The Thirty Years War and the Development of the Natural Law Theory


Bachelor Thesis, 2011
47 Pages, Grade: Merit

Excerpt

Content List

Introduction

Chapter 1: the German Reformation and the origins of the Thirty Years War in the Holy Roman Empire

Chapter 2: the peculiarity of the Thirty Years War to the Holy Roman Empire, and the rest of Europe

Chapter 3: The Impact of the Post-Westphalia Empire to Political Theorists

Conclusion

Bibliography

Introduction

The Thirty Years War embodied the impact of Protestantism to the peculiar route of state development of the Empire and subsequently the peculiarity of the development of political theories from the example of the Empire. The War was the last of a violent wave of political reforms which rode on the tide of ecclesiastical reformation: a tide which ravaged Europe since the Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saint’s Church at 1517. The German Reformation was both an ideological and political movement that pitted the Protestant against the Catholics including the Emperor. It was pacified in mid 16th century but restarted and escalated during the Thirty Years War. Like the conflict of the 1540’s in the Empire and late 16th century Europe, the War was on one hand a political struggle between territorialism and central power ---in this case between the Protestant princes and the power laid in the hands of the Holy Roman Emperor. Atypical to other sovereigns in Europe however, the Emperor was overlord to a theocratic constitution which was mixed with liturgy and secular magistrates. Thus as both the provincial Protestants and the Emperor’s adherents were equipped with one exclusive moral philosophy, it cleaved two irreconcilable and mutually suspicious factions within the Constitution. The conflict was thus a struggle for secular political innovation, a middle way comprises of both Protestants and Catholics without ecclesiastical conflicts that need to be resolved outside of the legal institution, under a Catholic theocracy which was a fundamentally exclusive federation before 1648. The peculiarity of the Thirty Years War to continental Europe was that, its outcome the Peace of Westphalia, unlike the other religious edicts, has not only shattered the ambiguity of a medieval feudal-theocratic structure that was the Imperial Constitution; it has also rejuvenated the Holy Roman Empire’s unity from within its peculiar medieval structure. The old feudal representative structure embedded in the Constitution was furthered and therefore spared the Empire’s need to eliminate, but to include the Protestant opposition in a German federation. This development inspired legal political theorists such as Samuel Pufendorf and even statesmen themselves, to envision rational, defined states based on the hitherto model of the Empire, a quasi-secular legal system. Thus, the implication of the Peace was both political and philosophical: first it reformed and consolidated the Imperial structure; secondly it implied a separate model distinguished from the rest of Western Europe for contemporary political philosophers concerning with how the state should behave morally.

As much of the documents concerning the specific process of the Reichskammericht and the Reichshofrat were still vaulted in the National Archive of Austria, and that the author is not much more than a novice in the German language, this study is bound to rely heavily upon the translated manuscripts published in England. The potential problem of the reliance of such documents is that, since most manuscript obtainable by the author through public domains were by nature either of the Protestant faith, or critiques of the Roman Catholics. Seldom was the author capable of finding related and less well known sources in English which support the more famous proclamations, acts, etc. Though this may affect this study’s neutrality, the author made the best effort he could to supplement this work with modern secondary commentaries. This also applies to the limited analysis given to the reformation in the Scandinavian states. Another problem in terms of the primary sources to support this study is of the physical condition of the documents. While the spelling of 16th-17th Century English was barely bearable for modern readers, some manuscripts were hardly readable due to fault of scanning (in most cases, the text is faint, in some cases, the previous page was engraved upon the next, and in extreme cases a quarter to half a page is simply missing), calligraphy, and even in the original state of the manuscript, perhaps due to the price of paper then, in some documents the paragraphs were typeset on top of each other to save space. Thus this study was based mainly on a handful of larger thematic collections of primary sources and supplemented by specific materials from Early English Books Online. And for the philosophical works pertain to the topic of Legal-Political philosophy, while there were comparatively more valuable resources on, the author apologise for the few materials covered compared to the vast topic, as much of the resources were either in Latin or in German, i.e. Seckendorf’s work.

