Front Page Titles (by Subject) III: History from 1450 to 1598 - Judgments on History and Historians
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III: History from 1450 to 1598 - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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History from 1450 to 1598
The Period from 1450 to 1598 and the Nineteenth Century’s View of It
(I) [May 10, 1859.] The chief creation of more recent history is the Great Power, the life form of the most significant peoples. The balance among them is supposedly based on the number five (later the number six). But not only the small ones feel as insecure as ever with it; even the great ones themselves have never put down their arms in forty-four years of peace and have devoured in advance the money of future generations, in order to prevent one another’s aggrandizement.
Internally, the state has centralized all power and all law; and the small states, too, have had to reshape themselves according to this model. Wherever the unhealthy, the oppressed, the resisting elements band together, the revolution is directed at the entire state, indeed, at all of existence. But we trust ourselves to be able to suppress this every time.
The virtues of this modern state, which lays claim to being a legal state, are as follows: equality before the law; the safeguarding of material interests through the elimination of any oppressive intermediate rule; tolerance through indifferentism and the bureaucratic mind (at least relatively speaking) and through the state’s jealous guarding of its sole power; the refinement of private life and its pleasures; but primarily, freedom of thought and research, the objective evaluation of the world and of history.
To what extent is this favorable to the moral development of a man? As a private individual he gains; as a citizen he declines, and he accustoms himself to appealing to some state omnipotence in any danger. The finest flower of genuine philanthropy can pair itself with utter political rootlessness.
Is the movement of Europe on the whole, therefore, a rising or a falling one? This can never be determined by mere calculation. The peoples are still unexhausted physically, and in the intellectual and moral sphere one must, in order to calculate correctly, reckon with invisible forces, with miracles. This applies here, too.
To describe this life of the modern peoples in the last three centuries is our assignment.
(II) [After 1869; 1872?] It is not long since the period from 1450 to 1598 was regarded in an essentially optimistic way and made the beginning of that “progress” in whose further expansion and development we thought we were living.
This, to be sure, was true only in general, for in particular cases one admitted that the despotism of the great states, the Counter Reformation, and other phenomena had exacted considerable sacrifices (one can certainly hear those who suffered if one wants to hear them).
But on the whole one continued to connect the supposed excellence or, at least, the great promise of the conditions under which people lived from about 1830 with the great innovations after 1450.
In view of the imminent crises of the declining nineteenth century, these pleasant arguments have fallen to the ground, and as to the desirability of the events and developments since 1450 in relation to us, we have reason to express ourselves more cautiously—indeed, to abandon entirely the concept of the desirability of past things.
But for all that, this period does not lose one iota of its great intellectual interest for us. For as long as our present Western culture can keep above water we shall be inwardly enriched by absorbing the colors and figures of the past and treating the intellectual conditions and transformations of earlier world epochs as a great furtherance of our own intellectual consciousness. Indeed, the ability to compare different periods of the past with one another and with the present is one of the main forces that separate us from the confused doings of the day and from barbarism, which makes no comparisons whatever. In this respect the period from 1450 to 1598 is undeniably one of the most brilliantly instructive.
But instead of an overestimation of that period’s services to our present development, an objective appraisal is called for. Besides, we are not the ones who would be especially qualified for an absolute evaluation of past conditions, if only because we always have the criterion of material well-being before our eyes—that is, of continuing in it once it is attained. And yet the great forces, individual as well as collective, develop only in struggles, and these can be very terrible. That criterion, however, is intrinsically ridiculous, for greed and desires know no limit; one would always encounter a dissatisfied humanity.
On the other hand, our century is very well qualified to recognize the intellectual content of the past in the full richness of its shadings.
It must suffice us that the period in question has come down to us in great wealth of sources and in exceedingly vigorous and interesting colors and personalities.
We resist illusions—first of all, the illusion that humanity had been eager and longing, in the highest degree, to get out of the Middle Ages as a dark, unhappy situation. In a large view, the Middle Ages may have been a time of salutary delay. If it had exploited the earth’s surface as we are doing, we would perhaps not be around at all. (Would that be a loss?) Let us assume that the period concerned was there, at least primarily, for its own sake rather than for ours.
Further, we resist the illusion that developments since then have, generally speaking, led to happiness. The self-deception of the years 1830 to 1848 actually came close to this delusion; but in view of the clouds which hang over the end of our century one will probably have to speak more carefully.
The earlier, very unclear and mixed concept of “progress” includes the following: extension of civil rights to larger segments of the population; moderation of the penal code; communication in the widest sense, including a global network of railroads and telegraphy; great dissemination of varied knowledge; movability of all values and properties; and other things.
The more recent study of the world, however, has substituted an entirely different conception for this progress (or put the same conception in a new light): the struggle for existence, beginning with plant and animal life and then basically penetrating human life. From this vantage point the concept of “happiness” must then be examined anew and perhaps entirely eliminated from historical investigation. In his Philosophy of the Unconscious, Eduard von Hartmann even calls the perspective, from the eudemonic point of view, of this continual struggle while the intellect is constantly rising a horrible one.
If Hartmann’s arguments are applied to the “History Since 1450,” this means the beginning of the subjugation of the inferior races of mankind, especially the red-skinned; according to him, this is to end with their complete eradication. (How will the victors thrive in this? The Spaniards in Mexico and Peru were intelligent devils.) A true philanthropist, he says, could only wish for the speeding up of these last throes. The faster the earth was occupied by the white race, the more quickly the struggle among the various divisions within it would have to break out and be carried on all the more fiercely because they are more evenly matched; but at the same time it would be all the more beneficial to the progressive development of the species. According to Hartmann, war is not by any means the only method of this struggle; industrial squeezing by a more highly developed people would do it, too. But with the earth having in this way become the prize of the most highly developed peoples, with the entire world population becoming more and more cultivated, the condition of the soil, the climate, and other differences would nevertheless create ever new seeds of development whose maturing again would only be possible through a joint struggle for existence. (In this process, human beings would gradually become veritable devils, and finally cripples to boot because of sheer development of the intellect.)
(III) [November 4, 1872.] In that period there were essentially spun the threads of that fabric into which we too are now woven. Any consideration of the past must tie on there at the latest. But all that was begun at that time has experienced great metastases.
The system of Great Powers and also the absolutism which once was the practice in smaller states, established in the spirit of the rulers, have today been transformed into a system of great nations. The will (passion as well as interest) of the peoples or of the classes that lead public opinion has replaced the will of the cabinet. Where dynasties are still in existence, they mainly serve to carry out the will of the people (confirmed: October, 1876).
Any single principality or single state within a nation is in direct danger, because even with the best of intentions it can no longer act for the entire nation.
And within and above the individual nations there looms as an obscure impulse universal democracy, sprung from the French Revolution with its belief in the goodness and equality of men. It arises with remarkable homogeneity; its basic feature is acknowledged by the sovereigns themselves in the form of universal suffrage which can be expanded into a general referendum on practically anything.
The main driving force of this activity is the great social question of property and enjoyment. There is only one method for the mighty to curb it or cut it off: the peoples must be urged to become conscious again of their old differences which were already getting quite smoothed out and to test their strength with one another. This can be done, because they still have conflicting interests through accumulated tradition and exploitation of the world, e.g., England and Russia, England and America, and others; because as yet the whole earth is not occupied by the most active nations which must yet fight one another for it; then, too, because in Europe there are still small things to be swallowed up which one begrudges the other; and finally, because in spite of all homogeneity of culture there live on very strong antipathies of race. But from great national wars there arises again and again centralized military and, depending on the circumstances, monarchic power (that is, it has been so up to now).
In this period there is an especially striking predominance of the oceanic (n.b. of all great oceans and no longer merely of the Atlantic) over the Mediterranean (which would have become a mere puddle if it did not, together with Egypt, have importance as a passageway and possibly as a battleground). Added to this is the weakness of Turkey, Greece, Austria, Italy, and Spain. But even of the oceanic nations, Spain and Portugal are deeply in the shade, as is Holland; they have their intestate heirs presumptive. The two great Anglo-Saxon nations with their immediate and colonial possessions are in the process of grandiosely exploiting the world through completely untrammeled activity. In spite of her slight coastline, Germany is forced into rivalry with them, in her merchant marine and her navy. The great destiny is based on the fact that an Anglo-Saxon colony like the Union [United States] has been able to achieve independence and remain united despite its enormous expanse. By virtue of its cast of thought it will in time brook no barriers on any ocean (unless internal barriers should be imposed on it. 1876).
The conflict between the Catholic church and its adversaries took quite a different form from what friend or foe could possibly have foreseen in the sixteenth century.
Protestantism came under the strongest influence of general culture. On the other hand, Catholicism as such remained stationary in the form which it assumed in the sixteenth century as the Counter Reformation. Those who do not want to go along with it and have surrendered to the modern spirit are abhorred and reciprocate with a vengeance. Catholicism has come to be in opposition to all such and to almost all Catholic governments and bureaucracies. At present it is highly remarkable as the only element of pure authority from above, something which no government is domestically any more. Its early connections with culture, worldly life, and science have largely been severed, its opposition to modern thought has sharply come to a head.
The subjectivity of the intellect, which in the sixteenth century was so vigorously astir in all new things and produced such strong personalities, has since remained legally untrammeled or has become so again after interruptions. There is nowadays no dearth of “permissions.” It is a very different question, however, whether our time is favorable to primary, creative geniuses; whether it will impress any future generation with the same originality and profusion as did the period around 1500; whether the gathering of knowledge does not stand in the way of higher productivity; whether the acquisitive spirit and the general haste are not destroying the genuine great mood, in creative persons as well as in those who ought to appreciate; and whether present-day democracy does not bring secret mistrust and, under certain circumstances, open hatred upon the outstanding person in every form and direction. At any rate, with its program involving equality of enjoyment, democracy stands outside anything intellectual.
However, not only in democracy but in all classes and parties people desire, above all, material enjoyment. After that, of course, they would like, for the further amelioration of life, poets, artists, and probably even thinkers of genius, provided they keep nicely in their place.
(IV) [October 21, 1880.] The sixteenth century largely creates those great positions in the material and intellectual worlds which dominate the periods to come; it is a time of tremendous innovations. It possesses one particular advantage: it is possible here, if ever, to view history as history of the intellect and to master the debris of external facts—not only because in the movements concerned there was much idealistic, even metaphysical, drive, but because they are represented by original individuals, some of them of the highest order, in state and war, religion, art, and science. The intellect speaks to us concretely through mighty, expressive people. In particular the time around the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries altogether gives one the impression of freshness, spontaneous strength, and of a very extraordinary generation. In every activity Europe has available the most outstanding men—discoverers, conquistadors, military men, statesmen, founders of religions, scholars each of whom remodels his field, thinkers who occasionally encompass the entire horizon of the time in single words, utopians like More and Rabelais, finally poets and, especially, a group of artists of the first rank. But even people of the second and third rank participate in the general vigor to the extent that they, too, give naively whatever they have to contribute. In literature we begin to get those books that are still really read. In the second half of the sixteenth century, to be sure, there is no longer this multifarious wealth of great individuals, and those who are now powerful are no longer naive but reflective, or they serve a movement; but no matter which side they are on, they arouse the greatest participation through their tremendous strength. And we are intimately acquainted with their persons—Tasso and Camoëns, Shakespeare and Montaigne, St. Theresa and St. Carlo Borromeo, Coligny, William the Silent, Elizabeth of England, and Henry IV in his rise.
Apart from this individually concretized aspect of world history, the great movements as such are significant, the changes in state and society which carry with them a new era.
The concept of Western Christianity is dissolved. The West looks on almost inactively while, in the East, Christian civilization recedes before the Ottomans who crush the Mohammedan and Christian states that come into their orbit. The rise of their empire is to date the last great new formation in the Near East. The Mediterranean stagnates, Southern Europe is permanently and seriously threatened.
At the same time, however, the great compensation is gained: the setting out for distant seas by the Portuguese and the Spaniards. Europe crowds in upon old civilized states of East India and founds great colonial lands in America. While in Asia Minor Turkish city names proliferate, America is filled with Spanish and Latin names.
At home a shift in world power takes place, the transfer of the world accent to the Atlantic states with their Atlantic and generally oceanic interest.
The atmosphere of the Crusades has evaporated and their late-born representative, Don Sebastian, perishes. But to compensate for that, a new tinge appears in the air: worldly conquest and commercial profit. Of course, not until the following period does there develop the full modern exploitation of the world in connection with a new concept of labor in the European mother countries; it is the cycle of colonial raw material and domestic manufacture, with forced purchase in the colonies. For the time being, in the sixteenth century, all that the Spaniards wanted was to rule and to enjoy; they were in quest of an El Dorado; the possession of great American empires had strikingly little effect on internal, domestic Spanish life and its spirit. In the year 1580 Spain gained possession of Portugal along with its colonies. The French and English colonies were only in their infancy; but here, too, people sought a golden land for the costs of European politics and wars.
The medieval feudal state dissolved into the centralized modern state which at that time demanded primarily power (absolutism) and since then has behaved as a constitutional and equality state, as an institution of purposefulness and general welfare, with the resignation of the individual, and so on. A new concept of state power begins with the Italian tyrant state which is prefigured in France and now is put into practice in all states of Western Europe (n.b. including England), in Germany only in the smaller circles, while the whole falls apart all the more. The intermediary rulers are destroyed or reduced to mere honorary rights, the nobility are reduced to privileges; all indefinite and disputable duties are replaced by mandatory definite performances; even the most stubborn defiance is subdued. Finally, at the time of the Reformation the states which have become Protestant inherit the former political power of the church. But what did the rulers do with their power? They carried on experimental policies which soon became primarily policies of conquest or annexation (this had been the downfall of Charles the Bold). Such were the earliest joys of the cabinet and its doings.
The support and motive of such policies were great national conflicts of interest.
Would the nations have left one another in peace without the activities of the cabinets? We do not know today; arrogance and the clash of interests which, after all, are so very much intertwined, are unpredictable. Even the “happy ones” could not have borne their “happiness.” And then there existed in several nations a palpable satanic arrogance.
Earlier oppositions continued to have an effect: France and England, Anjou and Aragon. Now that the major part of the middle duchy of Burgundy and all of the Spanish power had fallen to Hapsburg through inheritance, the inevitable struggle between Hapsburg and Valois ensued, and the next victim was Italy—certain parts of the land and the overlordship of the whole.
Italy and the great transformation of the European mind that emanated from it: the Renaissance. This everywhere broke through the knowledge, thinking, and viewing of the Middle Ages. The ancients and soon the moderns completely supplanted the Middle Ages as authorities, beginning with medieval scholastic theology. The entire intellectual horizon was newly oriented; in addition, there arose an art which soon overwhelmed or cut in halves the art of all of Europe. The time of Italy’s greatest productivity coincides with periodic invasions; the so-called calm did not ensue until the rulership of Spain was decided.
In this Italy which was enmeshed and glorified by the Renaissance, but which at the same time had fallen prey to the Italian political spirit and let itself go in the most extreme way, the papacy dwelt as the possessor of an ecclesiastic state.
The papacy stands in a wholly irrational relationship to Italy and Europe, vis-à-vis nations that are already arguing and greedy dynasties. Oblivious of its earlier mission, the papacy had become something to be exploited and was for a considerable time in the hands of blasphemers who had obtained possession of it because it had become too desirable and was poorly guarded, as in the days of the pornocracy. Now it faces the greatest danger of all:
The German Reformation. This produces, first of all, a tremendous intellectual change in Germany itself and then more or less shakes up all of Europe, partly in a religious sense, partly in a political or a financial one. The conflicts, far from remaining purely ecclesiastical, are colored and discolored, entangle or disentangle themselves, and a literature from a thousand pens records every shading. Added to this is the enormous effect of the press which is now for the first time active in a European sense. Knowledge of the most remote places and of the earliest antiquity coincided with the strongest religious ferment.
And now the interests of the contending churches interweave with the antitheses of Hapsburg-Valois and of Occident-Ottomans. On one side of the scale of external destinies at that time there are the Protestants and Francis I and the Turks, on the other side there is Charles V. The popes become adversaries of Hapsburg which is fighting on the Catholic side, because it also wants to possess Italy. There are times when they wish for a Protestant victory. Especially striking was the alliance between the Catholic Henry II and the German Protestants against Charles V.
In the Counter Reformation the old church again gains a foothold in almost the entire Romanic world and in part of the Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic worlds. Supported by its own internal power and the external forces of the governments which had remained Catholic, it seeks to subjugate mankind again. It enters into an emergency alliance with Spain, which is at the same time fighting for world monarchy. In this situation the old church remembers and returns to its original mission, and it manages to a great extent to rejuvenate itself. The Reformation had produced a rescue as well as a menace.
All this flowed together in the great crises of 1560 to 1593. In them a new nation was born, Holland. At the same time there was also revealed the great European significance of England, of which Europe would have got a taste much sooner if it had not been for the ensuing Stuart strife. Only now does Scandinavia stand forth clearly.
The modes of life of this latter part of the sixteenth century are highly remarkable. There is a tremendous contrast to the beginning of this century; the world has become religious again or at least sectarian. The sixteenth century which had begun with such a brilliant cultural epoch had a frightful latter part. Great historical transformations are always bought dearly, often after one has already thought that one got them at a bargain price.
The Peace of Vervins, 1598, was inevitably only an intermission.
Let us once more stress the especial significance of the period 1450–1598.
In history in general there is among peoples of higher culture a wonderful juxtaposition and conglomerate of profuse mechanical forces, notably the massed might of the great state, on the one hand, and on the other, of the most delicate imponderables, like culture and religion, which in their highest manifestation depend on so few individuals and are able to carry away and shape entire nations. This is to be seen with especial clarity in the sixteenth century. The personal elements in their relation to the great mass destinies are here expressed with particular noteworthiness, precisely because the individuals concerned who stir this world are not all born princes and great men.
