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The Empire and Its Reformation – Lazarus von Schwendi’s Advice to Emperor Maximilian II (1574)
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[Schwendi attributes the Reformation to the growing aversion of the German people to a clergy that had bled the common man dry; two-thirds to three-quarters of all real properties and rents had devolved upon them. Then Johann Tetzel’s “irresponsible and outrageous sermons on the sale of indulgences” set the country ablaze in 1517.]

And because things – doubtless out of the just judgment of God – are arranged from above so that they should [constantly] break down and change, another problem, this time in secular government, was added to this during the reign of Emperor Charles (2), namely the interference of foreign nations in Imperial government, from which two great evils and disadvantages for the German nation soon arose, i.e., in the first place, the Germans developed a secret grudge against and an aversion to their lord’s, the Emperor Charles’, government because (as outlined above) they have by their very nature and from their earliest beginnings been devoted to freedom and have never been willing to allow themselves to be governed or controlled by any foreign nation.

[The theory of the alienation of the “German nation” from the “Spanish” emperorship of Charles V is explained further. Charles was a “cherished German hero,” but he was misled by bad counselors. In particular, he was driven to a harsh, belligerent policy toward the Lutherans. All in all, no mutual trust could develop between the emperor and the Germans: the common man secretly supported the rebellion of the Protestant princes led by Elector Moritz of Saxony. The Passau Agreements met with general approval (3).

At a critical moment, God moved the heart of King Ferdinand, who took the path of peace in religious matters and took many other complaints into account – he allied himself with the estates of the Empire rather than with his own lord and brother. Through Ferdinand’s “upright and evenhanded” governance, the Empire was brought to peace. The religious peace appears as an element of stability. Schwendi reminds the emperor of the beginning of his own reign.]

[One] sensed a good, upright German heart in Your Majesty from a young age, one more attached to and inclined toward the common good and toward peace in the Fatherland than to anything else and [one that is] not suspected of any bitter partisanship in religious matters. [ . . . ] [One has], in particular, perceived that Your Imperial Majesty is not inclined to give too much space or status to any foreign nation in your court or government.

[Yet with the introduction of Spanish rule and war in the Netherlands (4), mistrust of Imperial policies was on the rise – the Germans wanted to preserve their “old nature and characteristics” and would not happily tolerate any “foreign nation or government.”]

Another sharp pain [afflicting] the evangelicals or Lutherans is that they are well aware that these people [the foreigners] despise them and their religious allies more hatefully and [consider them to be] worse than pagans, Jews, and Turks, and that they believe themselves to be doing something for which God will reward them when they most pitilessly pursue, ruin, and exterminate them, as may clearly be seen from the terrible trial in the Netherlands.

[Among the adherents of the “new religion,” fears were growing about military action on the part of the emperor himself. The cause for these suspicions was the one-sided preference for Catholics, e.g., the favoring of Catholics in appointments to public office, and the Spanish style cultivated at Vienna, among other places. As a result, it was feared that they themselves might retaliate with countermeasures.]



(2) Emperor Charles V (r. 1519-1556) – trans.
(3)The passage refers to the Princes’ War, begun by Elector Moritz and his allies, including the king of France, in 1552. It ended with a treaty, which Moritz negotiated with King Ferdinand I, at Passau. This document became the basis of the Religious Peace of 1555 – trans.
(4) That is, with the succession of King Philip II of Spain to the lordship of the Low Countries following the abdication of his father, Charles V, in 1556 – trans.

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