stolen five hundred gulden from the monastic chest, and
that the other monks had taken the precious stones from the image of
the Virgin and disposed of them, also that the Prior had boasted that
he could work his will with any woman on whom he laid his hand.

The bishops wanted to transfer the matter to Rome, but the lay
authorities would not hear of this, and insisted on the court being
reinforced by eight honourable councillors of the city. In the end
the ecclesiastics consented to reconstitute the court in this form.
The result was a sentence of degradation and burning alive on all
four monks. The execution was carried out in the presence of a large
concourse of people in the great market-place of the city of Bern, on
the 31st of May, 1509.

As intimated in the body of this work, the foregoing affair caused a
profound impression over a wide area, affecting as it did the honour
and integrity of so powerful an Order as that of the "Preachers" or
Dominicans, and it made the city and canton of Bern an easy prey to the
reforming tendencies which came in vogue a few years later.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is another illustration of the ready credulity of a
mediæval populace and the excessive excitability of the public mind
in the earlier years of the sixteenth century. I quote, this time
literally, from another portion of Sebastian Franck's _Chronica_:

"Anno 1516, Dr. Balthasar Hubmeyer [at this time Hubmeyer was still a
Catholic] did preach with vehemence against the Jews at Regensburg,
showing how great an evil doth arise to the whole German nation, not
alone from their faith, but also from their usury, and how unspeakable
a tribute their usury doth bear away withal. Then was there a Council
held that they should pray the Emperor to the end that Jews might be
driven forth. Therefore did they [the people] break their synagogue
in pieces, also many of their houses, and did build in the place
thereof a Temple in honour of Mary, to which they gave the name of The
Fair Mary. This did some visit privily, and told that from that hour
was their prayer fulfilled. So soon, therefore, as the matter became
noised abroad, even then was there a running from all parts thither,
as though the people were bewitched, of wife, of child, of gentlemen,
some spiritual, some worldly, they coming so long a way, it might be
having eaten nothing. Certain children who knew not the road did come
from afar with a piece of bread, and the people came with so manifold
an armoury, even such as it chanced that each had, the while he was at
his work, the one with a milking-pail, the other with a hay-fork. Some
there were that had scarce aught on in the greatest cold, wherewithal
to cover them in barest need. Some there were that did run many miles
without speaking, as they might be half-possessed or witless; some did
come barefoot with rakes, axes and sickles; these had fled from the
fields and forsaken their lords; some caméd in a shirt they had by
chance laid hands on as they arose from their bed; some did come at
midnight; some there were that ran day and night; and there was in all
such a running from all lands that, in the space of but one day, many
thousands of men had come in.

"One there was that saw miracles from so much and so divers silver,
gold, wax, pictures and jewels that were brought thither. There were
daily so many masses read that one priest could scarce but meet the
other, as he departed from the altar. When one did read the Communion
[Commun], the other even then did kneel before the altar with his
Confiteor. These things came to pass daily till well-nigh beyond noon,
and although many altars were set up both within and without the
Temple, yet nevertheless could not one priest but encounter the other.

"The learned did sing many Carmina in praise of Fair Mary, and many and
divers offices were devised of signs, of pipes and of organs. Much sick
folk did they lead and bear thither, and also, as some do believe,
dead men whom they brought home again restored and living. There befel
also many great signs and wonders, the which it would not be fitting to
tell of, and whereof an especial cheat was rumoured, in that what any
brought thither, did he but vow himself with his offering, straightway
was he healed, not alone from his sicknesses, but the living did
receive also their dead again, the blind saw, the halt ran, did leave
their crutches in the Temple, and walkéd upright from thence. Some ran
thither from the war; yea, wives from their husbands, children from the
obedience and will of their fathers would thither, saying that they
might not remain away, and that they had no rest day nor night.

"Some as they entered into the Temple and beheld the image straightway
fell down as though the thunder had smote them. As the mad rabble
beheld how such did fall, they bethought them that it were the power of
God, and that each must needs fall in this place. Thus there came to
pass such a falling (such as was a foolishness and unrestrained and of
the devil's likeness) that well-nigh each that came to these places did
fall, and many from the rabble, who did not fall, believed themselves
to be unholy and did enforce themselves straightway to fall, till the
Council [Rath] was moved, as they say, to forbid such, and then did the
signs and fallings cease.

"It is wondrous to relate with what strange instruments the people
caméd thither; as one was seized in the midst of his labour, he took
not the time to lay aside that which he held in his hand but bore it
with him, and each ran unshrived away, being driven by his own spirit.
But whether the great Holy Spirit did move to such ill-considered
tumult against obedience, did drive the mother from the child, the wife
from the husband, the servant and the child contrary to the obedience
to be rendered to the master and the father, I will leave to others to
determine. Many do even believe as I do, that it cannot be the work of
God inasmuch as it is contrary to His word, work, manner, nature and
the interpretation of the Scriptures.

"Now this running toward hath held a goodly season, as it may be six or
eight years, but hath now ceased, albeit not wholly."

       *       *       *       *       *

I have reproduced as literally as possible from Franck's own language,
not (as will have been noticed) omitting or toning down the repetitions
and incoherences of style.