While there seemed to be a lack of academic material denotes the direct impact of the Thirty Years War on political philosophy, the Holy Roman Empire in the 17th century had been in the centre of a debate depicting the German speaking lands as the centre of a ‘general European crisis’ since the 1950’s[1]. Dr. E.J. Hobsbawm’s article in 1954 was the classical formulation of the theory[2]. Hobsbawm suggested that the Thirty Years War was an episode of the 17th Century economic crisis where it supposedly was the first of capitalist expansion succumbed to ‘the general prevalence of the feudal structure of society’[3], while the theory seemed flawless, it was hardly the intention of the belligerents of the war. Another champion of the theory of general crisis, Professor H.R. Trevor-Roper, defined the Thirty Years War as the direct factor in the revolt of Catalonia and from there describing the middle of 17th Century as the period of revolution[4]. From his point of view ‘the burden of war taxation, or military oppression, or military defeat, precipitated the revolts in Catalonia, Portugal, and Naples’[5]. But the Spanish Empire by the time of 17th century was already on decline by those factors even without the Thirty Years War[6]. The Thirty Years War was essentially an intellectual conflict due to the mutual rivalry under one peculiar constitution between two trans-national and mutually exclusive sets of unmoveable perceptions to how the State should behave morally and legally. And the end result was almost exclusively peculiar to the statehood of the Holy Roman Empire. Thus the famous Pufendorf quote, describing the Empire was a ‘monstrosity’ out of regular statehood[7]. 19th Century Jurist and philosopher Otto von Gierke served as this study’s theoretical inspiration, providing the methods to define the conflict within the boundaries of the progression of legal philosophy, namely Johannes Althusius’ political model. His theory provided the theoretical basis for this study to evaluate the Thirty Years War’s origins and the subsequent assessment to the War’s influence. The Thirty Years War: A Sourcebook and The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy, both written or edited by Professor Peter H. Wilson were invaluable also to this study as they provided the newest historiography to the interpretation of the War.

Chapter 1: the German Reformation and the origins of the Thirty Years War in the Holy Roman Empire

The spiritual and legal judicial power of the Holy Roman Emperor was subdued fundamentally by the Protestant princes. What distinguished the Emperors from all other sovereigns in Europe was that he was not only the King of Germans; he was also the head of God’s Empire in parallel to the Papacy as the head of God’s Church. The Emperor drew much prestige from this dualism, and maintained political unity of Empire from the feudal and spiritual coherence granted by it. The hierarchy of the Empire was therefore peculiar as the Emperor’s jurisdiction included both the feudal lords and ecclesiastical estates from the Reichskirche. But Martin Luther’s teaching tore this dualism apart. The Reformation cleaved an irreparable division from within the composition of the Holy Roman Empire as the political adhesion provided by the Christian (Catholic) morality was the backbone of the Emperor’s rule. The Reformation thus shattered the unity between the Empire’s origins and the Emperor’s spiritual justification and jurisdiction over his vassals. Though the first violent attempt of Protestant reform within the Empire was struck down and pacified at the Peace of Augsburg, the fissure was there since. Like many others in Europe, many amongst the ranks of the Imperial Church, imperial estates, and magistrates turned to the Reformists. Thus, while legal jurisdiction and ecclesiastical affiliations on individuals were inseparable, and that both theological properties and their adherents in this great dance of the reformation and counter-reformation movements both vowed for each other’s destruction even the world’s most brilliant court and judges could not reconcile but only treat the symptoms of the division amongst the estates. Not to mention the clumsy Reichskammericht and the full imperial backing Reichshofrat. What distinguished the Thirty Years War from the mid-16th century scramble however, was that it was not a war like mainly fought for Religious recognition like the Schmalkaldic War, it was more of a war motivated by political motives of the belligerents to either reconcile or exploit of the aforementioned ecclesiastical-constitutional division. The series of conflicts that stemmed from the Reformation and the Thirty Years War, and the efforts in vain to halt its escalation into a transnational political struggle, was essentially an Imperial struggle to uphold royal power.