We reject the eudemonic, the so-called progressive, way of thinking. The fact that our present world situation is largely linked with the decisions of that period does not mean that as a totality it was especially happy or commendable, for then our century would also have to be considered as especially happy and commendable, which was actually the view particularly in the period from 1830 to 1848. The concept of the desirability of the past ought to be abandoned altogether, if only because the individual who speaks in this vein is not alone in the world. Actually, a historical judgment should always be such that it can be endorsed at least by all nations if not by all factions.
There is a widespread illusion that an innovation which came about once amidst the most terrible infractions of law and acts of violence is therefore justified, or that it was historically “necessary,” because later there was based on it a situation that was somehow tenable and appeared to establish new legal conditions. Humanity simply added its healthy powers to the act of violence and adapted itself to it, like it or not.
On the Dissolution of the Medieval Feudal State: Such copiously graded privileges and such indifferently performed duties.
On Experimental Policies: The more recently power has originated, the less can it remain stationary—first, because those who created it have become accustomed to rapid further movement and because they are and will remain innovators per se; secondly, because the forces aroused or subdued by them can be employed only through further acts of violence.
On the Papacy: As a state, it demanded, if it was not to be devoured, Italian politicians as rulers, i.e., people who also had the choice of being either anvil or hammer and then became hammers. In addition, however, it becomes the prey of covetous men and criminals.—Significance of the reign of Julius II.—What if Luther had encountered an Alexander VI in his path?
On the Reformation: It created states in which the clergy no longer constituted a political class and its heritage of power and property fell into the hands of the governments.
On the Counter Reformation: It is not merely resistance, but an inner remolding of the Catholic church under the influence of Protestantism.
On “Necessity” in History: There are, to be sure, historians who “hear the grass of necessity grow” (Hanslick).
The Dubiousness of the So-called Pragmatic View of History: In addition to demonstrable causalities, obscure forces come into play from all sides, and their raison d’être is established only after some time.
The Heightening of Consciousness in modern times is probably a sort of intellectual freedom, but at the same time a heightening of suffering. The consequences of reflective thought are postulates which can set whole masses in motion, but, even when fulfilled themselves, will only produce new postulates, i.e., renewed desperate and consuming struggles.
On the Progressive Way of Thinking: “This or that hallway would have to be the most beautiful if only because it leads to our room.” What coldness and heartlessness there is in this attitude, the ignoring of the silenced moans of all the vanquished, who, as a rule, had wanted nothing else but parta tueri [to preserve what had come into being]. How much must perish so that something new may arise!
The Confusion of the Concepts “Concentration of Power” and “Improvement of General Conditions”: The latter is highly questionable in the material sense, as compared with the period of 1500.
It is our task simply to observe and describe objectively the various forces as they appeared side by side or one after another.
England in the Late Middle Ages
Here there takes place around the turn of the century an increase in the royal power approaching complete absolutism and at the same time an approximation to the European great state. This happens through a destructive fight among all descendants of Edward III and all their adherents in which the noble families are eradicated as well— a bloodletting of the nobility comparable to that of the Romans in the civil wars, under the Augustans, and up to Domitian. Furthermore, this absolutism is made possible by a specific talent for despotism on the part of the new royal house of Tudor. Only England-Wales acts, and every time the entire country. Ireland is not consulted and Scotland stands hostilely aloof most of the time.
Even though the political development up to that time had come about by fits and starts, it could be considered a major step forward in the parliamentary sphere.
From the thirteenth century the House of Commons had had firm and assured possession of the power to tax, and since Edward I had acquiesced in this, it remained in a continual insolent relationship to the crown. It took terrible events to make it lose this position. For prudent kings, and especially for those successful in war, it had hitherto been an easy matter to keep on friendly terms with it.
But on occasion the House of Lords was turbulent, as was the royal family itself (the Plantagenets) with its ambitious and mutinous princes who bore titles and had intermediate rule of large areas; but this was not hereditary and did not lead to the formation of secondary dynasties.
Twice it happened that factions among the Lords, headed by princes, wanted to force upon the king a jointly ruling commission which would relieve him of the government (Edward II and the Duke of Lancaster, Richard II and Thomas of Gloucester, later Bolingbroke). In each case, first a prince and then the king concerned meets his doom. But Parliament remains strong.
During all this there prevails the general assumption that in England things were done legally, and this semblance of legality was then dragged on through the bloodiest times, with tragicomic effect. Even the most palpable outrage comes with parchment and seal in its hands.
Hitherto the regulator has been the ups and downs of success in the Anglo-French Wars, with the participation of Scotland and Flanders and the great battles of Crécy, Maupertius, and Agincourt. Finally, in 1420, the personal union between the crowns of England and France is introduced through the Treaty of Troyes.
But after 1429 things go downhill, and Henry V has been dead since 1422, God having grown tired of being kind to the English.
On Richard III
(I) When King Edward IV of the house of York died in April of 1483, his widow Elizabeth Rivers would definitely have had to turn over the regency for the minor Edward V to Richard of Gloucester, no matter what manner of man he may have been. But by the way she acted, one-sidedly giving away power and offices to her family, she had to bring ruin upon her house.
In Volume 5 of his History of England, Pauli thinks that with a calendar in his hand he can specify the day on which Gloucester was still loyal to his nephew before he started to strive for the crown himself. In vain!
Richard was no monster, but a terrorist. He did not commit a pointless crime; later he was fair to his victims. He acted in a spirit of “expediency.”
Richard would perhaps have an entirely different accounting sheet for us than Pauli might lead us to suspect, and in June of 1483, when he had himself proclaimed king of England, he would have spoken thus:
“I know the forest fire which in this country simply consumes the tallest tree trunks. It will rage till it dies out. It is a matter of who will be the last to remain on the scene. When the Lancasters were in power, they persecuted one another to the death, and when we Yorks rose up, we did likewise. I for my part have always found the simplification of problems in wiping out those to whom a possible rival faction could attach itself, for it is high time that a strong kingship were preserved.
“That is why with my own hands I killed the Prince of Wales, Henry VI, and also, as they say, my piteous brother Clarence. But I have always seen eye to eye with my brother Edward because he knew how to reign. Now, when he has hardly breathed his last, along comes my double-dealing and yet so simple-minded sister-in-law and places her relatives in all offices, probably because I am supposed to be untrustworthy. Surely I could have been trusted; I would have been the most loyal guardian of Edward V, but they would have had to obey me completely. Of course, I had to snatch those Riverses and Greys away, and it is too bad one can no longer merely keep someone in prison in England. Then those so-called friends of my brother Edward IV block my path. Who are those gentlemen, anyway? As though I didn’t know all about where they came from and how they got there. Nothing but intriguers! But I am a Plantagenet. Of course, one of them, Hastings, had to bleed, others had to sit in prison, and still others to come over to my side. Unfortunately all these affairs have so spoiled the situation that my brother’s sons, if they grew up, would never forgive me; and even now, through their very existence, because they themselves could not as yet reign anyway, they are a constant cause for the splintering of our faction of York. Thus it is a necessity for me to seize the crown, and this logically involves the disappearance of my nephews. If this should make the hearts of many good Englishmen bleed, it is just because they do not understand the least thing about the actual realities of today’s concrete English royalty. It may be that later I, too, shall perish; but my successor, whoever he may be, will justify me by giving the still extant offspring of our house, to which a faction might attach itself, a second going-over. The worst of it is that by killing my nephews I am doing that lurking Henry Richmond a huge favor, too. You good people don’t know this Tudor yet, otherwise you would have more sympathy with me. You are shuddering. But how would things be without me? The so-called friends of my brother and my sister-in-law’s relatives would now be giving battle to one another in the name of Edward V, and in the end there wouldn’t be anyone left who was authorized and qualified to hold aloft the banner of England. At least I kill only those who are in my way. Govern yourselves accordingly.”
(II) Richard is a Robespierre of royalty—at any rate, of his York branch. Just as Robespierre kills all republicans who do not subscribe to his conception of the republic, Richard destroys all those of the house of York and its followers to whom a split-off faction could attach itself, until he stands alone and goes down.
(III) With this crown, to be sure, the whole undiminished royal power passed from Richard to Henry VII. There was no legacy of disunion and conditionality attached to it, as was the case elsewhere after civil strife. The obscure will in Richard III had been not to let the crown fall into any powerless hands; this was now accomplished and he could die.
On the Wars of the Roses and on Scotland
It will never be calculable how strongly the mutual extirpation of the large and medium-sized noble houses affected England’s development. It has since been predominantly a bourgeois one, despite all the aristocracy. The Tudors do not allow any more factionalism among the nobility to arise which could have swept the state to its side; only under Edward VI was such a start made once more.
In Scotland the succession was never disputed, but the royal power was. And the heads of the hydra—of the nobility—keep growing back again. The life process of the Scottish nobility, with the mysterious vitality of this caste which must have been very fertile, seems to have been such that people periodically killed one another off so that the active generation might always be a young one and one committed to further blood feuds, beginning with the Stuart dynasty itself, with whole retinues destroying one another.
All the first four Jameses died violent deaths and left under-age princes whose young years were accompanied by the wildest regencies. Although no weaklings, the kings later did not attain any decisive power. Lamentation and bitterness must have been their prevailing mood. The despairing government invites great men and has them seized at the royal banquet table and beheaded; at this the young king sheds tears in vain. The great figures are almost without exception nuances of one and the same boundless despotism and intractability throughout the fifteenth century. If one of them wants to assert himself, he can do so only as the chief of his clan, that is, at the head of a platoon of plunderers. Especially the people of the Dominus ab Insulis [“Lord of the Isles”] are always ready to break into the rest of Scotland. There are momentary abject humiliations of great individuals before the kings, kneeling barefoot in their shirts and invoking the sufferings of Christ, but with secret reservations. Now and then, in moments of strength, a king traverses the country and has thousands executed. From England there spread gluttony and guzzling.
In free moments, the crown laboriously organizes an administration and a government and becomes the support of what little culture exists—which even proved the undoing of James III. Trade and industry are periodically wrecked in the feuds.
Within the house of Stuart conspiracies crop up—Athol against James I, Albany against James III—in which outside vantage points are sought.
The retinue of mighty men are huge bands equitum ejus ex ditione collectorum inter quos ingens latronum vis [of horsemen collected by his power, among whom is a great force of thieves]; one either had to join a dux latronum [leader of thieves] or pay high protection.
Scotland’s relations with England are little more than mutual devastation; the rest is intrigue. In addition, until about 1450 (?) there was in effect the military service of Scotsmen in France; Louis XI still had at least his Scottish guard.
James II personally killed William Douglas at Stirling in 1452. There ensued several years of feuding between the royal and the Douglas factions.
When a faction planned resistance to the king, it claimed that he was being corrupted by fawning courtiers.
The court was musical at least under James III. His opponents then killed off his retinue. The kings thought they were bothered by their adversaries’ wicked witchcraft, among other things.
The Parliaments hardly figure in this bit of history. The cities are insignificant and weak. After all, whoever has power can wield it directly.
The history of Boethius, or rather, Ferrerius, closes with the catastrophe in which James III met his doom in 1488, after conspirators had seized hold of his son, the barely fourteen-year-old James IV, who, full of woe, was unable to save his father from the murderers’ hands and full well realized his predicament.
This whole political situation continued in essence throughout the sixteenth century.
It is psychologically probable that Philip the Good’s enormous luck in expanding beguiled his son, Charles the Bold, to pursue endless acquisitions. It is a legitimate question whether a self-contained great state could have developed out of the large, rich cluster of lands that extended from the Ems to the Somme, not including the two Burgundies. It is a legitimate question because, apart from any matters of power, a great cultural question is involved, and because such a considerable part of it has actually survived. If one imagines the Burgundian lands as having stayed together instead of having been torn asunder due to Charles’s folly; if one thinks of them as the great Western European island of peace, prosperity, art, industry, undisturbed culture; if one also thinks of the possibility of a great colonial role, as was later played by Holland; and if one considers the many life forces which later come into play in the individual, separated parts, then one must conclude that these lands would in the sixteenth century presumably have been of paramount importance in the widest sense of the word. To be sure, they would have felt their oats, and from their very prosperity internal strife would have arisen.
At any rate, Burgundy did not have an easy time of it with Louis XI, but any other prince but Charles would have known how to manage.
Charles the Bold of Burgundy
With the exception of his very last period (when Dieu lui avoit troublé le sens et l’entendement) [God had dimmed his mind and his reason], Charles was not a madman, but only a terribly passionate man (it was folie raisonnante) in whom notable gifts and strength (for action as well as activity) were at every moment forced to do the bidding of a brutalized, absolutely obstinate will. And in practice this almost worked out the same as if he had actually been demented. A madman one could at least have locked up, but not him.
France and the Idea of Unification
To what extent and in whom was this idea really alive at that time? To what extent has it been recognized as desirable only by later developments and subsequently imputed to the fifteenth century?
Royalism in France, to the extent that it was a way of thinking, came into being through the regimes of Philip Augustus and Louis IX, and subsequently maintained itself primarily because the crown was the banner against England. After the great strife it came forward again in favor of Charles VII.
However, very large regions of France may have remained unaffected by it, and their rulers, the great crown vassals, were permanent opponents of royalty.
That royalty in general more nearly represented the interests of France was known to few, because as yet there was no France in the sense in question. A mere frame of mind would not have brought it into being, either. But probably everyone felt the burdensomeness of the crown.
The significance of Louis XI consisted in his laying, through harsh compulsion (which had already been started by Charles VII), that firm foundation on which later there could be established the habituation to royalty, the firm reliance on it, and the building up of the interests which were identical with it, as well as the safeguarding of business and intercourse by the police and the courts.
In this respect Louis XI represents modern France, much against the will and taste of the France of his time. But later Charles VIII and Louis XII had the newly formed royalism of interests and views to enjoy.
Royalism had existed even from the thirteenth century, as had an all French way of thinking, but with the restriction of all sorts of internal intractability; it was this that was changing now.
Large regions still regarded it as a matter of honor to have a special intermediate ruler. As Comines reports, the Normans had always believed that such a large duchy requiert bien un duc [had great need of a duke].
With even more assurance the Dukes of Brittany and their country asserted their independence, de facto and on the basis of certain views of the rights of states.
Louis differed from the Italian tyrants in his great national power aims. He probably studied and admired those tyrants only in regard to means of power. According to Chastelain, p. 190,* he is supposed to have secretly sent for two Venetians to inform him about the Venetian regime.
The Italians’ worry about Louis XI was an idle one, because they did not know how greatly he was overburdening himself with things to do at home.
Although only two battles, those at Montlhéry and Guinegate, were fought under his command, his courage was more than hussar’s courage and analogous to the courage of Cardinal Richelieu. (After all, he could have become a Carthusian.) The psychic tensions which he endured in his reign do add up to a sort of greatness.
The France of later times fully sanctioned his kind of ambition and theoretically shares the blame for what he did, although his vulgar ways must be utterly repugnant to the national sentiment. At the very least, he was better than his adversaries; only there is something highly reprehensible in the way in which he handles them (from St. Pol on).
Through his extremely prosaic character he easily gives the impression of having foreseen and desired more than actually was the case.
He is deserving of the profoundest pity when, in front of his son at Amboise in 1482, he has to make the traitors and semi-traitors believe that they will all keep their jobs in case of his death.
The firmness of what he established is shown in the relatively easy suppression of the guerre folle. The general premise is already royalty and its power which soon becomes taken for granted.
It soon looks as though Louis of Orleans would have been glad to break away from a false position through his imprisonment. The way in which he governed as King Louis XII almost makes one think that he wanted to atone for something.
And so that all this might happen, Louis XI had to die at Plessis as his own prisoner.
He dominates French history not through splendor, but merely through what he has been to it.
The German Imperial Power Under Frederick III
The German nation had a memory—the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation—as of an erstwhile world dominion which had assumed its mightiest form under Charlemagne, and under the Ottonians constituted at least a European primacy over Gaul, Italy, and the Slavs. But the tribal consciousness of the individual regions and then their inclination toward separate living always worked counter to the Empire, and since the Salians and the Hohenstaufens it had been possible for the individual princes to join the popes against the emperors. After the death of Henry VI, there was only a semblance of imperial power in Germany and it was not worth abolishing.
After the end of the Hohenstaufens royalty lived on in Germany only in very reduced form; its main value was the collecting of expired fiefs for the family. And a king had to hurry with this, for he was only an elective king, and every election was a new deal. But his power was little more than that of the territory concerned.
The nation which had been split into more or less viable pieces was divided into individual powers, parts that were contented, i.e., grasping, and parts discontented, i.e., threatened. In the latter, the old mighty Empire appeared as a dream image, the more glittering the more impossible it was, while the king, who was present in the flesh and had been crowned emperor on an Italian tour, was regarded as a caricature and all the more decisively deprived of the last vestiges of respect and obedience.
Friendship with the popes was a matter already fostered by the Luxemburgers, but completely inevitable in Frederick III’s situation. And the Vienna Concordat only gained for him what Brandenburg, Cleves, and others also gained for themselves. Later others, too, found the emperor dispensable as a court of appeal and went to the pope for decisions on German affairs.
Much poison circulated about Frederick III is mere modern national liberalism. After four hundred years people trample on a man who was helpless in his time and chuckle over everything that in the remotest periods happened to the house of Austria in the way of sorrow and shame.
The difference between them and most other Islamitic peoples and states is that the completely martial period which with the others marks the beginning of their power lasts centuries with them and is perpetuated by the institution of the fief and by the janizaries. In war the Turkish people learns to feel itself ever anew; in peacetime it tolerates an ordinary Islamitic despotism.
All this was in contrast to the West with its state structure of graduated power and bargaining over duties. In addition, there was in the West a multiplicity of centers, smallness of the individual powers, and these remained involved in their quarrels and wars of “succession.” Under such circumstances, all that was possible was done against the Turks, especially if one takes the Franco-Turkish alliance into account.