The celebrated family of Fugger of Augsburg migrated to that city
about the year 1370 from a village near Schwabmünchen. What their
precise status was in their original home is not very clear; but they
would seem to have been above the rank of ordinary peasants, and it is
just possible that they may have been _Freier_ or freeholders of land
without nobility. At all events, they are said to have cultivated flax
and hemp somewhat extensively. The two brothers, Ulrich and Johannes
Fugger, on arriving in Augsburg, devoted themselves to weaving of wool
and linen, and became master-weavers, possessing several looms. Through
marriage they soon acquired the citizenship, and the family continued
to rise and flourish during the fifteenth century. Some time before
1450, a Fugger became Grand Master of the Weavers' Guild, and towards
the close of that century Ulrich Fugger was one of the first to take
advantage of the rising world-market and of the dislocated feudal
conditions of the time. In 1473, he had to settle the financial affairs
of Maximilian, who wished to lend money to Charles the Bold. For his
services on this occasion he and his brothers were ennobled, and
received a "lily" as their armorial device. Ulrich was also a patron of
Albrecht Dürer, and it was through him that Dürer's pictures were sent
into Italy.

Ulrich Fugger bought from Pope Alexander VI. the patronage of a canonry
near St. Moritz for a thousand ducats. In 1494 he and his brother
inaugurated the trade syndicates spoken of in the preceding pages by
a company for trading in spices. It is referred to in the Reichstag
rescript given in Appendix A. Ulrich died in 1510, leaving seven
daughters and three sons; his brother had already died in 1506. They
had bought up all the houses on the Weinmarkt, and converted them into
a palace, in which they lived conjointly.

Jacob Fugger, a younger son of Ulrich, raised the family to the zenith
of its opulence and magnificence. Originally brought up for the Church,
he became a canon; but later, on the wish of his father, he renounced
the tonsure and devoted himself to commerce. He first went to reside
in Venice, in order to get mercantile training in the family warehouse
which the Fuggers had established in that city. Venice was then, and
for long afterwards, a kind of training school for the merchants of the
South German cities. Jacob also made further journeys to the principal
commercial towns of Europe, the result of his studies and travels being
the expansion of his family business to a degree previously unheard
of in the annals of mediæval trading. To such a point did he carry
his success that soon his wool, silk and spinning business generally,
became a mere subordinate matter with him, his chief occupations being
mining and banking. Jacob Fugger was, in fact, the first great European
capitalist, the Rothschild and Vanderbilt of his day.

In Spain, in the Tyrol, in Hungary and in Carinthia, he bought up lands
rich in ore from derelict and impecunious nobles, and succeeded in
opening up valuable silver, copper and lead mines. Paracelsus mentions
having visited the Fugger mines at Schwatz in the Tyrol in connection
with his alchemistic studies. The new route to India afforded by the
discovery of the Cape Passage gave Fugger the opportunity of showing
his ability to seize a timely advantage from changing conditions. In
1505, he joined with the two other large commercial houses, those of
Welser and Hochstetten, in an undertaking for shipping three cargoes of
Indian wares. This class of goods had hitherto come over land by way of
the Levant and Venice; but now, for the first time, they were shipped
direct from the East Indies by the new Cape route.

The previous year, 1504, Jacob and his brothers had been ennobled by
the Emperor Maximilian, Jacob himself being made Imperial Councillor.
Leo X. further constituted him Count Palatine and _Eques Aureatus_. In
1509, Jacob advanced Maximilian as much as 170,000 ducats as a subsidy
towards the cost of the Italian War. Subsequently, on the election of
Charles V. to the Imperial dignity, he contributed 300,000 ducats to
the expenses involved. On one occasion, when he entertained Charles V.
as a guest in his palace on the Weinmarkt in Augsburg, he burnt the
overdue "acceptances" of the Emperor on a large fire of cinnamon, at
that time one of the most costly spices.

The Fuggers acquired in the shape of fallen-in mortgages several feudal
territories, comprising numerous villages. In fact, by their financial
operations alone, apart from their enormous mercantile transactions,
the family amassed an immense fortune. Jacob enlarged the great Fugger
palace already referred to, and added a sumptuous choir to the Augsburg
church of St. Anna. He also founded the "Fuggerei," an entire quarter
of Augsburg still extant, to be used as almshouses for poor citizens.
He died in 1525, leaving as his heirs his two nephews Raimond and Anton.

Residing together in the Fugger palace, they still further added to
the renown of their family by their patronage of the new learning and
the fine arts. They took a distinguished place as patricians in the
Rath of their native city, and they were raised by Charles V. into
the ranks of the higher nobility as hereditary counts of the Empire,
being also granted lands with hereditary jurisdiction. By their
operations in finance, they still further increased the territorial
acquisitions of their family. All contemporary writers descant on
the pomp and magnificence of the Fugger establishment. The family
continued to flourish up to the Thirty Years' War, in which they
played a considerable part on the Imperial Catholic side. The history
of the Fuggers, of their enrichment by gigantic mercantile operations
on the basis of the world-market, of the new developments they gave
to the time-old practice of money lending, and of the fresh energy
and improved methods employed in their mining enterprises, affords a
typical instance of the birth and rapid growth of the new constructive
principle of capitalism--a birth and growth taking place _pari passu_
with the destructive processes of the disintegration of Feudalism.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

The original book contained one unpaired double quotation mark. It
was not clear where the missing quotation mark belonged, so no
attempt was made to add it.

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