The reformation had a fundamentally changing and unprecedented effect to the ideal and coherence of the Holy Roman Empire. Since Otto the Great, the rex Christianus was a title given to the protector of the German nations against Pagans, a crown which had since been equated to the prestige of the Emperor[8]. While this Christian idea was embedded in the Imperial Crown, the Catholic religion was thus the innermost and ‘deepest life of a nation’[9]. This ideal of the Empire as a sacred being had not ceased even amongst the Protestant historians during the violent reforms of Protestantism of the early 16th century. Not to mention the Emperors themselves, Charles V proclaimed himself and his vassals were ‘sprung from the Holy German nation, appointed by peculiar privilege defenders of the faith’[10]. Johannes Sleidanus[11] proclaimed in his volume, The key of history, or, A most methodical abridgment of the Four Chief Monarchies, that the western part of the Roman Empire, rent ‘almost into piece-meals….was by the Emperor Charles (Charlemagne) reintegrated’[12], placing the Empire which based upon ‘Christian congregation’[13] by the Germanic people the direct descendent of the Roman Empire and the last universal monarchy according to the prophet Daniel[14]. The state of the Empire, as of a contemporary political observer Jean Bodin’s view, published in the Six Books of the Commonwealth in 1576, was an ‘aristocratic principality, in which the Emperor is only the first magistrate… The power and majesty of the Empire is vested in the Diet’[15]. Bodin was both right and wrong about the Empire then. He was right that the Emperor was the first magistrate, but wrong about where the power of the Empire was, not in the Diet, but on the Emperor’s personal influence and capability to persuade his subjects, especially the more powerful princes. In order to understand this spiritual and feudal dualism in the Imperial Constitution in practical terms, one must take a closer look into the composition of the Empire. The Emperor was an authority built upon the bifurcation of sacredotium and imperium[16]. At the dawn of reformation, the Habsburg Emperor was the feudal and spiritual overlord to over 300 fiefs in two groups of vassals: first the Imperial Church consisting of ecclesiastical estates ruled bishoprics, and secondly the lay land-owning nobles[17]. These two groups both subjected to the same jurisprudence of the Reichskammericht and the Reichshofrat while both represented in the imperial diet, or the Reichstag, yet the ecclesiastical lords had spiritual influence to the churches on the land of secular lords[18], and often the bishops themselves might have been the cities former lords[19]. Thus the Empire was not only an Empire of the Germanic lords, but also of the reichskirche and therefore fundamentally religious. Before the Reformation while there was only one confession, the system would not have seen the permanent inner division amongst all the ecclesiastical and the feudal lords as during the Reformation. The Confession of Augsburg was the turning point of that. The confession marked the politicization of the German Reformation and the subsequent division and verdict the Protestants reached within the Empire. The Augsburg Confession was an ecclesiastical as well as a political manifesto. The proclamation attacked every tradition of the Catholic religion, any principle from theological items to the justification of the appointment of priests were claimed by the Protestant princes as items needed to be reformed. Amongst these many attacks, three of them stood out as the most significant themes of the proclamation: concerning the penance, the appointment of clergymen, and of the power of the Church. Concerning penance and the clergies, the author of the Confession, Phillip Melanchthon[20], began with the words ‘…that remission of sins can not be received but only by faith, which believe that sins be forgiven for Christ’s sake, according to the saying of Paul to the Romans… that we deserve not forgiveness of sins, or grace through the observing of men’s tradition’[21], then, moving on to the description of the ecclesiastical lords, ‘..but these men think, that god is pacified and made merciful for our traditions sake and not for Christ’s sake…monks and friars have sparkled many pestilent opinions to the church…they called it the evangelical policy or governance to have all things in commune….these opinions do greatly deface the gospel and the spiritual kingdom[22] ’. From the wordings above, one might already able to discern the irreconcilable theological difference between Lutherans and the Catholics, with a political undertone. But what made the Confession a monumental document (after all, Luther nailed his ninety-five theses over a decade ago, theological critiques of the Catholic Church had been written following his footsteps by other reformers such as Zwingli[23] ) was that it proposed to revoke the secular juridical power of the bishops claimed by their ecclesiastical rank. In Melanchthon’s words, ‘they have a certain commandment, I mean, the undoubted word of god, which they according to it to use their jurisdiction…they may institute new honours and services...for ceremonies and services nothing appertain to jurisdiction’[24]. These words were simply revolutionary to an Empire which its judicial power and political coherence hinged upon one confession. The Confession of Augsburg therefore claimed the stance of absolute adversary for its adherents to the ecclesiastical backbone of the legal justification to the Holy Roman Empire since.