In the vicinity almost everyone only meditated about the advantage to him if the Turks proved his neighbors’ ruin. And yet there is no lack of vociferous prophets who continually proclaim the general danger. The Turks were very predictable; people knew rather exactly how things were in the lands trampled underfoot by them and that a transition of these countries to Western mores was permanently out of the question.
In addition to their martial predisposition the Turks possessed the thoroughgoing arrogance of an Islamitic community. And yet heresies never amounted to anything here, with one exception under Murad II, and Shiism came to be hated all the more as a Persian faith and was persecuted. The Ottoman world is orthodox and contains its church within itself, while the West went to pieces ecclesiastically and had its universal church outside of the states.
With the Ottomans, all “fanaticism” is immediately active as a political and military force in the service of the whole and does not go off at a tangent. Any war is a religious war. To Islam belongs eo ipso the world.
In government everything, including the greatest horrors, takes place in order to guarantee unity and the maintenance of power. It is only one man’s turn—while in the West power and areas are still divided now and then, so that it may be the turn of several.
The West still knows and at least nominally honors hereditary claims. The Ottomans proceed only according to the naked right of conquest.
The Republic of Florence
The republic expanded from the thirteenth century on and, after 1406 including Pisa, created subject cities. These were governed by commissione. The constitutions of Florence, which one could die memorizing, succeeded one another in turn. The general things that one notices here are a supreme political consciousness as well as the participation of a large proportion of the citizens in public life and in constitutional questions.
But it does not necessarily follow that these constitutions by themselves were the basis of Florentine culture or had even created it. It is, on the contrary, something if they did not impede it, if they did not make impossible that society which was to become the substratum, the living soil of culture and art. It is a majority of tolerated forces that are the carriers of it: the will and the understanding of the Medici, the competitive zeal of other noblemen, a number of spiritual associations. In addition, there is the general ambition of the Florentines for monumental activities and the definitely highest intellectual capacity (or at least the one most diffused among the people) of all the Italians, in just the same way that the Athenians were gifted beyond the rest of the Greeks. Florence is the Italy of Italy, as Ἑλλάδος Ἑλλάδ Ἀϴᾶναι [Athens was the Greece of Greece].
Only in this way could a general disposition be formed: if this or that were not beautiful, non s’usaria a Firenze [it would not be used in Florence]. And such a partiality can then survive even periods of decline and keep up general standards.
On the War of 1494
(I) For the great states which have only recently become quite powerful there now start years of indiscretion, of grand politics directed toward the outside.
It was as though France wanted to compensate for the austere prose of Louis XI. Romanticism burgeons on every side. To the realist par préférence it had to happen that his so well guarded son must become a visionary (the daughter, Anne de Beaujeu, was a realist).
The other side of the French mind, the imaginative, comes brilliantly to the fore. It was in this light that the Italians regarded Charles VIII. To Savonarola he is the great, exalted head of the Guelphs; to Pisa he is a liberator; to Naples a sacra corona [sacred crown]; to all a great new chance in that land of chances, Italy.
In his History of France, (4th ed., Vol. VII, p. 282), Henri Martin says in this connection: “La portion remuante et guerrière de la population française garda, depuis la campagne de Naples, une aveugle fureur de conquêtes lointaines, une infatuation funeste de sa supériorité militaire …” [The revolutionary and warlike element in the French population retained, after the campaign of Naples, a blind passion for remote conquests, a deadly infatuation with its military superiority …].
Basically, this campaign was pure folly. It would have been to the real French interest, at any rate, that Naples should belong to an Aragonese bastard line rather than to that Aragonese who already possessed Sicily. The greatest significance of these lands was to be the vanguard against Islam, a very difficult honorary privilege! The real France would not have had to give up Franche-Comté and Artois, but to acquire as much as possible of the rest of the Netherlands. On the other hand, Naples was at best a valueless possession for France, and Charles VIII would not have set out merely for the sake of Naples; could designs on Constantinople and Jerusalem have been the decisive factor?
The fascination of this period lies in the naive expression of egoism and enthusiasm. Out of a need for emotion, Florence goes through its republic and its Savonarola.
In the chronicles Comines and Guicciardini meet; and even Macchiavelli joins in (Decennale, I).
Could this whole swindle with Constantinople and Jerusalem have been only a mask—to lend a campaign of conquest the character of a crusade? Considering the Turkish menace at that time, a mere campaign of conquest against Naples was an enormous scandal; Alexander VI (in February of 1494?) reminds Charles that such a campaign could really not be undertaken importuniori tempore [at a less favorable time]; Ferrante might in utter despair throw himself into the arms of the Turks. Then, too, 30,000 men were quite insufficient for a crusade. But the main consideration is one that is hardly ever brought up: through her invading zeal France incited the Spanish power, which was bent on increasing its might anyway, to apply itself likewise to further occupation of outside areas. The detachment of Roussillon and Cerdagne had not pacified a Ferdinand the Catholic by a long shot!
How safe is the Sicilian theory according to which Filippo Maria Visconti actually bequeathed his state to Alfonso the Great? According to this, not only Lodovico il Moro but the entire house of Sforza would have had to worry constantly about the house of Aragon-Naples. Was perhaps the marriage of young Giovanni Galeazzo intended to eliminate this worry? And the claim of the house of Orleans was cut off entirely.
(II) We are told, above all, that wars are necessary because the peoples stagnate in peacetime and the mightiest forces would no longer achieve representation.
To be sure, the victor does gain a heightened feeling of life. One does not speak about the vanquished and his misery; why was he not the stronger one?
In the case under discussion, Italy, which had been cast to the ground in an era or series of interventions, had no unity and lacked an organ of national resistance, to be sure; but it did have forces of the highest intellectual kind that were capable of creations for all peoples and all times, and the activity of these forces was certainly stunted in large measure through the misery of Italy. What the art of that time was prevented from achieving will probably never be recompensed by any future art of the white race.
For the time being, France comes along with crude enforcement of rights of succession—in the first place, Charles VIII with his Anjou parchments, in the second, Louis of Orleans (actually Rabaudanges) who already stands by with his Milanese claim based on his grandmother.
This arouses the Spanish beast. The scene is set for the Spanish-French struggle for existence which always takes place partly on Italian soil and has as its object parts of Italy, until finally around 1555 the French are completely expelled from Italy.
And over this they have neglected the much closer and more important acquisition, the Low Countries. In 1493 Charles VIII sacrifices Artois and Franche-Comté in order to make sure of being able to start his Italian campaign, and subsequently France does not obtain the important French Flanders up to the mouth of the Scheldt where once French kings had won victories near Bouvines, Roosebeke, etc.
Who will then blame Philip II for promoting and exploiting in every way the disarray of France in the religious wars?
France appeared anew in Italy under Richelieu, under Louis XIV, at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, then under Louis XV, the Directorate, Napoleon, etc., until finally, substantially through France’s doing, there arise in Germany and Italy great national units with which France would probably not tangle lightly in the future.
It would be interesting to add up the sum total of that exalted feeling felt by the French nation (n.b. rather than its leaders); one would have to subtract from it not only the suffering of Italy, but also the humiliations of the French at their many retreats from Italy.
By all appearances it would be possible to close such an account today, for the invasions of Italy are probably definitely at an end.
But, finally, there would remain the counterquestion: what would the Italians have done to one another if Europe had left them in peace?
On the Power of the Papacy
It lays claim to refereeship between disputing nations and potentates; it commands (even though usually in vain) peace in the West so that it may unite against Islam; we know, for example, the commandment of Boniface VIII vis-à-vis the quarreling kings (England and France, Anjou and Aragon).
After the Avignon period and the schism, the papacy at least reasserts this claim: Eugenius IV decides the dispute between Castile and Portugal over the possession of the Canary Islands, just as Alexander VI later draws the meridian through the Atlantic Ocean between both. Nicholas V, too, issues bulls relating to the Portuguese discoveries.
To be sure, when Rome as an Italian territorial power was entangled with affairs of the whole world, the papacy could no longer maintain this claim; and yet Alexander VI (between Charles VIII and Ferrante) and even Leo X may have tried to do all they could. But alongside this there is Leo’s naïveté when in 1513–1514 he desired Lower and Upper Italy for Giuliano and Lorenzo de Medici.
In addition, the papacy was the supreme resort in matters of faith and of ecclesiastical punishment and pardon.
Would the papacy have escaped the German Reformation even if it had behaved quite properly? Once the matter of payments to the pope really became a burning one?
A dangerous thing was the habituation to the spiritual weapons— excommunication, interdict, and so on. (Pius II included going around the alum pits of Tolfa among the deadly sins for which there was no indulgence!) Once conventional fear was overcome somewhere, it was not only at an end, but the adversaries hardened and fortified themselves through counter-curses, calling the pope anti-Christ, and the like.
Italy and the Rest of Europe
Outside of Italy, the nobility and the middle class were separated socially and remained so for a long time. The two had different cultures, almost; and each class was incapable by itself of supplying the basis for a complete culture. Especially in Germany the nobility became brutalized and ran wild; the bourgeoisie was pressed hard from many sides, to be sure, but was already in possession of more varied enjoyments of life. All the princely courts outside Italy were at that time incapable of being social centers of their nations, something that the pompous Burgundian court had already been. In France only Francis I was to form the social center. A few courts knew only display and wild enjoyment, others had to or wanted to economize.
Written culture outside of Italy was still substantially dominated by scholasticism which was not really research but rather support of what was already established through logical operations. Thus scholasticism and its school books predominate in the incunabula of the presses outside Italy. In place of the natural sciences, the pseudo-sciences, astrology and alchemy, flourished vigorously while in Italy they were already close to extinction.
So-called schools for poets were just being started; there were also here and there at Northern universities Italian and, soon, Italian-trained teachers of poetry, rhetoric, and jurisprudence, occasionally under strong protest from their colleagues. Cicero and Quintilian had to be maintained by force as subjects of instruction.
As regards emotional life, religious feeling was still very strong, varying with the countries; in addition, there were excellent small mystic communities and pious individuals. The lyric poetry of the French and Germans, to the extent that it was part of literature rather than continuing folk poetry, seems to us mannered and tedious; furthermore, there appears a wooden mockery, by turns more didactic and more cynical. Did tender feelings hide behind this? The only present value of this literature is in the field of cultural history.
In the field of art, possibly the most vivid aspect of art outside Italy is the fading of the Gothic into a sumptuous decorative style. In sculpture and painting the former ideality of the great Gothic period is past and a harmonic synthesis has not yet been achieved. Flemish realism has stopped halfway in the shaping of the human form and in the narrative, and this lack becomes paramount precisely in its concern with the individual. But side by side with the awkward and even barbaric there appear here and there beautiful, profound, and spirited heads. From the beginning of the sixteenth century there appear in the North the great and still almost wholly independent advances.
Thus culture outside Italy is on the whole a disharmonious one, albeit one with great incomplete and latent forces.
Italy, however, is the country of a common culture which is at the same time one of inner harmony. The form of intercourse was a higher sociability independent of class differences, and its content was intellect.
Toward the end of the fifteenth century, that which to other Europeans was still conjecture and fantasy was already knowledge and a free object of thought to the Italians. Imagination was beautifully channeled into poetry and art.
The scope of the intellect, still a very close and narrow sphere among the other Europeans, is here enormously widened through the interest in an ideally conceived Greco-Roman antiquity, in a renaissance in a narrower sense, and in nature and human life; indeed, nature is expanded through a universal urge for knowledge, appreciation, and discovery that is no longer inhibited by the old scholastic system which still blanketed the rest of Europe.
And it is not only the intellect that recognizes the world and itself, but the soul, too, speaks to and about itself in a different way, and in so doing clothes or, rather, unclothes itself in beauty.
The despotism of most governments does little damage. There probably were other reasons why Naples (with Pontano, Sannazaro) and Sicily took but little part in the movement. Elsewhere there are enough tolerably independent positions, especially for frugal people. The tyrants themselves and even a few popes are at the head of the movement, e.g., Lodovico il Moro and others.
The republic of Florence is at the center as a focal point and exchange center of the first rank. Apart from the Florentine states as such, there takes place here a most complicated convergence of extremely dissimilar forces to produce a supreme, harmonious culture.
Its basis is, in addition to the favorable physical and economic conditions, the general conviction that everything could be done here and that one must possess the best. Without this conviction all the institutions in the world would have availed nothing. This was also expressed in the idea current in all Italy that if this or the other thing were not so excellent, non s’usaria a Firenze. There were the Medici, the many corporations and wealthy men who employed people and demanded works of art.
Thus scholars, poets, artists of high order were able to come together or grow up in Florence. One must add to this the Florentine colonies and individuals abroad as commissioners or creators. Even Boniface III called the Florentines the fifth element.
In literature, the Italian epic predominated from about 1450 as the main genre, just as lyric poetry had been the chief form of the fourteenth century. The drama ought to have become that of the sixteenth century. After Pulci the epic reaches for all tones and colors; it is high-heroic, semi-comic, topical, etc.
Italian humanism which was gradually filtering through was already making an impression upon Europe. Many Northerners studied in Italy and brought home the picture of a new science. Of poetry, however, they took home only the neo-Latin, and around 1500 nothing of Dante was known in the North, except perhaps De Monarchia, of Petrarch and Boccaccio only the Latin writings; Battista Mantovano was known, but neither Pulci nor Boiardo. Ariosto was only in his early period.
At the same time Italy’s modern political forms, commercial institutions, and travelers took effect.
But what the conquerors had yet to discover was the art of the Italians, combined with the remnants of antiquity:
An architecture which for once expressed and sheltered a majestic and comfortable worldly life, which was no longer capable merely of giving form to churches and mere castles, but shaped palaces and villas as well, according to a uniform plan, with beautiful rooms and noble, grand forms. In harmony with this there was an art of decoration which was the exact opposite of the highly refined Northern type and was completely adapted to the new building style, having grown and flourished to endless expansion with it. Its general character was grandiose serenity.
Then there were sculpture and painting, which could already boast of the most magnificent work of Leonardo and the early works of Michelangelo, and then during the occupations and interventions continued to grow in a wonderful way at passably protected places (Luini in a sanctuary at Saronno!).
Medieval art had achieved the full majesty of intentions, Flemish art had attained the reality of individuals in small compass. With Leonardo, this and still higher things fused into a perfect truth, that is, majesty, a stirring life on earth which appeared as a guise and expression of a life spiritually moved in the highest sense. Everything in one piece: perfect loveliness of form and nobility of intention in Raphael; perfect appearance in life, air, and light in Correggio; festive, majestic existence in Titian; finally, the realization of pre-worldly, extra-worldly, and supra-worldly figures and occurrences in the later Michelangelo—not to mention the innumerable minor masters who still appear great. And all this with almost complete independence of classical art!
Thus there came about the uniquely fortuitous case in art history that the highest beauty and truth of sensuous appearance persistently was striven for and captured as a revelation of the highest spiritual life and that one was aware of it. Here we should remember Michelangelo’s words: “True painting is noble and pious in itself, for the very wrestling for perfection lifts the soul to reverence by approaching God and becoming one with Him; of His perfections true painting is a copy, of His brush it is a shadow.”
And during the invasions and occupations Machiavelli, Ariosto, and Guicciardini were writing.
Spain and Portugal
The grandees, to be sure, remain loyal to the crown after the deaths of Isabella (1504) and Ferdinand the Catholic (1516). But inner strife appears because the supreme power as such is in dispute, and finally the uprising of the comuneros turns against the Netherlands councilors of Charles V. But royalty remains in complete and sole control and, as soon as the division into parties had ended, achieves its highest apotheosis. The Inquisition crushes everything; the head of the Medina Sidonia bears its banner. Servitude does not seem to have been felt as such. The same nation which is cut off from whole large areas of thought and knowledge by an unheard-of preventive censorship remains fresh and creative in other areas and even develops quite late its best and most lasting elements. Not until the course of the sixteenth century are there added to the existing romance and lyric poetry the sacred and the profane drama (the latter again the tragic and the comic), the novella and the realistic novel (the beggar’s novel). In art, which in the sixteenth century was still dependent on the outside, the true Spanish spirit achieves its flowering only in the seventeenth century when the nation was already dying.
In discovery and the founding of colonies, Columbus must work with the only powerful agent which sets people into motion; it is not even the promise of enjoyment, but the mere greed for gold; he must let the whole curse hold sway. Added to the unprecedented widening of the horizon is the worst surrender to Spanish sloth over money and power. In order to attain this, people undergo any danger and effort. Until Cortes the human element is greatly inferior to the Portuguese under Manuel the Great whose entire activity is devoted to outside journeys, but who, in between, also reaches the other European monarchs with exhortations to go on crusades. Here is a more active people that does not want merely to enjoy and to rule; from the smallest to the biggest it seems to be gripped by enthusiasm for the martial-commercial voyages, so that afterwards a great poet was able to focus this feeling. Furthermore, the leaders and viceroys appear to be nothing but loyal and united servants of the great idea which is personified in kings, and they had to suffer no infamies like Columbus, Balboa, and others.
They discovered no “New World,” as did the Spaniards, although they obtained a share of it in Brazil; rather, they encountered an age old and yet essentially unknown world. They found no mere savages and semi-civilized peoples, but a civilized world fraught with perils and warlike Moslems whom one keeps encountering as familiar, active enemies down to the farthest reaches of India. After Vasco da Gama one gateway to the Orient after another was burst open, and, after all, Portugal was at first still blameless in the war of the European peoples.
The Beginning of the Reformation: General Considerations
The transformation of the world through the Reformation was great in itself. First of all, the problem of “liberation” may be brought up.