As the Protestant population grew rapidly like a virus within the system of the Holy Roman Empire since 1517, many formerly Catholic feudal statuses everywhere within the Empire were possessed and populated by people who identify themselves as Protestants. As a matter of fact, while the massive conversion directly challenged the Catholic churches’ prestige and benefits, it also induced fear in those secular lords who felt threatened by the increasing large Protestant influx into the current status quo. Thus that was the background of the twenty-five years between the Confession and the Peace of Augsburg. First, it must be noted that the Reformation began as a mindless popular movement then escalated to the realm of Imperial politics through the Imperial estates. Thus the division between Reformists and non-reformists was universal. For example, in Nuremberg in 1524 a friar observed that not only ‘the sincere faith of Christ is utterly cancelled’, that ‘some of the noblemen and the mass of the merchants are all tainted, nay, obstinate and unconvertible’[25]. Slowly within the seven decades after the Peace communities would divide according to their confession, thus the powder keg ignited by Frederick V of Palatine, a Calvinist. But the division caused by the Peace at first did not create mutual hostility. It was the Emperor Charles V who, along with outlawing all Protestant writings, proclaimed after the Diet of Worms, ‘I have therefore resolved to stake upon this cause (Protestantism) my dominions, my friends, my body and my Blood, my life and soul… it would be a grievous disgrace, an eternal stain upon ourselves and posterity, if, in this our day, not only heresy, but is very suspicion, were due to our neglect….after Luther’s stiff-necked reply in my presence yesterday, I now repent that I have so long delayed proceedings against him and his false doctrines’[26]. Only after the Emperor and essentially the Catholic faction of the Empire declared prohibition of the Protestants their confession became a political excuse against the Empire. This could be seen first from the Peasants Revolt in 1525, of which Luther himself denounced the peasants who had taken his teaching as part of their struggle against their feudal lords, he wrote in a pamphlet, ‘…the demands you have drawn up are not in themselves contrary to the natural law and to equity, by they are rendered so by the violence with which you seek to force them from the hands authority…they have been false to the Gospel they profess to follow… no mercy, no toleration is due to the peasants’[27]. Luther himself, while condemning those peasants, did not know what a Pandora’s Box he had opened with his writings. Very soon by the mid 1500’s Protestantism were accepted by, political reasons or not, England[28], the Scandinavian countries, and Bohemia[29] ; Calvinism became increasingly formidable in France. The counter attack the Papacy and the Catholic Princes (and Emperor of course) made was signified by the employment of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. Originally formed by Ignatius Loyola[30] in Paris in 1534 and recognized by Pope Paul III in 1540, the Jesuits were fiercely anti any form of Protestantism and an extremely mobile force travelling everywhere in the Continent to preach for Catholicism and spreading anti Protestant propaganda. They induced not much favour from the local communities for their foreign status and for their methods.

[...]


[1] Sheilagh C. Ogilvie, Germany and the Seventeenth-Century Crisis, The Historical Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Jun., 1992), p.418.

[2] J.H. Elliott, Revolution and Continuity in Early Modern Europe, Past & Present, No. 42 (Feb., 1969), p.35.

[3] E.J. Hobsbawm, The General Crisis of the European Economy in the 17th Century, Past & Present, No. 5(May, 1954), pp. 33-40.

[4] H.R. Trevor-Roper, The General Crisis of the 17th Century, Past & Present, No. 16 (Nov., 1959), pp. 31-33.

[5] Ibid. p.32.

[6] The cost for the Spanish army in Italy required 2.73 million ducats over 1495 to 1504, almost triple of the Spanish treasure from the new world during 1506-1510. Also its participation was not major in the Thirty Years War. See J.H. Elliott, Imperial Spain: 1469-1716 (London: Edward Arnold Ltd, 1963) p.175. Numbers derived from Table IV.

[7] Peter H. Wilson, Historiographical Reviews: Still a Monstrosity? Some reflections on early modern German Statehood, The Historical Journal, 49, 2 (2006), pp.565-6.

[8] Heinrich von Srbik, A Christian and Roman Concept that Fulfilled Its Mission in Robert Edwin Herzstein (ed.) The Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages: Universal State or German Catastrophe? (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1966) pp.59-60.

[9] James Bryce, The History of the Holy Roman Empire Must Be Deduced from Its Theory in Robert Edwin Herzstein (ed.) The Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages: Universal State or German Catastrophe? (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1966) pp.51-53

[10] Charles V, The Emperor Charles V’s View April 19th 1521, in C.R.B Routh (ed.) They Saw It Happen In Europe: An Anthology of Etewitnesses’ Accounts of Events in European History 1450-1600 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965) p. 240.

[11] Johannes Sleidanus, (1506-1556), court historian to the Schmalkaldic League, a devout Lutheran and celebrated as the father of Reformation history, see Donald R. Kelley, Johann Sleidan and the Origins of History as a Profession, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 573-598.