Catholicism up to that time had exerted no substantial pressure, had not impeded any idea, not even atheistic blasphemy, and had allowed reformatory elements in particular to rise. But the church was subject to change (apart from dogma) in its hierarchic form of power and its property; for both are secular. (Still, someone who overthrows and steals power and property does remain a perpetrator of violence, even though sound forces may subsequently have associated themselves with the consequences of his actions.)
In Europe, church property was an open question for the universally needy secular class, and the church state was itself imperiled through the consequences of the activity of the popes.
The Reformation, as a religious innovation, diverges from all traditions of the Middle Ages. The Bible, which may be variously interpreted, remains the sole authority, and reformatory theology brought the difficulty of the doctrine of justification.
After 1520 Luther’s goal was the complete eradication of Catholicism. He was execrated; his opponents were designated as “scorners” of the gospel, and tolerance was represented as blasphemy.
The reformers were fond of invoking the wrath of God.
No mercy was shown those who wanted to adhere to the old religion optimo jure [as having the best right]. (But anyone who is treated that way must be destroyed; if he is not, there exists an avenger.)
The most enormous spoliation of the institutions of a millennium took place. But a large part of Germany remained Catholic or became Catholic again, and in all the rest of Europe Catholicism stood its ground in the most important countries and considered as its duty the utmost resistance to the Reformation and absolute self-preservation.
On account of that, with the Thirty Years’ War Germany paid as dearly for the Reformation as is at all conceivable. On the whole, things went very badly, and all desperate hatred has to date not been able to change this. The “others” are still around and are Christians, too.
Upon the Catholic “human statutes” there follow the Protestant ones.
The reformers and “freedom”:
Today they are chiefly regarded as battering-rams—not on account of what they taught, but because they did their best to destroy Catholicism. Little notice is taken of their doctrines, and at bottom they are held in low esteem. Protestantism is regarded as liberal, something it became only after it was no longer Protestantism—and the state dictated it anyway.
The reformers bewailed “spiritual freedom.” Every one of them conceived of his dogmatism as a condition of the soul’s salvation. They bitterly complain of being despised—here one suddenly does not even believe Luther himself. They shudder because with their innovation all of ethics has got out on the high seas (God as the Creator of Evil, and the like), while folk fancy and greed, now based on the Bible or even only on the spirit, rise to ever new evolutions (Anabaptists).
Yet the force which carried the Reformation materially was the general defection from good works, from alms, tithes, indulgences, fasting—in short, the general lack of discipline. The reformed not merely rejected asceticism, but went to quite the other extreme.
The Reformation is the faith of all those who would like not to have to do something any more. With Calvin this later changed.
The worst and socially most dangerous elements were soon in the foreground. They brought about a general break with all historical traditions. In addition, there were active among them those carried away by the spirit of rhetoric.
Even when the storm of the Peasants’ War was over, the general licentiousness in action and thought remained and spread to the areas of governments which had remained Catholic. In 1532 Tiepolo was afraid that in consequence of internal strife the victors or the emigrating vanquished might hurl themselves at the neighboring countries.
On the intellectually more advanced there was an inner pressure. The absence of any mood of exaltation becomes characteristic. Higher education did not advance, as is thought, but retrogressed for decades. The humanists became silent.
German art declined, through icon-smashing, through the atrophy of its higher tasks—it had been deprived of its myth—through the participation of the most important artists themselves in the Reformation.
The initial element in him was not speculative thought, but terribly powerful basic feelings, such as occur now and then in deep natures of the old, advanced races. Such men sense the profound vanity of everything earthly and, according to predisposition, period, place, and race, feel it as an apostasy of all living creatures from God.
In accordance with the temporal (Germanic and monastic) covering which gave the external form to his spirit, Luther perceived it as sin. However, he did not content himself with the remedy for sin customary in his environment, namely, penance, and its superficial buying off, the indulgence, did not suffice him at all.
Luther’s personality is described by Kessler [Sabbata, I, 122] who saw him in 1522: “He was rather corpulent by nature. His carriage was erect and such that he bent forward less than backward, with his face turned toward heaven. He had dark eyes set deep under his dark brows; his eyes twinkled and flashed like stars, so that one could not well bear their glance.” (Cranach has nowhere managed to give us an idea of this.)
The decisive thing about Luther was the fact that in addition to indulgences he also abhorred good works in the widest sense. But these will always have on their side natural feelings which he likewise trampled underfoot along with all follies of Catholic practice.
For a Christian it is natural (but for that very reason not theologically correct?) to want to atone for his failings, to impose suffering upon himself, to give away a part of his possessions and enjoyments. Only optimists are blind to this. Real Christianity even imposes upon itself permanent penance in the form of asceticism, and Luther hated the latter most of all once he had said good-by to it.
The reformers then were quick to realize what had been lost with the ecclesiastic practice of alms and drew up programs of public charity.
But they would have succumbed to their own impotence unless princely and municipal governments had for good reasons safeguarded a firm ecclesiastic organism. The governments then had to take the benefice, too, under their care in large measure, even though they entrusted the clergy with it in part.
On the German Reformation: Its Causes and Spiritual Consequences
It is a pretension of modern Catholics that a corporation which has taken to itself as much of the secular as the medieval hierarchy had done still ought not to succumb to the laws governing all secular things, but should enjoy the privilege of eternal immutability in the midst of universal change. But earthly property and power are transitory. And yet the hierarchy had grown and constantly changed. It had attained full growth in about the way that a religion of immortality under the supervision of priests had had to mature. This religion could not and would not pretend to be Biblical any longer; hence the grudge against the Bible in the vernaculars, as it is expressed, e.g., in Jiménez’ principle that the three languages in which the “I.N.R.I.” was written were sufficient. This attitude might have been affected by the memory of the Lollards who, after all, lived on here and there into the sixteenth century.
Now there were merely the alternatives: Would the church be shaken by the gradual defection of the subjectively cultured, modern, profane, personally examining people, or by a sudden great religious crisis— the latter in conjunction with the financial factor?
How long would it have taken without the indulgence industry of Leo X?
A counterquestion: What would the course have been without Luther? Undoubtedly there would soon have been changes of some sort in church property throughout all of Europe and particularly in the church state, but a large part of the dogma and the hierarchy would have remained, alongside of which the personal development of the individual could hardly have been suppressed.
The spiritual result, apart from the religious elements, was as follows. In any event, infinitely more individuals were spiritually awakened and matured than had previously been the case. And through religion’s becoming more inward, the psychic element was developed more and in much wider circles. (?) But inevitably an equal amount of native, primitive strength was lost in favor of this common possession. This is why there was a predominantly weak literature and poetry after the Reformation. Added to this was a feeling of oppression under the princes, and, above all, under the new dogma (justification through faith) which, burdensome per se and not designed for everyone, was a more oppressive burden than Catholicism had been previously, as it really was, with its thousand accommodations and its highly liberal practices whenever one wanted them.
Both churches, Catholic as well as Protestant (Protestantism reawakens Catholicism) became oppressively dogmatic and demanded that men should all become one-sided again, after many-sidedness and freedom had characterized the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Protestant countries later become places of “spiritual freedom,” not because they were Protestant, but to the extent that they no longer were zealously so.
Later compensation for what was lost is imponderable; it is impossible to judge how desirable delay may have been.
It should also be considered how the Reformation, and at the same time the Counter Reformation on the Catholic side, regulated the Renaissance and took it into their service.
In a letter to Goethe dated September 17, 1800, in which he comments on K. L. Woltmann’s History of the Reformation, Schiller calls the history of the age of the Reformation “subject matter which by its nature tends toward a petty, miserable detail and moves along at an infinitely lagging pace.” What matters is “to organize [this material] into great, fruitful masses and to abstract its spirit with a few big strokes.”
On the Reformation: Protestantism and Tradition—The Intolerance of the New Doctrine
The appeal to the Bible alone was rejected by the Catholics with very eloquent reasons. Glapion, for example, said that the Bible was a book comparable to soft wax which everyone could pull and stretch at will. He offered to prove by individual passages from the Bible much stranger things yet than Luther did. One ought to pay attention to the oldest usage of the church, he said. In order to establish and maintain an edifying view of the course of the Reformation, one would have to suppress the psychological experience of all times and all men. In point of fact, it was easy to demonstrate the total separation from the earlier life form of the church, from tradition, as something unfair and foolish. Christian truth, he said, consists of both things, the Bible and tradition, the spirit and the vessel which it had created for itself in the earlier times of full religious strength.
Later, when it had become old enough, Protestantism gradually was able to form and establish a tradition of its own. Two generations sufficed to manifest here, too, what henceforth was considered as selfevident; the accustoming of the masses took place relatively fast.
But when its theology began to burden itself with “scholarship,” Protestantism became sick from it and showed a tendency to shift to rationalism.
In the sixteenth century, however, mutual execration stepped between the old and the new. (Often people mistook their own rage for the wrath of God.) Anyone who was to tolerate a minority of different faith might think that he was incurring the wrath of God over himself and his country. After all, the minorities were not merely “unbelievers,” but “scorners.”
Sebastian Franck says about the evangelical territorial churches: “Everyone believes so as to oblige the authorities and has to worship the regional God. If a prince dies and another regulator of the faith appears, God’s word soon changes as well.” From a very early time (1520), Luther had issued the most vehement calls to destruction against Catholicism and demanded complete abolition and eradication of everything old. The Catholics immediately had a life-or-death struggle, a fight for self-preservation, on their hands. As early as 1520 the pope was, to Luther, the anti-Christ who is darkly alluded to in 2 Thessalonians, II, 3. The Hussites had already applied the term “anti-Christ” to the pope.
Soon the ecclesiastic power of the Protestant state brought on the persecution and destruction, or expulsion, of the Catholics ipso facto— a terrible hardship for those who wanted to adhere to their accustomed faith optimo jure.
The doctrine of justification through faith in Luther’s version now has been abandoned by all prominent Protestant theologians. In 1531 Melanchthon wrote to a friend: “Believe me, the controversy over the justness of the faith is obscure and difficult.”
Germany paid about as dearly for the Reformation as is imaginable. Whatever elements were able to save themselves from the terrible exclusiveness and militancy of the new movement never recognized this new force and felt themselves entitled to any reaction. Hence the Counter Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War. The memories of reformatory compulsion were still alive in the grandchildren when the reaction came.
The assumption of control over the church is one of the greatest steps toward omnipotence that the state has ever been able to take. In the Catholic areas this step was taken indirectly through the appointment and taxation of the clerics; with the Protestants it was done quite directly and openly. And to what extent is this state qualified to rule over souls?
On the Reformation: The Establishment of So-Called Spiritual Freedom
Today’s rejoicing that the Reformation established so-called spiritual freedom, to the effect that the reformers were the battering-rams against any authority in favor of any lack of restraint, was actually even then the attitude of many, but to the disgust and lament of the reformers themselves, who regarded their particular dogmatism as the sine qua non for all salvation of the soul.
Subsequently the governments helped them to establish well-defined creeds, but not until after they had made sure of the church property and in order to maintain it. It was the governments, municipal as well as princely, that carried through and maintained the firm creeds, for the reformers by themselves would most certainly have succumbed to their disunity.
The people, however, where they participated, in the beginning greatly enjoyed the general lack of discipline.
Apart from that esteem of the reformers as battering-rams against the greatest and thus, by implication, any authority, few people would want to know of them today. Not even the pious strictly believe in their systems of faith any longer.
What if someone had been able to lift the curtain of the future for the people and show them how a hundred years later they would have to pay again for what had been won so very easily?
Forces like those of the Reformation always delude themselves into thinking, in the exultation of the moment, that they are alone in the world. Afterwards they are surprised and abandon themselves to outbursts of execration when the old elements not only have remained in significant numbers, but have grown to great, new strength, because they derive from the innermost core of mankind.
At one time, however, people did not have the slightest scruples about immediately destroying the old faith through interdiction, persecution, exile, etc., to the extent of each government’s power. This was an abomination; it brought about the despair of millions and could not be justified on any legal grounds. Then, too, the religions occasionally do it differently. The Christendom of the fourth century took a long time before it proceeded to persecute paganism—not until it was completely harmless—because it was acting according to religious impulses. On the other hand, confiscators have to act immediately with cruel exclusiveness. To be sure, the properties and endowments of the pagan temples had been a trifle compared with the loot that the governments of the Reformation had before them. Hence the horrible compulsion to Protestant sermons and Holy Communion. Otherwise the booty would have been in danger.
The reformers, to be sure, assisted this as much as they could with their doctrine that the wrath of God was incurred by a country that still tolerated idolatry. But without the consideration of safeguarding the confiscated items their clamor would not have been heeded.
From the very beginning, in Germany there was danger and self-sacrifice only for those who adhered to the old church. Hutten’s “iacta est alea” [the die is cast] is ridiculous. It was different in France where the adherents of the new faith exposed themselves to mortal danger.
On the Reformation: The Masses, Their Motives and Consequences—Luther
A large proportion of the population certainly was quick to join. It was pleasant to skip confession and penance immediately, to break fast, to be rid of vows and indulgences, and, as was thought, not to be paying tithes any longer (of these the peasants were nowhere relieved). The Reformation must have had an enormous attraction for all those who enjoy not having to do something any longer.
Bonnivard stresses this throughout his Advis et Devis des difformes réformateurz. The large majority of the people, he says, conceived of the Reformation as the opposite of asceticism: (“Ce monde est faict à dos d’asne” [This world is made like a donkey’s back]; if a bag hangs too far to the left and you try to center it, it falls to the right). How different was the effect of Christianity on people in its beginning: repentance, surrender of property at the feet of the apostles—and now, by contrast, “nos évangelistes de taverne”! The worst elements of the population rose to the top. In the time of transition, brutal acts of violence against priests and the like occurred. Where was the preaching of the gospel followed by an improvement of life, except “en la val d’Engroigne (Waldensians) et nostre ville de Genève”? And even there this happened only late and with an effort, for initially “peu de gentz de bien” [few people of means] took part, but rather “les plus desbordez” [the most downtrodden] in the city and within a radius of ten hours, with maltreatment of the priests and monks, plundering, and the like. This was done only out of hatred of the church, not out of love of the gospel; otherwise they would have started their reform with themselves. (The Reformation made its great strides not through its positive teachings, but as a negation of something that had existed up to that time; without this negation the masses would not have been won over.)
On the whole, the reformers may have felt very queer in the midst of lustful masses of people, greedy governments, wretched colleagues (quickly advanced clerics of all kinds), and vis-à-vis one another: the Anabaptists, i.e., the forward-pressing essential spirit of the Reformation, a continual admonition from out of the dark. The frightful imprecations against the papacy probably were made in part because they wanted to cut off forcibly the secretly tempting way back. How gladly Melanchthon would have remained in some sort of a relationship with the old church!
The Reformation stirred up in people the most diverse spirits: a break with all historical things; because people broke with so much history, there was, for many, no limit. Furthermore, there were remnants of all kinds of traditional heresies which had only been forced back into obscurity.
According to Lang’s conscious or unconscious view, the Reformverein [Reform Union] actually ought to have followed immediately upon the Reformation. But without immediate, dogmatically very firm and one-sided churches, everything would have broken up into tumult, baptizing, appeal to the spirit, and so on, into general disunity (not “enlightenment,” but baptizing would have dominated the scene for the moment), and the reaction (which later set in strongly enough) would then have gained control easily and completely.
To be sure, the religious fanatics now and then make an optimistic start at collecting themselves into a people of God with strict discipline, as did the Hussites once, but there is far too little harmony, and the attempt of Münster came much too late.
Through the problems of justification, good works, predestination, and the like, all of ethics got out into the high seas. The idea emerged that God was the creator of evil, too (Hans Denk and also some individual reformers, e.g., Zwingli, were logical enough to attach to this the eventual salvation of the wicked, even of the fallen angels).
Many were probably drawn into all this confusion only by their mere inborn fondness for talking. They are those who would be equally inspired to talk by the opposite.
Who are we anyway to demand of Luther and the other reformers that they should have carried out our programs?! This particular Luther existed and no other; accept him the way he was.
There are complaints about Luther’s “obstinacy”—but without the pig-headedness, so entirely incapable of capitulation, of this one man everything might perhaps have reverted to the status quo.
Luther’s doctrine of justification, an innovation vis-à-vis the entire church up to that time, is currently actually abandoned by all Protestant theologians, even orthodox ones. In fact, it is explained in a way that the reformers and their authentic successors would damn as Papist or Arminian.
On the Reformation: Governments—Confiscation of Property and Dogmatism—Church and State
The territorial “churches” which arose at that time were essentially only districts for the seizure of property and for confiscation; within them the new clergy established itself somehow in as wretched a fashion as is conceivable.
With its sermons, when they could be given, this clergy would only have produced ever new evolutions, i.e., a rapid disintegration through ever new dogmatic disputes; and the people, continually confused by this, would have reverted to Catholicism all the more easily. Luther complained bitterly about the impotence of the sermons and the religious spirit in general.
With its own strength the new church would not nearly have sufficed to create an Archimedean point, a banner to rally round; it would have declined into nothing but sects.
But the governments were interested in church property and an increase in power, and with their “quos ego” they had to create state churches which the people, and, note, their clergy as well, were not allowed to leave any more, while the nobles were granted varied participation in the looting. The governments did not care about the dogmas, but they did want a strictly defined dogma as a political and police barrier around their subjects. They had to be much more merciless toward Catholic remnants than were the reformers. (Albert of Brandenburg, Gustavus Vasa, etc., prohibited Catholicism on pain of death, and this was most certainly not due to religious fanaticism.)
The governments aimed, first of all, at stunning the great masses who in the intoxication of their initial undisciplined behavior staggered into their arms anyway, and also at making the opposition defenseless for decades until it should be thoroughly habituated.
The governments were in a hurry about a definite faith. The clergy would have continued disputing, and every individual would have been right by himself.
Münzerism, the Baptist movement, etc., with their claims on state and society were in a direct and fearful competition with the governments even more than with Protestant dogma.
The governments needed a firm dogma to safeguard their confiscations. Without this desire of theirs, Protestantism would have split up into small sects or factions.
Firm orthodoxy was tantamount to holding on to stolen goods.
Catholicism had been extremely tolerant in living and letting live, and had left the convictions of the people alone. The great totality was able to stand a lot.
In Protestantism, on the other hand, the clergy cannot tolerate or ignore anything, and the governments see in every deviation a threat to their enormous confiscations.
Highly significant is the large number of eminent men who after initial sympathy turned away from the new movement: Pirkheimer, Wicelius, and others. Even Reuchlin, although he was sentenced in Rome as late as 1520, adhered to the old faith and was completely averse to Luther’s undertaking.
Those who suffered inwardly and yet were outwardly prudent sympathized with the moderation of the reversionists who worked toward a council.
Thus Paul Lang wrote around 1520: “What I have said about Luther thus far, I did not say assertive [as fact], but only admirative [as admiration], and have never sworn by any magisterial words, but since I, like many others, am waiting till it shall be decided by an ecumenical, universal, and general council what shall be believed, I shall always accept instruction from those who are truly wise, and meanwhile submit all my writings to the judgment of the church of Rome.”
Afterwards only Calvinism appears quite spontaneously and autonomously. It wants to dominate the states, above all to impose its religious will upon them, and in Scotland, e.g., it treats state and world en bagatelle. It at least seeks to approximate an organism which stands above the individual states, and has achieved a Synodus Dordracena.
Luther, on the other hand, never organized his church, but immediately left its form and fortunes to the individual secular governments. He teaches, but the governments act. For from the beginning they stood on the sidelines and confiscated the church properties in which they were more interested than in all justification and salvation. Of course, Luther probably did not foresee what later happened and had to happen. For the time being, the princes and municipal governments were only supposed to set up the gospel and the new church, not to become the highest authorities of faith and supreme judges over religion, doctrine, and church.
But he was no longer able to combat this rapidly adopted practice, because without the governments the Reformation after 1525 would probably have retrogressed among the people. At any rate, the clergy of the new faith were derided and abandoned by the people when the state did not assist them. In his quiet moments, however, Luther may often have been haunted by the thought that the governments offered little guarantee as to their future right thinking. On the other hand, his mind was quite at rest as far as the (enormous) increase in the governments’ power was concerned, and he congratulated himself on having contributed to it. For the present he thought that the princes would follow the advice of their theologians, but a prince chose his father-confessor himself and appointed or removed entire faculties of theology.
In this connection we are reminded again of Döllinger who writes as follows: “The church was completely integrated into the state and regarded as a wheel in the great machine of state. He who wielded absolute power over the noblest and otherwise most inviolable things, namely, religion and conscience, necessarily could gain control gradually of every other area of life in state and nation as soon as he cared to reach for it. Accordingly, with the setting up of the consistories as the sovereign authorities governing church interests there began the development of bureaucracy, of the omnipotence of prince and state, of administrative centralization.”
If there is anything that characterizes the modern state, it is the hatred and worry it feels when it has to tolerate a religion which has connections beyond its borders and belongs to a totality that the state does not control. Nevertheless, until the eighteenth century the state pretended at least to have the religion whose church it had admitted to its officialdom. Since then things have changed.
It had at first been an advantage of the state that it made one batter out of Lutheran orthodoxy, possession of the church properties, and political omnipotence. But if one of these three had to be the first to go, it certainly turned out to be Lutheran orthodoxy.
The enormous power of the state over the church in the sixteenth century suddenly was there in fact; no one was in a position to set any limits for it. Practice had to supply them in time.
Protestantism originated as a state church, and when the state becomes indifferent, it is in a dubious position.
It is the greatest step toward omnipotence which the state has taken in past times. Then there followed on the Catholic side Louis XIV. The subsequent completion of state omnipotence through the theories of the Revolution could not have taken place so easily without this preceding Caesaropapism.
The brachium saeculare [secular arm], which the Catholic church had once called upon for individual action, has control over the Protestant church a priori.
The church surely did not want it that way in the beginning. But when in the heat of battle it wiped the sweat off its brow for the first time, it had to realize that it was in the hands of the state, if only through the marriage of the clergy.
The Origin of the Territorial Churches
While Calvinism was creating, in Geneva, Scotland, and elsewhere, a dominion of religion over the state and a possibility of ecumenical action, such as the Synod of Dordrecht, while Zwingli in Zurich became the outright head of state and only later sects placed themselves outside the state, Luther could not or would not organize a church in Germany. He taught, wrote, and preached.
According to unchanging laws of psychology, the princes and city governments, given the way they were constituted, could not be made edifying. Despite the new dogma their morality, such as it was, remained primarily greedy for confiscation. They now created just as many individual territorial churches as there were confiscation districts; in this they often had to share with the nobility which had hitherto lived on benefices, and all these units at the same time became dogmatic districts. The people and the clergy were no longer allowed outside, so that the confiscation would not become dubious again, something that was to be feared with every deviation.
Hence the absolute intolerance toward the Catholics, and note that it was not out of fanaticism, although this was in keeping with the reformers. This is also true of Zwingli the politician, even more than of Zwingli the reformer. In addition, the princes and municipal governments endowed (miserably enough) the new church.
If one imagines the reformers without the governments, they would have caused fragmentation through dogmatic dispute which would have confused the people or made them backslide. They were incapable of attaining by themselves an Archimedean point, of raising a banner round which all might join in security.
The governments, however, were interested in stunning and habituating the masses, in decades of defenselessness. They were in a hurry to have a settled creed, and they forced the agreement of the clerics who would otherwise have continued quarreling. Their competitors, even more than the clergy’s, were Münzerism, the Baptist movement, and similar movements. This explains the even assurance with which they proceeded. The only things which kept the German Reformation alive were the confiscation and the interests attached to it; only they produced the endurance of those political forces which maintained the cause. Thus, without Luther’s wanting it, the governments became the supreme authorities of faith. He had no assurance as to the future and eternal orthodoxy of the governments and their estates, but only the hope that they would follow the advice of their theologians.
In sum: The clergy, forsaken by the people, dependent because of their marriages, had to accommodate themselves to an organization which they could not have replaced by one of their own. Catholicism, on the other hand, salvaged its organization. The territorial churches constitute the most enormous step toward state omnipotence, toward Caesaropapism. Soon there occurred a tightening of the reins, even though the consequences did not fully develop for centuries.
In England, too, there now occurred a tremendous increase in royal power. In Sweden this was actually made possible only by the Reformation.
The theory prevalent in modern times claims absolute and universal power of the state as a major aim of all existence. But power usually does not make men better and scarcely ever happier, because of their inner insatiability.
However, for the German princes, this particular increment of power (a hitherto jointly ruling class had dropped away and they had inherited its property) was a most powerful means of asserting their liberty vis-à-vis the emperor and the Empire. What if in the fifteenth century the great French vassals had possessed something like that against Louis XI? And thus Myconius is able to write Calvin from Basel in 1542 about the “pestilential dogma of the laymen: Senatus ecclesia est” [the civil government is the church].
The Lutheran governments would have protested against joint synods and all common institutions and would have prevented such things by force as an interference with their rule. No Lutheran catholicity came into being, while Calvinism had the makings of one.
In this context there belongs the extremely revealing letter from Luther to the Elector John, dated November 22, 1526.
On the Reformation After 1526: The Inevitable Caesaropapism
Myconius wrote to Calvin from Basel in 1542 a letter of the following content: The laymen are presenting a dogma “valde turbulentum et pestilens” [very confusing and pestilential], namely “Senatus ecclesia est”; they have appropriated to themselves the right to excommunicate. All the former papal power they now claim for the magistracy, asserting that Moses as a secular ruler had given orders to Aaron and that David and the other pious kings had commanded the Levites. Why should it not be the same in the new covenant? Calvin flies into a rage, e.g., when the council of Bern presumes to give the final decision on the faith. But in the early part of the Reformation the governments had simply been given free rein, without anyone protesting.
The people did not have any higher regard for the married priests than for those living in concubinage, and this was one reason for the contempt of the clergy that was bemoaned by the reformers.
There arose no Protestant catholicity. Even Calvinism, whose individual countries later did have a much closer religious connection with one another, achieved the Synodus Dordracena only one single time. Lutheranism, on the other hand, displays nothing but territorial churches, some of them quite minute. It lacked the means and the will to form itself into a big community, having become far too much a matter of the individual governments. But these would undoubtedly have prohibited big synods and similar organizations as an interference with their rule. The Caesaropapism of the individual governments is the enemy of everything universal.
Since that time, it has been impossible for Protestantism as a religion to establish from within itself an authority with universal validity.
On the Coming of the Reformation: The Reformation and the Fate of Art
At this point we must bid farewell to German art which at that very time seemed to be in the most glorious ferment before the consummation it was destined for. The fact that all the famous artists, starting with Dürer, were for the Reformation was probably in part due to their hatred of a high clergy which spent its enormous endowments on anything rather than the commissioning of altar works.
The Reformation deprived art not only of its main subjects, but also of true naïveté, which probably would have maintained itself merely because of the penetration of the Renaissance. It was as though one had suddenly prohibited the Greeks in the highest early flowering of their art from depicting their myths and left them only portraits, historical subjects, and genre painting (cf. Islam’s prohibition of painting). The still unbroken strength of the Germans would have succeeded entirely in assimilating the Renaissance and blending it with the great Italian art; there would have been no half-style as in the Netherlands. In addition, in many regions there was outright destruction of paintings.
Since only very few were able to participate seriously and inwardly in the suddenly demanded sublime emphasis on ethics in religion and, at the same time, there was a general and very sharp split into parties, a feeling of inward pressure and a timid reserve became characteristic for those intellectuals on whose support art ordinarily depended. If people had no more sensible arguments against paintings, as, e.g., Zwingli and Leo Jud at the Zurich main dispute of 1523, they said that the admissibility of paintings could not be demonstrated from the Bible and that was why they had to go.
A decisive factor was that even in the areas which had nominally remained Catholic, Protestantism for many decades actually dominated the minds of men, at least of the non-peasants. Whether it went deep is a matter of indifference. Church art came to a standstill there, too, so that later, with the Counter Reformation, Italian art immediately gained predominance.
The change in people is very strikingly revealed through portraits. At the beginning of the sixteenth century there prevails in paintings and sepulchral sculptures the utmost openness and strength; from 1530 on everything appears dammed up and anxious.
That, basically, artistic feeling and joy in the beautification of life had not ceased is shown by the architecture and ornamentation of the German Renaissance.
Come to think of it, aside from some boasting about Dürer, whom probably everyone would have liked to do his portrait, German humanism had even before the Reformation been rather hostile to art, or at least completely aloof from it, as were the philosophers in antiquity. In reference to the luxurious tomb of Thomas à Becket and the marble splendor of the Certosa di Pavia, Erasmus preaches the most insipid “charity,” saying that the money ought to have been given to the poor and that flowers were sufficient adornment for a saint’s grave. (The poor of the time would soon have consumed the money concerned, and we would not possess the Certosa, etc.) Then Erasmus polemicizes against the artistic embellishment of noble graves in the churches generally.
On the Situation of the Catholic Church: The Direct Effect of the Reformation
Through his writings of 1520–1521 Luther had already placed an abyss between himself and the church. He no longer demanded reform of its head and limbs, but the destruction of its entire organism, the abolition of the ritual and of several sacraments; only the sermons were to remain.
This rage of the reformers against the old church was there before the church was able to exert the slightest repression; it is not the effect of persecution, but rather, in part, of self-stifling. Actually, in the lands where the Reformation was victorious, there immediately set in the most colossal spoliation.
Catholic princes, clergy, and peoples knew from the very outset that they faced complete suppression as soon as their adversaries were strong enough; all writings of the reformers demanded the eradication of the old church. Thus there was to be expected, on the Catholic side, a fight for self-preservation which would be just as unrestrained in its methods. As for the Protestants, in their lucid moments they must have foreseen such a future resistance, if they still knew the Catholic church at all. Hence their theory of the destruction of the Catholics later was supported by the conclusion that the Catholics for their part would take the most extreme reprisals once they regained power.
The accomplishment of a thousand years, the vessel of a religion, the correlate of a thoroughly formed popular custom had been stolen from them and destroyed. And in Germany this had not even happened in tragic battle, but with a sudden appeal to general undisciplined action, beside which the positive new “faith” meant little.
This explains the fearful determination to absolute repression from the start, by any means at all, in the countries not yet overrun, especially France.
From the beginning, the purposes of the confiscating governments were served only by a complete dogmatic defection from the church. Any compromise between the new and the old would somehow have made their loot uncertain again.
It is a ridiculous assumption that power which otherwise, in all of world history, makes men neither particularly good nor particularly happy, should have accomplished this miracle with the German governments of the sixteenth century just because they were Protestant. And to these rulers the old believers had to submit in mute surrender, because for the time being the rulers had on their side the taste of the masses for no discipline.
But for the Catholic church it was high time for the Lutheran Reformation to come. Without it the church would of itself no longer have been capable of an inner transformation, not even with the most incisive insights of its more serious minds. Even the saintliest pope, if we imagine him surrounded by saintly cardinals and curials, would have availed no more against the general situation (entanglement with all worldliness and all superstition) than did an Adrian VI. Only the most terrible danger brought about in all countries the rise of those religious forces that were capable of starting a Counter Reformation.
Protestantism, however, has since then consistently and at times vociferously betrayed the anxiety that, if things were at all allowed to take their natural course, Catholicism would regain the upper hand—and not by force, but for psychological reasons.
On Zwingli’s Later Period
The Reformation brought on a time in which people felt much closer to their coreligionists than to their compatriots.
Even before that, headlong political action and unscrupulous methods had become general practices.
Added to this was the opinion of Zwingli and many contemporaries that through the toleration of a situation not in keeping with their metaphysical concepts the wrath of God was incurred on the whole country. (Was this opinion genuine with Zwingli? It might have been his own wrath.)
In this there was a basic difference from Luther, who might have been saying generally, “The world will not exist that long!” and who took no responsibility for what the mighty of this world were doing, admitting the wrath of God as a permanent scourge. Zwingli, on the contrary, considered himself religiously and politically responsible for the whole situation (or had talked his way into it).
Our assumption of high treason through foreign partial alliances in that period is an erroneous one. The contemporaries on both sides did not feel that way.
It was impossible in that period to operate with numbers of people; Zwingli “believed” that the poor people in the five cantons of the Catholic interior of Switzerland were suppressed only by the powerful.
In Bern the government certainly made the decisions in the main, for the enormous mass of country folk would surely have remained Catholic and the highlands dared an insurrection because of that. Were things very different even in the common prefectures? At least in the Thurgau and in other places where later they let compulsion cease, after the second battle of Kappel, Catholicism appeared again, partly of itself.
And when it was a question of war, Zwingli looked its conditions straight in the face and proposed the methods then in universal use, as early as in the Memorial of 1526, much like an imperial field commander.
His political machinations, too, were essentially determined by the goal.
He was an optimist and wanted to establish new conditions for all times. His clear intellect told him, even without specific historical knowledge, that every single founder of power who achieved something thought the same way.
What proved to be his undoing was his imagination, which to the last deluded him into thinking that he could sweep Bern along. He had particular hopes of this because after 1528 Bern was seriously estranged from the five cantons through the participation of Unterwalden in the revolution of the highlands. But here he faced a wall. Bern wanted primarily to secure its inherited exercise of power under all circumstances, and it cared more deeply for this than for all theology. Politically it acted entirely in its interest for a long time, as it was accustomed to doing. In the wake of the Zwinglian revolution it would have lost its primacy.
It was a good thing that Switzerland at least took care of its own disputes without the intervention of nearby foreign aid on both sides.
It was naive of Zwingli to discountenance very sharply any more masses in the canton of Zurich, but to demand of the five cantons in their own areas tolerance for the “Word of God.” This shows that the statesman was carried away by the metaphysician.
Charles V and Francis I
Both started their reigns with a legacy of fearsome programs; one (Charles) reaches rock bottom financially, the other (Francis) gets into trouble through enormous indiscretions of his own or of others.
Both confronted frequently unpaid soldiers who are capable of reaching for the first security that presents itself, including the commander-in-chief. (Even the unpaid Swiss of Charles VIII were ready, after the battle of Foronuovo, to seize him and send him off to Switzerland.) War aims and politics were constantly subject to the disturbances resulting from this.
Charles was visibly impelled toward world monarchy in the sense that his very scattered and in many places vulnerable power forced him to keep committing hostile acts against the potential or actual center of the small powers, France. The smaller nations were in part actually threatened, in part they believed themselves to be continually threatened. Francis was a center and Charles a periphery.
Charles and Francis had to give themselves the appearance of wanting to protect the church and yet secretly they were full of thoughts of secularization which were somewhat dispelled only by enormous partial concessions on the part of the clergy and the pope.
The modern state in their hands is constantly insolvent and has its reason of state for every robbery.
France’s further national development is now determined by the opposition to Hapsburg Spain, as previously by the opposition to England. This is later interrupted only by the brief period of the Ligue. The enormous inner coherence and the omnipotence of royalty as a banner is increased in the process.
On Charles V
(I) His power was at bottom an unhappy and chimerical one, apart from the facts that his financial means were entirely inadequate in relation to the extent and dispersal of his territories, and that the muttering Netherlands could not eternally foot the bill for everyone.
His generally assumed striving for universal monarchy or, at any rate, for supreme command over the entire Occident had a highly irritating effect. His adversaries felt entitled to the most unnatural alliances and to attacks at will.
France he was never able to satisfy or pacify, even though in 1540 he may have dedicated himself to this idea and had the policies of Constable Montmorency in his favor.