[12] Johannes Sleidanus, The Key of History, or, A most methodical abridgment of the Four Chief Monarchies, printed in London, 1661. EEBO, pp.231-143.

[13] Ibid. pp.230-231.

[14] Donald R. Kelley, Johann Sleidan and the Origins of History as a Profession, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), p.596.

[15] Jean Bodin, Six Books of the Commonwealth, Abridged and translated by M.J. Tooley (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1955), pp.66-67.

[16] Thomas A. Brady, Jr. In Search of the Godly City: The Domestication of Religion in the German Urban Reformation in R. Po-Chia Hsia (ed.) The German People and the Reformation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988) p.15.

[17] Peter H. Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy (Cambridge and Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009) pp.16-17.

[18] Ibid. p.17.

[19] Thomas A. Brady, Jr. In Search of the Godly City: The Domestication of Religion in the German Urban Reformation in R. Po-Chia Hsia (ed.) The German People and the Reformation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988) p.19.

[20] Phillip Melanchthon (1497-1560), theologian and reformer born in Palatinate. Hailed ‘Preceptor of Germany’, see Donald R. Kelley, Johann Sleidan and the Origins of History as a Profession, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), p.581.

[21] Phillip Melanchthon, The confessyon of the fayth of the Germaynes exhibited to the moste victorious Emperour Charles the. v. in the Councell or assemble holden at Augusta the yere of our Lorde. 1530. To which is added the apologie of Melancthon who defendeth with reasons inuincible the aforesayde confesyon translated by Rycharde Tauerner at the commaundeme[n]t of his master Thomas Cromwel chefe Secretarie to the kynges grace. 1536, EEBO, pp.114 &139.

[22] Ibid. p.140, pp.147-148.

[23] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 (London: Penguin Books, 2003) p.133.

[24] Phillip Melanchthon, The confessyon of the fayth of the Germaynes exhibited to the moste victorious Emperour Charles the. v. in the Councell or assemble holden at Augusta the yere of our Lorde. 1530. To which is added the apologie of Melancthon who defendeth with reasons inuincible the aforesayde confesyon translated by Rycharde Tauerner at the commaundeme[n]t of his master Thomas Cromwel chefe Secretarie to the kynges grace. 1536, EEBO, p.210.

[25] Paolo Ziani, A letter from Friar Paolo Ziani, dated March 29th, 1524 in C.R.B Routh (ed.) They Saw It Happen In Europe: An Anthology of Eyewitnesses’ Accounts of Events in European History 1450-1600 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965) pp. 245-246.

[26] Charles V, The Emperor Charles V’s View, April 19th 1521. in C.R.B Routh (ed.) They Saw It Happen In Europe: An Anthology of Eyewitnesses’ Accounts of Events in European History 1450-1600 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965) p.240.

[27] Martin Luther, The Life of Luther written by himself, the English translation published in London, 1898. Ibid, pp. 253-254.

[28] Church of England strictly speaking was really an institute of Catholic traditions under an English skin. But despite Henry VIII’s denial of Luther’s doctrines he nonetheless broke away from the Catholic Church riding upon the chaos and division Lutherans caused on the Continent. See Felicity Heal, Oxford History of the Christian Church, Reformation in Britain and Ireland (New York: Oxford Press, 2003) p. 150.

[29] England by 1536, Danmark-Norway and Holstein (a duchy in northern Germany) also by 1536, the Dutch Republic was created by Protestant support and Catholic antagonism as they revolted against the rule of the Habsburg Empire between 1560- 1572. The differences between the German Reformation and the rest of Europe and the Impact of the case of the Empire on others will be discussed in latter chapters.

[30] Ignatius Loyola, Spaniard born to a noble Basque family at around 1491, supposedly had a vision of the holy trinity, which explains for his zeal for the absolute spiritual authority of the Papacy. See C.R.B Routh (ed.) They Saw It Happen In Europe: An Anthology of Eyewitnesses’ Accounts of Events in European History 1450-1600 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965) p. 284.

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Title
The Thirty Years War and the Development of the Natural Law Theory
College
University of Hull
Course
History
Grade
Merit
Author
Year
2011
Pages
47
Catalog Number
V341403
ISBN (eBook)
9783668310193
ISBN (Book)
9783668310209
File size
1287 KB
Language
English
Tags
history, thirty years war, Europe, Political Philosophy
Quote paper
Tom Wan (Author), 2011, The Thirty Years War and the Development of the Natural Law Theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/341403

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