For a time he had seriously thought of making great sacrifices, was about to give Milan or the Netherlands to a French prince and make him his son-in-law. But Francis was still hoping to get Milan or something else without Charles’s good will. If they had reached an understanding, they would have crushed the Reformation and would also have been able to subdue the Turks. At the same time they would have finished off all republics. (All this was roughly Montmorency’s program also.)
Instead of this, Francis again took up with the Turks.
Charles, however, had only become more active and belligerent as his health declined, as though he wanted to use the presumptive last years of his strength for decisive blows, so as to be able to close the account.
He let himself be carried away to fight the Schmalkaldic war partly due to his urgent desire to finish the job, partly because of his deep repugnance for the Reformation, which was in such strong ferment in the Netherlands as well. But his alliance with Duke Maurice, who was allowed to trade upon his Protestantism, was a vital defect in the whole undertaking. For Maurice the temptation once more to make deals against Charles with Protestantism in the face of the hated interregnum was entirely too strong, and the alliance with France was too easy for a man like Maurice. The Turks were also on the march again.
Charles later may have stuck too obstinately to the siege of Metz. And yet he acted here in an entirely imperial manner and would have put his opponents to shame if they could have been put to shame.
At the very end, after the alternating of the two lines in the Empire had failed (did Charles give it up quite officially?), he again resorted to the idea of a division. A second son of Philip, expected by the Catholic Mary, was to receive an Anglo-Burgundian empire.
His abdication at Brussels was the most pathos-filled scene of his life. He felt and showed more emotion than at any other moment.
(What would have happened if the house of Hapsburg had in 1519 put Ferdinand instead of Charles on the imperial throne and then nevertheless waged a joint war against Islam? One thing would have been prevented by this: France’s sticking together with the German Protestants.)
At Charles’s abdication at Brussels, when he said that his times of greatest happiness had been marred by so many disagreeable things that he had never felt complete contentment, the hall was still draped in mourning for Juana; there were no funds for special decorations. For the same reason Charles had to wait four months for passage to Spain.
When Charles abdicated, the lands of the house of Savoy and the Lorraine bishoprics were in French hands; Charles, to be sure, kept Milan and Naples.
(II) Charles’s greatest vindication always lies in his leadership against Islam. In his conscience he was always able to feel like the shield of Christendom and to refer back to this. The relationship was an actuality for him when he was king of Spain, and even more so when he was the emperor. Even if he did not get around to this task directly until about 1530, his wars before that date must be recognized as preparatory work. Of course, for the war against the Turks, the forces of the entire Occident gathered in one hand were scarcely sufficient.
Charles’s tendency to rule over the church is reminiscent of Maximilian I’s two-time designs on the papacy.
The two other great tasks were the ecclesiastical problem and the fight against the house of Valois and its allies.
Italians such as Contarini emphasize his seriousness, his brand of devotion to duty, his inclination toward melancholia, and his good memory for insults.
At Worms in 1521 he told the princes very clearly that in addition to his many other crowns he had also desired the imperial one—not out of self-interest, but for the sake of the Empire itself which was only a shadow and which he wanted to bring to the top again, devoting his body and soul to it. This alone may have sounded suspicious to those who had let themselves be bought to elect him.
Marino Giustiniani in 1540 discussed Charles’s chances if he himself were to embrace the Reformation. Instead of that, his permanent desire was a reform of the Catholic clergy, in the Spanish rather than the German sense, which was certainly a heritage of Ferdinand and Isabella and their reform.
Characteristic of his personality is the answer he gave when his councilors held before him the example of Caesar concerning the complete exploitation of victories: “The ancients had only one goal before their eyes, honor. We Christians have two, honor and the salvation of the soul.”
(III) To sum up: In the end, through Charles V, Spain did become and remain the great power. And the Spaniards themselves, no matter how they might fare, considered themselves the only great power. It took the greatest effort to beat Spain to the ground long after Charles V.
On Henry VIII
A mixture rare among princes: Henry VIII is at once a lout and a devil.
Yet in the face of terrible special forces which could break forth again out of the dark it can be highly desirable for the general welfare that one person wield the rod. And such a person then can behave as he pleases, circumstances permitting.
Gustavus Vasa, unlike Henry VIII, did not inherit a paternal, well-mastered empire and a treasury.
He was simply on hand when the Swedes needed a leader in order to throw off the Danes. And when the pressure of the moment determined that such a man should most appropriately appear as a king, he knew how to act. It was very useful to him that Christian II was expelled by the Danes, which meant that he was spared a war with Denmark, and that Frederick I of Denmark recognized the identity of his interests with those of Gustavus. It was not necessary to wage war for the three crowns.
One conclusion a posteriori about his very extraordinary personality is permissible. Above all, he did everything himself and had no Wolsey and no Thomas Cromwell.
Suddenly he is all of Sweden. And then Sweden suddenly has a will and experiences her military and political day in world history, although the question remains whether, on the whole, this was to her fortune. But what Sweden has done since that time quite obviously goes back to Gustavus Vasa, without whom it would be unthinkable.
He must have been the prototype of a Swede, so that his nation was able to recognize itself in him.
His dreadful side is displayed only in connection with expediency and is not entangled with murderous matrimonial matters, as with Henry VIII.
The Community of the Elect
Luther had developed his doctrine according to the Bible as he understood it and had in his creed effaced everything papist. To be a Lutheran meant to be severed from the Roman Catholic church. The governments which attached themselves to his doctrine completely rooted out the papist elements in their areas. Their people then gradually became subject to a new ecclesiastical organism. We know the laments of Luther and all Lutheran reformers about their behavior otherwise: that the stopping of good works had brought about a total brutalization. But Luther considered his responsibility as fulfilled when the people remained removed from any papist influence; the rest he left to God—and he was not the governor of the electorate of Saxony. Next to the pulpit there come the secular authorities and not a controlling presbytery. Compulsion is confined chiefly to a person’s no longer being allowed to be a Catholic.
But he knew quite well that in addition to all this there still existed a doctrine of election by divine grace, of predestination, based chiefly on Romans, IX, and Luther went into this question in his De servo arbitrio.
But Luther at least did not concern himself more closely with the doctrine of the small number of the elect, their general proportion, which gives the doctrine of predestination its full fearfulness.
The Anabaptists had wanted to constitute a people of the elect, but their appeal to the spirit was anarchic and their goals, where they were able to organize, were in the beginning crassly materialistic; their decline was inevitable. Nevertheless, Hans Denk had taught the eventual blessedness even of the damned, including devils, which was consistent with the vision of a world empire. It uses ἀποκατάστασις ἁπάντών [the redemption of everybody] as final decoration.
The effect of the Reformation on Europe was, in the first decades, German, Lutheran. Its distinguishing doctrine was that of justification by faith, its distinguishing outward feature the complete abolition of good works. As for its form, wherever it could, it submitted to the state as a territorial church.
The first Protestants in France, England, Italy, and Spain were, or were called, Lutherans. The propaganda of Zwinglianism outside of Switzerland died out with the battle of Kappel. Denmark and Sweden became strictly Lutheran states.
However, toward the end of the 1540’s a new spirit becomes discernible in the Western countries: Calvinism. It becomes the Reformation of those countries that had an antipathy toward the Germans. Its characteristic doctrine was that of predestination, its distinguishing form the community which, if possible, was to be a community of the elect. Wherever it is able to do so it controls the state or at least does its best to impose its point of view upon it. Through their elders the communities supervise private life.
Subsequently this doctrine proves capable, to a much greater degree than the Lutheran, of forming communities in countries where the governments maintain Catholicism by force. Moreover, a doctrine of the “few elect” is necessarily missionary, something that Lutheranism never was.
It fights in France and is victorious in Scotland and Holland. In England it is met halfway by an old Lollard religion with its own doctrine of the small number of the elect. Furthermore, the Reformation takes this new direction after 1547, not as a free one, but with the imposition of a rigidly organized state church with royal supremacy against which the absolute spirit of predestination later has to stand its ground as a sect (later the Puritans).
(I) Here the dogma is not the sole decisive factor, but rather, in substance, the dominion of religion over the state.
Where the state rules, as in every Lutheran country and, on the Calvinist side, in suprematist England—and in the Bern region—the people bear this without any particular inward involvement, and, conversely, because they do this, the state is able to rule.
Lutheranism is extremely weak, even with the greatest numerical diffusion, as soon as it has to proceed without the government, merely with superintendents, synods, and the like. A case in point is the German-Austrian lands; here the needful desperation must have been wholly lacking at the time of the Counter Reformation (with the exception of Upper Austria at the time of the Peasants’ War of 1626). Here Protestantism had on its side the powerful nobility; independently it lived only in a segment of the urban population.
One hardly notices the people who are becoming Lutheran cooperating with their North German governments in any way except by breaking fast and other things, generally negative ones.
Calvinists, on the other hand, are able to establish communities and a church in areas under Catholic rule, from below, through the inward impetus of the doctrine of the elect which carries with it the necessary desperation and a scornful mortal hatred of Catholicism.
From this a Presbyterian organization results naturally. In countries where the government does not cooperate or still is Catholic the community cannot possibly consist only of preachers and listeners; only where the preacher is assured of a stock of select laymen does it come into being and really exist.
If, in addition, the Calvinist dogma encounters a highly congenial national spirit, as in Scotland and with the English Puritans, there arises a complete dominion, even over the state and the life of the citizenry. On the other hand, the zeal for predestination of the masses in Holland in 1618 has always been suspect to me. The Scots remain pessimistic and poor; the Dutch want to become rich and are oriented toward the world, acquisition, and possession. (Hm? Calvinism, with its certainty of unique chosenness is, at bottom, even more comfortable and consolatory than Lutheranism.) To what extent can present-day North America be given as an example? Frantic money-making is hardly compatible with a belief in the small number of the elect from eternity.
Here, too, the activity against Catholicism from the very beginning is even more filled with execration and scorn than it is with Luther. The Catholic church is from the very first threatened with complete destruction because its substance is regarded as idolatry. Thus the Catholic defense is adjusted to this.
A dubious aspect of the presbyterial organization was the fact that it was far from making the church popular. It led to distressing tyranny and provoked opposition. These moral courts were always held only in small towns and villages where everyone knew everyone else. Selected lay elders who sit in judgment on their fellow citizens are, on the one hand, subject to the temptation to give rein to personal advantage, revenge, and malevolence, and, on the other hand, are prone to the corruption that attaches to any system of informers and to general hatred and suspicion which finds them suspect, too. What one will put up with from a clergyman who is outside of daily life one will not tolerate from one’s equals.
(II) Calvin’s goal is to “build a community standing under the discipline of God’s word and the Holy Spirit,” unlike Luther, who left it to the power of the gospel to penetrate into the masses of the people.
Farel had already started with a reform of morals in Geneva. But only Calvin, from 1537 on, successfully insisted on its being carried out, and upon his return in 1541 he organized Geneva into a community in his spirit, with a Presbyterian organization and with discipline.
The relationship of the community to predestination was as follows: Since the small number of the elect from eternity cannot be ascertained and only God knows His chosen, this church is not to be confused with the visible church community, which contains those who profess externally, as well as true members of the invisible church, as long as sermons and sacraments are handled properly. This is also the reason why one should not detach oneself from the visible church.
Now Calvin arranges his visible church according to this mixture of few elect and many hypocrites. He will at least outwardly tolerate no resistance against the purity of the appearance. The godless must be kept in bounds, i.e., become dissemblers. (He does not want to win them over, nor to create faith in general, because, after all, the believers have been elected from eternity; only secondarily is the church discipline also a friendly means of punishment for fallen elect.) For this he enlisted in large measure the aid of the secular powers which, to be sure, he had inspired. His highest ecclesiastical authority, the Consistory, which at the same time administered the church discipline, had three-fifths secular members and a syndic as president. Another part of this system was the continual visiting of families and individuals.
That is why finally everything was suspect to Calvin, and the slightest gleam of resistance, not just of the ecclesiastical but also of the political and personal kinds, was unbearable to him. He spent far too much time on those who he knew or suspected were not for him. In the end he knew that he was hated by the great majority. All actual or supposed opposition he had to take personally.
It is a psychological fact that at any time there are a certain number of people who persistently concern themselves with the petit nombre des élus [small number of the elect]. That is a necessary consequence and development of the stricter New Testament doctrine of the beyond. These people are recognizable among the English Lollards of the fourteenth century (Knyghton). They will at any time readily renounce the earthly comforts of other people. Their view is necessarily also a wide one, since in their vicinity there might be too few élus. Thus Calvin, too, desired to attach the élus of all nations to himself. Geneva was his workshop and no more; for example, it could not be passed off as a besieged fortress. He knew that his emissaries incurred the greatest danger of destruction. It was a misfortune for France that its chances for reformation came entirely into Calvin’s hands.
Opposed to Luther, he agrees with Zwingli in that he, too, must completely dominate a small republic as a proving ground of ecclesiastical and political life. Even later, Calvinism is complete only where it can enforce its kind of policing through a mass of people (Presbyterians and others) or through full disposition over the secular arm—e.g., in Scotland and for a time in Holland, also in England at the time of the Commonwealth. But dogmatic Calvinists are bad ones! Yet everywhere there begins a quiet inner defection as soon as the life and business of the world put individuals in an optimistic mood.
(III) It has been necessary to erect whole bastions of palliation around Calvin’s behavior in Geneva (the downfall of Servetus and other things). In fact and truth, the real Geneva had the greatest possible antipathy toward him. The deep humiliation of the fact that people had had to put up with him nevertheless could best be masked through subsequent idealization.
The tyranny of one single individual who makes his subjectivity the universal law and not only enslaves or expels all other convictions, including very good Protestant ones, but also every day insults everyone in the most innocent matters of taste, has never been carried farther.
Geneva endured him, the greatest pessimist, the stranger. Afterwards she herself produced the man who, despite his plaintiveness, was the world’s greatest optimist: J. J. Rousseau, the preacher of the goodness of human nature, which is the view currently held by the masses all over the world.
(IV) Calvin’s effect upon the West. First, he had an influence on France through his writings, his correspondence, and his emissaries. The latter he often sent to certain destruction (?), and on this one can have one’s special opinion just as in the case of Mazzini. In great matters he found the stage already occupied by the Renaissance and profane blasphemy (cf. Calvin’s revealing work De Scandalis, 1550). The subsequent movement against the court and government of Henry II found Calvinism present and made partial use of it.
Without the participation of the French nobility after 1555, which happened for anything but dogmatic reasons, his work would have been in vain.
However, in England, starting with Edward VI, the local Protestantism clearly had a Calvinistic complexion (a transformation of the Lollard one?).
Scotland knew only Calvinism from the outset.
In the Netherlands, where as late as the 1530’s the more extreme defection was Anabaptism, the Reformation was Lutheran; Calvinism comes to the fore in the 1550’s and becomes the active faction.
On Protestantism in France
Royalty did not need it economically, because it had already made the church property indirectly subservient to it through the concordat and its consequences. Anyway, in a confiscation it would have had to share with the nobles to a considerable extent.
Hence the government, which in France has of old had such great scope, did not give the signal for undisciplined behavior and depredation, in contrast with Germany.
Besides, there was this great difference between the behavior of the French and the German city populations: In France, the burghers and proletarians nowhere waxed enthusiastic about the stopping of good works, the breaking of the fast, and other things, although part of the nobility did. This aspect of Protestantism was not for a moment popular with the masses, even though in France the clergy was probably mocked no less than it was in Germany.
Added to this there was the firm resolve of all authorities under Francis I to prevent the penetration of Lutheranism by every possible means. One absolute, namely Luther’s view of the Catholic church, was confronted with an equally strong absolute.
When Calvin’s doctrine appeared, it did, to be sure, prove capable of driving a small minority, which was small even under the Huguenots, to the utmost resistance. But the nation as a whole was completely antipathetic toward it, because it demanded a dominion even over the innermost parts of man, and a Frenchman can stand this sort of thing less than anyone else.
Calvinism, however, demanded not merely tolerance, i.e., its little place in the sun—far from it—but destruction of idolatry. Anne du Bourg spoke in the séance royale of “turpitude romaine.”
German Culture Around 1555
The Reformation had an extremely strong effect even on the areas which stayed rather aloof from it.
There had not been much to spoil in poetry as far as is discernible in literature before 1517. And now there at least was the Protestant church hymn, and the language had been refined by Luther. But earlier there had been Catholic church hymns as well. Moreover, in all of literature in general, the intercourse, the cohesion of all German lands was extraordinarily heightened; everything, including poetry, was now much less provincial than before.
The great sacrifice had to be made by sculpture and painting. With the fall of Catholicism both had lost nine-tenths of their occupation at a high point of their development, even before they had been able to take the step from achieved truth to life to perfect beauty. Now they were reduced to portraits, allegories, medallions, coats of arms, and the like. They were also too weak to achieve a live inward transformation of the Italian influence. No longer fructified by the best Italian art, they vacillate between affectation and unlovely realism, no longer capable of expressing with their own means the highest idealism of the nation.
Only secular architecture was in a better state now. It displays an original transformation of the Italian Renaissance, an application to ideas which are still basically medieval, similar to what was done in France (Heidelberg, Offenbach, Mainz, Stuttgart, Bamberg, and other cities; after 1600, the castle at Munich, Aschaffenburg, and other things).
Beside the theological squabbles within Protestantism, which were now raging insufferably, science, which was mainly in secular hands, manifested itself as one of the highest fruits of the intellect which had been awakened by the Reformation even more than by the Renaissance.
There appeared a great and important interest in philology, with personalities like Joachim Camerarius, Hieronymus Wolf, and others, at whose disposal the Basel editions and publishers placed themselves. The study of Roman law was represented by, e.g., Gregor Haloander, medicine was advanced by Paracelsus and Vesalius, natural history by Conrad Gessner, and astronomy by Copernicus (1473–1543). In historical research and presentation there are Sleidan and the Magdeburg Centuriators in Germany, and in Switzerland, Tschudi, Stumpf, Anselm, and Pantaleon of Basel as translators and authors of historical works. In cosmography there are active such men as Sebastian Münster and Gerhard Mercator.
On Camoëns’ Lusiads
Camoëns was a great poet, full of passion for his cause, and was entitled to give form to the heroic story of Portugal.
His cast of thought and enthusiasm are such and so suffuse the Lusiads from beginning to end that the colorful and curiously composed work seems all of a piece. And Camoëns wrote at a time when the whole strength that he apotheosizes was still alive.
The entire epic is evenly permeated with the glory of Portugal and with patriotism, as a force still alive, not merely in retrospect, as with Italian epics about Scipio and the like. On the whole, everything has a purpose, something that had long since been impossible in Italy.
It must be of great value to Portuguese families to be named in Camoëns. In Vasco da Gama’s expedition he comprises all of Portuguese history, previous and subsequent, in three great episodes: first, the kings before the lord of Melinde; then, the picture gallery of the heroes and generals on the boat; and finally, in the speech of Thetis, the discoverers, the viceroys, and others. It is an encyclopedia of glory, possessing which a real Portuguese can do without all the other literature of his country. Every poetic and universally human feature that is salvageable has been preserved in the Lusiads.
It is a unique thing in literary history that here, in a historical rather than a semi-mythical period, there speaks a man who, in his person, is entirely a kindred spirit to his heroes and has had the amplest share in their battles, privations, and victories. Camoëns is accustomed to dealing blows to Mohammedans and Malabar Indians, probably fighting one against ten. No dust from the road whirls in his poem, but the salt of the sea; it is life on shipboard, sinewy, severely simple, fine-blooded, replete with martial fervor to the point of extreme fanaticism. It, too, is austere. Nothing but the roaring of the sea and the clangor of arms is audible.
He repeatedly voices profound complaints about his nation’s harsh, austere insensitivity to poetry; it is still wholly caught up in acting and acquiring and is not yet ready to listen. And yet he expressed its feeling clearly and completely at a time which still tolerated true feeling. And only today, when people talk much more about poetry, would he be completely lost; the cities would either ignore him or seize upon his palpable imperfections and finish him off.
Camoëns still satisfied the best of his times and of his nation. There is no longer any satisfying the best of our times!
Os Lusiades, the Lusitanians! It is the whole glory of the nation, but simply more or less loosely tied onto one central point, the voyage of Vasco da Gama.
To portray each of da Gama’s colleagues individually would have been not only superfluous but impossible, since every time the same Portuguese hero would have emerged. The composition of the epic as a whole is completely sui generis.
Camoëns utilizes the old world of the gods, to be sure, without having any ideas of whom he is dealing with.
About the Spaniards he is almost completely silent.
Further, he expresses his thought not only in the actions and speeches of his heroes, but also directly, and these passages are among the most powerful. The erstwhile lyric poet becomes a Jeremiah and prophet against the mighty, the courtiers, fawners, epicureans, even against wicked priests. At the end he addresses a very earnest exhortation to Don Sebastian to seek for the tremendously brave and devoted nation more liberal laws and better ministers. He offers himself to Alexander as an adviser on the expedition to Africa.
Camoëns is not a poet for an entire civilized world, as was Homer. The culture of all later times does depend on Greek, but not on Portuguese, culture. Also, he is not for all moods, but national, narrow, obtrusive! But he was of inestimable value to a nation sentenced to early, undeserved bondage.
A national drama was not granted to this nation. But before the Spanish conquest Camoëns compressed all the stirring moments of its great history into his Lusiads.
Perhaps the epic had an invisible and yet substantial share in the uprising against the Spaniards in 1640.
On the Counter Reformation
Its originators and further propagators had the best consciences in the world, such as one can have only when one puts an end to an enormous wrong, an unparalleled spoliation. Moreover, they were at least as confident of their Christianity as were their adversaries. Their task was not by any means merely a cancellation, but primarily the prevention of further collapse. They entered in the middle of such a process and pitted themselves against it. What must have substantially sustained the leaders among them was the vision before their inner eye of a church that was renewed, purified, and oriented toward religious forces. In personal dedication they were fully equal to their opponents. The only thing lacking was for the papacy to come substantially under their guidance, indeed, into their hands.
German and Swiss Protestantism had from the outset indulged in those things that one can permit oneself in the certainty of being the stronger forever. Now it was to be revealed that this was by no means such an absolute thing.
That reform within the church which Luther had made impossible after 1520 now actually came about, but under the auspices of the papacy itself. The transformation of the world that had emanated from Germany necessitated an inner restoration of the church which then received the help, albeit selfish, of powerful states. Meanwhile there broke out world wars in which the two religions became the mainspring and the battle cry. And now the old church could in many countries be saved completely again and develop its new style.
St. Ignatius Loyola
He was born in Guipúzcoa and was thus a Castilian, something not without value for his career. As an officer he was extraordinarily ambitious; he swept the others along in maintaining the defense of Pamplona.
It certainly made some difference that he possessed, on the one hand, the bearing and habit of power of an officer and, on the other, the general background of a man of culture and station. In his conduct toward people of all kinds, even powerful ones, he was then not subject to the sudden changes and unpredictable behavior which commonly appear in a man who has risen from the bottom, from peasant or urban stock.
How much did he associate with the court of the reyes católicos [Catholic kings]? He gives us no evidence of this later.
His further career is hard to unify psychologically and presupposes a highly extraordinary, certainly iron personality. He had to complete his pilgrim’s life of contemplation and penance. With the vast majority of men there would then have remained only a mendicant or a hermit. What kept him on top must have been, apart from an iron constitution, the joys of mysticism.
To make up for that, he was spared the doctrinal toil of the reformers, the disputes about nuances of faith and exegesis. In a highly desultory fashion he caught up on his studies as an obligation, because he had to become a priest at any price.
His danger was an impulse toward preaching and pastoral pursuits before he was entitled to them. But the inquisitors, who examined him about five times in Spain and France, must each time have quickly convinced themselves of his complete orthodoxy.
His power lay in the fact that he was able early to gather around him companions of subsequent significance, make them completely submissive to himself, and inspire them. He swept along Contarini and Caraffa.
It is a very extraordinary thing that he did not found an order of penance, such as the Trappist order, but an entirely practical one, apparently with extreme intellectual effort, though directed by visions. Here there emerges the old officer. Instead of choir service there resulted a widely varied outside activity.
But in addition he harbored a firm belief in a periodic spiritual regimen or diet: exercitia spiritualia [spiritual discipline]. Anyone who underwent it then thought like St. Ignatius. It was no cramming in of a certain mass of knowledge for an examination, because such knowledge one might later throw away with disgust.
For the time being, this order was confirmed at a moment when one wanted to let all existing orders perish as degenerate.
It was utterly impossible to establish a competing institution with-in Protestantism, whereas the Jesuits were able to induce precisely their most gifted pupils to remain in the order, because they felt happiest there.
Any mere examination of the institutions and the discipline of the order, as based on the constitutiones and the exercitia spiritualia increases our understanding only moderately. Institutions were not lacking in the other orders, either; but the Jesuits lived by them in the decisive periods. Other orders, too, had in stock asseverations and precepts, especially as to obedience.
All very powerful orders are centralistic in effect and are parallels and props of the papal system—for instance, in the thirteenth century the mendicant orders, a veritable undoing for bishops and priests. The Jesuits then made a special cult of the papacy.
Around the middle of the sixteenth century the dangerous situation of the universal church definitely demanded a stronger, more constant activity from the center and a greater availability of ecclesiastical resources in all countries. The Jesuits and the Council of Trent achieved this.
A half-unconscious total will, stronger than the intentions and calculations of Ignatius, his colleagues, and the popes, drove the phenomenon to the fore.
When St. Ignatius (his physiognomy was uncanny!) arrived in Venice in 1537 with companions and good recommendations to the Spanish Embassy, he hoped for the friendship of Contarini and Caraffa. But the latter took him for a swindler and would have nothing to do with him. Contarini, on the other hand, was soon bewitched by him and became his protector. In October of 1538 he set out for Rome, with Contarini’s recommendation to the pope himself. After strong resistance Ignatius prevailed. On September 27, 1540, Paul III sanctioned the founding of the order.
Strong influences from Ignatius’ military past might have shaped the idea of absolute subordination that is characteristic of his discipline. St. Pachomius and St. Martin of Tours had also been officers.
The decisive thing about Jesuitism is that it established close contact between the Spanish reform and its way of thinking and the Roman papacy. Henceforth we are concerned with the universal church. Nevertheless, Charles V and Philip II might still have been of the opinion that they knew how to guard the interests of religion and church better than the popes.
The Jesuits are the strongest idealizers of papal power, the infallible teaching office, the universal episcopate, and papal world dominion.
To what extent did Ignatius himself realize the significance of his foundation?
The Jesuits and the Papacy
A founder who combined a fanatic’s devotion to the church with a mind of military obedience and a few, mostly Spanish, colleagues whom one at first encounters mainly as theologians (Salmerón, Lainez): these were the beginnings.
Except in Portugal under John III, the dissemination of the order did not even take place very rapidly, and not without resistance even in Spain.
However, the order unfolds a great, intensive life. It gains a disproportionately large number of members who can be put to a variety of practical uses and quickly becomes the driving element of the church.
This church it recognizes substantially in the papacy, and therefore it raises the papal theory to the highest point. In this way it also gains an influence over the papacy, as the mendicant orders did once, and like them has a centralistic influence. In times of struggle it becomes indispensable through the absolute homogeneity of will and the availability and uniformity of its membership.
At such times mere fanaticism does not suffice if it is bound up with fatuous self-will and passion; there must be disciplined fanaticism. The danger lay in the possibility that some day the order would regard as its purpose itself, its own existence and power, instead of the church.
The resistance which the Jesuits encountered at the University of Paris for a time at first probably derived somewhat from Gallicanism as well as from the fear that they might monopolize the legacies, but mainly “d’aspirer à ruiner l’enseignement salarié de l’Université par leur renseignement gratuit …” [aim at ruining the paid teaching of the University by their free teaching]. However, their Collège de Clermont, Rue St. Jacques, which opened in 1564, maintained itself, but without being attached to the University.
Regarding the power of the Jesuits: It is not so hard for firmly united, clever, and courageous men to do great things in the world. Ten such men affect 100,000, because the great mass of the people have only acquisition, enjoyment, vanity, and the like in their heads, while those ten men always work together.
The Third Council of Trent (1562–1563)
(I) It may have been clear to only a few people, perhaps especially to Pius IV (he kept the council from screaming for a long time) and the real church politicians, how enormously important and urgent the goal was, namely, to create a harmonious formula for the reconquest of the world and put an end to the provisional situation behind which all enemies could hide. The seeming efforts to invite Protestant governments as well were not serious.
The major difficulty resulted from the facts that Paul IV had embittered all Catholic governments through his manners and that the papacy had to fight with their greedy special desires as well as their actual problems.
France was at the same time going through its first religious war, and its government, which had been pushed so far to the left even in 1560–1561, at the moment desired great concessions, especially in ritual, in order to impress its Huguenots, too. At the same time it had to maintain its sham glory that everybody at Trent had to dance to its tune; hence the behavior of the pompous Cardinal Guise. Bavaria and Ferdinand I were in a real predicament because Protestantism had penetrated, and Ferdinand was still soured because of Paul IV. Philip II, however, assumed a darkly threatening mien in order to blackmail the worried papacy into further confiscations of church property, a crusade bull, and other things. But then the Spanish bishops propounded the theory, about which the king, too, might possibly have had misgivings, that the episcopate derived directly from Christ and was a divine institution. Finally, there was in reserve the always irritating question as to whether the council was not higher than the pope. And the concrete Pius IV could die durante concilio [while the council was going on]!
But the big difference between the third Council of Trent and the first and second was that in the meantime the spirit of the Catholic reform had rapidly become stronger and no longer trembled before the velleities of a council, but dared to win through the council. The atrocious talk about the curia and the clergy had exhausted itself in the first and second councils; now people were no longer afraid of it.
(II) The result had thus been achieved through an understanding between the papacy and the great Catholic courts which had recognized the homogeneity of the papal power and their own as well as the partial identity of their interests, and, begrudging the council any embarrassing initiative independent of themselves, desired its shortening (could Philip II alone have wished for its prolongation?).
The most important thing was that now orthodox dynasties as well as the curia and the inquisition had a definite coercive formula by which the world could be bound. Only now were they able to pass from the long defensive to a regular offensive.
Church discipline was renewed; the power of excommunication was strengthened; seminaries were established and subjected to every strictness; the parishes were regulated. Regular diocesan and provincial synods were at least desired, as was the visitation of churches. Definite norms were set up for sacraments and sermons. The participation of monks in ecclesiastical life was regulated. The bishops were disciplined and had to sign and swear to a special document regarding the observation of the Tridentine Decrees and complete obedience to the pope. Then the bishops’ own authority to punish was defined. In addition to the bishop’s oath, every cleric now had to make a professio fidei Tridentina [Tridentine profession of faith].
The papal theory had hardly been touched at the council, and papal power had been expanded rather than limited. The authorization to interpret the Tridentine Decrees for all eternity became exceedingly important. The abuses lucrative for Rome had only been affected slightly, and the appeals and dispensations curtailed somewhat. On the other hand, the annates and the pope’s rights over the bishops remained unchanged.
And now there also came into being a new church architecture and a corresponding church style; for the entire ceremonial service had been retained.
Catholicism has since then been “stationary,” but certainly to its benefit; for now it was also secured against sinking still deeper into dull superstition and brutalization of the holiness of good works, the doctrine of indulgences, and so on. As for indulgences, trading in them at least was prohibited. To be sure, instead of scholasticism there soon appeared casuistry.
Lutheranism was also stationary, and Calvinism became so. All the religions of the time prohibited their own further development, their “progress.” Toward the outside, stationary Catholicism began to live all the more through its forces of the Counter Reformation, which were now tremendously disciplined and applied to definite purposes.
The effect of the Reformation upon the Catholic church had been a beneficial one. With the strict sifting of the doctrine at Trent (henceforth there are no more marginal doctrines and waverings) and the complete crystallization there takes place a rejuvenation in other ways as well.
The permission of the lay chalice had been left at the papacy’s discretion. In 1564 Emperor Ferdinand and Albrecht of Bavaria actually requested this permission from the pope, but no longer needed to make it an actuality. The Counter Reformation was marching rapidly.
The Popes of the Counter Reformation
The terrible popes after Paul IV were indispensable for the curia primarily because without true terrorism it would have mocked at any reforms, as, for instance, vis-à-vis Adrian VI. As long as it could hope to get a mild pope through poisoning wine and other methods, nothing could be done.
On the German Counter Reformation
The wry faces with which German seminaries and Benedictines greeted the Jesuits in the beginning were unjustified. For without the effectiveness of the Jesuits they might have succumbed, one after the other, to the Protestants and to secularization.
France in the Year 1562
The Catholics, too, were a popular party here, just like the Huguenots.
The great and sudden danger was that the state power, upon which everything depends in France more than anywhere else, had not been strong enough to prevent the arising of two popular masses where two distinguished parties already existed. Despite all her desire to keep above both, Catherine de Medici was forced actually to veer about between the two.
However, for the military heads of both masses the chances were rather uneven. The Huguenots must have known that in general they would be the weaker by far, while for the Guises the civil war, i.e., the beginning of the voies de fait [assault and battery] was the most convenient means of stopping at any time mere deliberations which ended with concessions, to take control, and in the decisive moments to pull the royal house after them.
The only question was to what extent the dissolution of the normal state power and its administration would spread.
Added to this were the unabashed foreign alliances and the foreign recruiting of both parties.
There are nations, religions, and parties which endure minorities and some which do not. Of the French the latter is true, no matter what is concerned.
After St. Bartholomew’s Night
The refugees and pamphleteers recognized only a religious intention of the action and devised an agreement with the pope and Spain for the eradication of Protestantism as a whole.
However, the action had been aimed at the Huguenots, who were allied with the politiques, as a political party, especially at Coligny, not as Protestant, but as party head. If the intent had been merely religious, Navarre and Condé would not have been spared.
Regarding the murders in the provinces, it may be remarked that they did not occur at all in precisely those provinces administered by the Guises and their followers—in Picardy, Champagne, Brittany, Dauphiné, Auvergne, Languedoc, Provence. Nothing happened anywhere in the open country.
Where murders were committed, this was because people in the cities concerned had feared armed uprisings and raids by Huguenots with which religious wars had always started. Especially in Lyon people were worried about this. Following the news of the defeat of Mons, a list of the Protestant citizens and their servants was made in Lyon, and those who were not citizens were ordered to leave the city. Governor Mandelot was completely loyal to the king. After the decision of Mons the governors of the most important towns, almost all fortified ones, were commanded to provide for their safety.
To be sure, here, too, the fanatical rabble interfered and continued even after the king had ordered a stop; thus it was in Meaux, Orleans, Bourges, and Lyon. In Rouen and Toulouse the persecution did not break out until the middle of September. In the entire country there were maybe 20,000 casualties. The number of communities decreased little; as late as 1576 there were 2000.
Only if one does not lose sight of the essentially political character of the massacre of St. Bartholomew does one comprehend the following: that the French government did not join with Philip II; that it did not pass into the hands of the Guises whom Charles continued to hate; that Charles IX in the Declarations of August 26 and 28, in which he takes the responsibility for everything, declares that the Edict of St. Germain remains in force. But the Huguenot ritual practices were curtailed, “for the protection of the Protestants themselves from mob excesses,” as was explained for the benefit of foreign countries. The Montmorencys remained in the royal council. Philip and Alba for the time being were pacified by the court’s complete dissociation from Coligny’s Netherlands activities; but the desire for Flanders continued, with only its fulfillment postponed. Geneva, in its concern over Savoy and Spain, was hastily assured of French protection, and soon negotiations with Orange were being carried on again. The project of a marriage between Elizabeth of England and François d’Alençon, the brother of Charles IX, continued on its course. Where is it that one reads about Elizabeth receiving the French envoy in mourning? She was the first to congratulate Charles IX on the averted danger!
In Poland the French court constantly leaned on the Protestant faction in order to accomplish the election of the Anjou. To frustrate this became a major assignment of the refugee Huguenot writers, especially in Geneva: Hotman, Donneau. They painted the conduct of the royal house and the Guises in the most horrible colors.
That the king took everything upon himself and asserted categorically that the Guises and others had acted on his orders was a formal French practice, on account of the prevalent idea that nothing could happen except by royal order. He fabricated a four-year premeditation on top of that.
Later, when the Huguenots had gained the upper hand again and the court had turned against the Guises (1576), Charles’s share was decreased again and the action itself disavowed. Later still, under the Bourbons, the Valois were treated with consideration and left out of the picture, and the murder plan was laid at the door of the Guises.
The main sorrow in the period of 1572, however, did not pertain to the number of casualties or the perfidy of the proceedings, but to the frustration of the great seizure of power by the party which had been about to seize the crown, take Belgium, and push Catholicism back over the Alps and the Pyrenees. This frustration was la grande trahison [the great betrayal].
Instead of this, the court continued with the policies of Henry II: repression of Protestantism at home and Protestant alliances abroad.
The court thought it had by no means committed a “crime” that would have to be palliated, neither Charles nor Anjou nor Catherine de Medici nor the Guises and the fanatical citizens of Paris. No one denied his participation, except the court later, and then for political rather than moral reasons.
Murder as an Expedient
It stands to reason that in the absence of any legal recourse one judges one’s own cause and that a government or an individual undertakes the destruction of an adversary.
The next nuance would be that one could arrest one’s opponent, but not judge him without dangerous currents of feeling, uprisings, and other consequences, and that as a rule one would be too late to thwart plots and the like. Here applies the saying: Salus reipublicae suprema lex esto [the safety of the state shall be the supreme law].
Not only princes indulged in murder, especially after the latter part of the Middle Ages, but also cities, such as Augsburg and others; secret agents were kept for this sort of thing. In the sixteenth century Ferdinand I had Martinucci killed, and Philip II Escovedo. In addition, the supposed secret executions “on the black velvet” should be mentioned.
The second side of this is the scholarly and at times also popular view that tyrannicide is permissible, even commendable.
On this they all agree: “gentle” Melanchthon and even Luther. The former desires it against Henry VIII, after the execution of Thomas Cromwell. Later the Jesuits represented a corresponding view.
Religious zeal unfailingly produces this phenomenon and its commendation on both sides. In 1563, when their cause was extremely hard pressed, the Huguenot preachers saw their only salvation in the murdering of François de Guise and publicly praised Poltrot as a tool of God. Later it happened likewise on the Catholic side with Jacques Clément, the murderer of King Henry III.
The Special Character of the French Court
It consists in the king’s always being surrounded by factions which divide favors and offices among themselves, or get everything into their hands, if possible.
The parties at the court of Philip II, such as those of Alba and of Ruy Gomez in their contrast, are of a quite different kind, and the country need not find out about it. The Tudors, including Elizabeth, completely dominate their court, according to their own changing caprices. Here only the minority of Edward VI made a difference.
At the French court the women are powerful, and not the queens. Catherine de Medici becomes something only as a regent. Around the court there is general and continual gossip, a general attentiveness to the chances for favor or disfavor. It was the subsequent misfortune of the royal house that the crown got into a “false position,” like anyone who is to represent right or fairness, i.e., the permanent interests of the nation among raging factions. In the face of passions, the representative of right has always been in such a position.
On the course and the result of the French religious wars depended the religious fate of the entire West. France determined the continuation, or restoration, of Catholicism in Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany, even its safeguarding in Italy and Spain, at least indirectly. Things would have happened differently everywhere if France had become Huguenot.
But in that case things could have turned out rather strikingly! The Huguenot king would have got into the hands of a fanatical Huguenot preacher faction and been forced to act toward all of Europe as an intervening and conquering Calvinist caliph—a Calvinist Louis XIV. For all around people would have had cause (n.b. toward Lutherans as well) “de venger Dieu et sa sainte église” [to avenge God and His holy church], and the preachers had within themselves the never-extinguished passion against everything that was different from the way they were. However, the French nation could, as always, have been appeased only by constant successes on the outside.
On the Conversion of Henry IV
Once Henry IV had, through Henry III’s death, become king not only of the Huguenots but also of the Catholic royalists, his conversion had to come as well; he was being crowded.
He was, above all, a king and a Frenchman; the rest had to follow. After 1560 the Huguenots were an armed political party like any other.
The possibility of a Gallican patriarchy was a mere dream at that time; Henry IV was no Henry Tudor and did not live on an island; the Tridentine Counter Reformation with its positive zeal was already flooding ’round all religious relationships.
Added to this was the general exhaustion, including that of the Huguenots. Gabrielle d’Estrées was converted, too, and after the end of 1591 Henry’s own mind must have been made up. His ministres courtisans [courtier ministers] must intentionally defend the Huguenot faith only weakly in disputations. Even Duplessis-Mornay let himself be involved in a matter of conversion (to what extent was he really beguiled?). Sully later even boasts of having done his share for conversion. The written dissuasions of Beza, the spiritual adviser of Gabriel d’Amour and others, were in vain, as were those of d’Aubigné who wanted to make the king understand in conversation that it was “better to be king in a corner of France and to serve God and be surrounded with loyal servants than … etc.”
Henry IV took Catholic instruction, i.e., a six-hour conversation, and on July 25, 1593, ceremoniously renounced heresy at St. Denis. Crowds of Parisians looked on, in spite of Mayenne’s order to close the gates and the declaration of nullity by the papal legate.
Despite his best inner intentions in favor of the Huguenots, henceforth there existed in Henry an ill-feeling against them and their complaints. At the same time, however, he had to take care of them, since now there were various new attacks on them. Sully remained a Protestant, possibly out of arrogance; in general Henry IV very much desired the conversion of others.
The absolution by Clement VIII tore apart the Spanish plans for world hegemony. This had been counseled by San Filippo Neri, Baronius, the Jesuit general Francesco Toledo (although a Spaniard), the government of Venice, and others.
Before the Edict of Nantes there were in France over a hundred terre chiuse [closed lands] and about a thousand parrochie e monasterii [parishes and monasteries]. Catholic ritual had ceased entirely.
The Edict of Nantes was a necessary and unavoidable confirmation of a state of truce in which all factions were to be included.
To be sure, it marks the beginning of the decline of French Protestantism; its fruitfulness ceases. It exists notoriously as a minority and delimited, and must remain so, but at the same time it must greatly burden itself with secular, political affairs, now methodically and perpetually. In this it remains at an increasing disadvantage with the henceforth very bigoted governments and the clergy.
A paradox: the greatest boon for the Huguenot community was not the Edict of Nantes, but its revocation.
(I) The northern provinces consisted of Holland, Zeeland, West Friesland, Utrecht, Overyssel, Groningen, Gelderland, also of the Lands General, a large section of Northern Brabant, and sections of Flanders. These were always treated as conquered territory, were a sort of common prefecture comparable to the Swiss subject lands. Up to the sixteenth century these regions were little noticed; after their fight against Spanish rule—detachment from Spain and Calvinism went hand in hand—their fame was great. Here was a new nation, a new culture, a new world power; in battle it always seemed to gain new strength. On its success visibly depended the whole fate of Western Europe.
For two decades this entire development hinged on William of Orange; without him neither the rise nor its continuation would be conceivable. Spain itself acknowledged this through the high price on his head. When he was finally murdered, his people had advanced so far and England was so dependent on their salvation that the defense continued most vigorously, albeit amid great new perils, until the fate of the Armada gave the Dutch breathing space.
They were not popular on the outside, having the reputation of being overconfident and harboring unkind feelings toward the Germans in particular (in 1582 people thought they had poisoned the herring). Charles V had practically detached the Burgundian circle from the German empire.
Spain kept regarding them as people committing high treason and deserving of extermination, against whom any methods were permissible. However, the campaigns of Maurice of Orange liberated the northern provinces from the Spanish rule.
Of the powers which had freed themselves from Philip II’s grasp, France had already made peace in 1598; England had desired it for a long time and made it in 1604; Holland alone continued to fight for the time being, in even greater danger since Spain’s hands were otherwise free, but actually protected by Henry IV. And yet the war had its advantages along with great sacrifices.
Little Holland, which was constantly fighting with the sea, had what may have been the strongest “will to live” of all times.
(II) On the federal constitution of the Netherlands. It is the epitome of nothing but practical usage which lives on because it is really alive and because people hesitate to replace it with uniform freedom and universal permissiveness whereby the real inner strength might be damaged.
(I) Mary Stuart is the child of a dynasty which in a poor country fought with a fearsome nobility that in the form of clan chieftains was able to sway the people.
The first four Jameses all died violent deaths, and Mary’s father James V at least died of grief in 1542 when the nobility left him at the moment when he was supposed to fight the English. At that time the child was a few days old. James’s widow and Mary’s mother was Marie de Guise. In 1538 the Guises had succeeded in getting one of themselves onto a throne.
From the outset, all sorts of plans were connected with the child Mary. On his mission to Scotland in 1547, Edward Seymour did not succeed in effecting an engagement with Edward VI, who was her senior by only five years, because the Scots, although at a disadvantage, did not let him extort their princess from them. And now the Guises decided to make this niece, who was already Queen of Scots, the Queen of France. Thus Mary was brought up at the French court and married to the dauphin Francis during the last part of the war of St. Quentin.
Did the adoption of the title and coats of arms of England take place at that time or a little later, only through the will of the Guises or of Henry II? It was this deal which Paul IV wanted to decide.
This drove Elizabeth toward Protestantism. Scotland itself, however, was the most unsteady ground for ambitious dynastic plans.
Protestantism penetrated there, and against it the crown and the clergy certainly stuck together. But while the desire for robbing churches might already have been stirring in the Scottish nobility, it had to happen that Scotland produced one of the most ruthless Calvinists who must have made an extremely great personal impression: John Knox. Under the regent, since 1554 Marie de Guise, he had fled, returning in 1559. At the end of May of the same year, the convents were stormed. The loot from this was distributed among the congregation of the nobility, which made any Catholic royalty almost impossible. The regent, however, offered open resistance with French aid.
And now Knox had to do what no Scottish “people’s” party had ever done: apply to England for aid. After some scruples, Elizabeth sent ships and Knox’s faction was able to maintain itself. Elizabeth made a treaty with the Scottish lords in order to drive the French from Scotland. Shortly before this the regent had died (June, 1560).
(II) A queen in the most insecure position has been on trial to this day.
To some she is the idolatrous Jezebel who conspired with Spain and the pope to make Scotland Catholic again by trickery and force. To others she is the object of infinite sympathy and, especially later, of boundless compassion, and this is where poetry has entered.
In any case, the extent of Mary Stuart’s actual participation in events must be greatly limited. The really powerful elements were the Scottish chieftains with their clans, and even Knox had no power over them once they had safeguarded their church spoils. Why and according to what inner impulses these people act in each case is as uncertain as it is with savages.
A part of this clique, in association with the expelled Murray, Mary’s illegitimate half-brother, murdered Rizzio at the royal table on March 9, 1566. Now there really is proof that Rizzio was the mediator for papal and Spanish contacts with Mary Stuart. But it is madness to speak of the possibility of a Catholic restoration in Scotland in 1566, at a time when the second religious war was approaching in France, and in the Netherlands the great Gueux uprising. The only certain things are that for some reason the clique wanted to frighten and humiliate the queen very deeply, and that Rizzio was in its way.
The motive given for the participation of Darnley is that Rizzio withheld the matrimonial crown from him. That he had knowledge of the plot is almost a matter of indifference, considering his slight personality. The plot against Darnley himself, as it was carried out on February 10, 1567, was, according to more recent students, the doing of the same clique. The queen saw something coming, remained passive, and had to let things happen. It is quite erroneous to believe that she promoted or instigated the death of her spouse because a divorce would not have been feasible on account of the young prince. At any rate, Darnley was not killed merely for his own sake, but because he was in the way of the clique materially.
There followed Bothwell’s divorce and marriage to Mary Stuart.
On Elizabeth of England
(I) After the battle of Bosworth the Tudors were able to base their power substantially on the nation’s repugnance for any further civil war. People were willing to put up with anything but a fight between heads of factions. They gave up parliamentary rights and safeguards against judicial arbitrariness, even the salvation of their souls, if only there was a strong government that steered the ship of state with a firm hand. Where it was going did not matter so much. In this sense, actually only Edward VI’s reign had been dangerous, because factious heads were fighting again; right after that, the absolutist Mary was again allowed to do anything she pleased.
Through the question of succession Elizabeth not only gets on the side of Western European Protestantism, but also becomes its head. With the Tudors’ system of eradicating all possible claimants to the succession in the country itself, the dynasty finally devolves on one person. Besides, the Stuarts of Scotland are undeniably the nearest heirs. But Elizabeth does not want the question of succession to be dealt with at all. Mary Stuart, who has fled to England, is arrested and eventually beheaded; James VI, however, for the time being remains but a very doubtful successor.
Then the old maid, without allies, passes the great test in the form of the Armada. To be sure, we do not know what might have happened without the helpful storm in the Channel. Now her welfare and that of the overwhelming majority of the nation were bound up together.
(II) Elizabeth, who had inherited papal hatred from Mary, was driven to defection from Rome and to the creed of Edward VI by the pope’s foolish claims to refereeship and church property.
It was to her advantage that in the name of the queen of Scotland, who was at the same time the dauphine of France and niece of the Guises, claims were laid to England, namely, immediate possession of the English throne, in which Henry II and the Guises played their daring game.
After some reflection, Elizabeth found within herself the strength and the stubbornness of her father. Yet her own religiosity was highly dubious, to say nothing of her creed. She saw through the clergy and knew that it followed her. She counted on an insular and anti-Roman frame of mind, exploited the odium of the Francophile Paul IV, and ventured to decide, although she was in favor of celibacy.
As for the religious creed, complete supremacy was enforced. Elizabeth was the sole fount of truth and every authorization. This made the Catholics who remained Roman guilty of high treason ipso facto, even if they kept perfectly quiet. The serious Calvinists, i.e., the Puritans, then realized that the noose they had helped put around the Catholics’ necks was now around their own as well. Elizabeth brooked no “deviation.” The persecutions did not stop short of the scaffold.
Her coerced Parliament went along with her, and henceforth she had nothing but devoted parliaments, although she let go at them as at a pack of dogs, and the courts and administration were violent and at times truly depraved. England prospered materially and became a great active European power, even with meager help from abroad. Her small standing army proved that even though she was not popular, she was at least safe from internal disturbances. However, it sufficed thoughtful Englishmen to have a government that was strong enough not to become the plaything of aristocratic factions.
Elizabeth’s personality was hardly tolerable. One simply was not allowed to laugh. But her main characteristic was a queenly one: strength of soul. When she trembled, at least no one was aware of it. In her one notices as little as in her father that she might have been emotionally dependent on anyone for support and consolation.
Her ministers, above all Cecil and Burleigh, were in the fortunate position of knowing their interests to be generally identical with the queen’s. At the worst they would have been destroyed together with her. There existed a veritable complicity, and Elizabeth, for her part, did change favorites, but not workers.
The Age of Elizabeth
Between the allegory of Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1596) and the pastoralism of Philip Sidney’s Arcadia Shakespeare stands quite alone and also at a great distance from the other dramatists.
His public consisted of only two poles of society: the young nobility and the lower classes. The theater was growing only moderately, considering the size of London at that time; it was already considered not respectable (while, actually, the “respectable” nation was too dull for it). The court gave it only the attention that befitted its position, so that this sort of entertainment might not be lacking. Elizabeth took scarcely any notice of Shakespeare, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, which he wrote at her command, is one of his weaker plays. In the provinces there seems to have been no theater whatever, at a time when there were theaters throughout Spain. Shakespeare is a veritable windfall for England. If he had never existed, his age would not have missed him. Soon he was completely forgotten and was not revived until much later.
Rümelin (in his Shakespearestudien) demonstrates that Shakespeare’s knowledge of life was more divinatory, inwardly intuitive than empirical.
In the key plays the outlook on life is profoundly melancholy. From this somber background there stand out jest, humor, and beautiful fantasy (A Midsummer Night’s Dream; especially The Tempest with its distribution of evil; King Richard III and Macbeth, too, are quite clearly shaded right into the darkest black; the comedies with melancholy background include As You Like It).
From this outlook on life, the characters are all “justified” as long as they stand in front of us and talk.
Shakespeare not merely disposes of the vanity of this world in contemplative verses (although he has these in profusion), like Saadi and Hafiz, but he sketches the great, detailed, multiform picture of this world. Would he also have done this as a mere published author? Fortunately he was a theater man and an actor.
There has been endless research on Hamlet and on what Shakespeare intended and meant by this work. Every reader sees a different picture in it, and a new one at each reading. And the main thing is that he desires to read it again and again.
Shakespeare had a different key to the nature of man from that of any poet before or after him.
The present-day squabble over whether he was a Protestant or a Catholic is delightful. At any rate, he was not a Puritan.
It was probably of decisive importance that here as well as in Spain the theater consisted essentially of competing private enterprises (in Italy a court theater usually set the fashion with operas, pastorals, comedies in the conventional sense, and in addition there was little more than popular farce in the form of masked comedy). The English theater fortunately was not tied to any pomp.
Englishmen in Germany trained German actors; Jakob Ayrer and his dramas were under their influence. Perhaps one reason why they were on the Continent was that at home they could hardly profit by their art any more.
[* ]No further reference in original. (Translator’s note.)