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Landgrave George II of Hesse-Darmstadt, Political Testament (June 4, 1660)

Landgrave George II of Hesse-Darmstadt (r. 1626-61) weathered the Thirty Years War and an embittered succession dispute. According to historian Volker Press, he was a “pious man, who took pride in having read the Bible no fewer than 47 times.” Whereas a Calvinist dynasty ruled Hesse-Kassel, a determined Lutheranism held sway in George II’s Hesse-Darmstadt. George’s views identify him as an old-fashioned patriarch. In the document below, he preaches Christian virtues, denounces vice, and urges respect for the Holy Roman Emperor “in all things that are neither contrary to God’s honor and teachings, nor to German liberty [teutsche Libertät],” the latter being a reference to the liberties of the territorial princes vis-à-vis the (Catholic Habsburg) emperor. But George expected the emperor to preserve “our fatherland of the German nation from destructive anarchy.”

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It is not enough that a regent is God-fearing and pious and devoted to the true religion with mouth and heart, but rather it is also demanded from him that he carry out the office of high authority in effect as a faithful father of his country, and, as the Holy Scripture says in this case, as a servant of the Christian church, that he lead the subjects entrusted to him by God to the true Christian faith and righteous piety and hold them to it. So we pray first and foremost to the Almighty from the depths of our hearts that the Almighty may uphold our beloved son and his progeny and our aforementioned successors in the only true religion of the unaltered Augsburg Confession, which through God's grace is in full swing and practice in our principality and lands, and that they may be strengthened and fortified through the power and assistance of the Holy Spirit. [ . . . ]

Our son and successor has to consider in all matters: God sees it, and His glory and approval should be his only purpose. Our successor should examine his own work, and ask himself, when possible every evening, what good he has done that day. He should modify all worldly actions, senses, and thoughts with this clause: as long as it pleases God. He should not think of undertaking anything if he does not have good cause and certainty to think that it is righteous and good. When important issues come up, as seems to happen in worldly governments with careful regents frequently in recent times, he should hold to God even more assiduously with his dear prayers, that the Almighty may lead him to the right path and bless his doings, and he should place his trust in no person, but rather only in God. In addition to the ardent order that all matters be placed in God's hands, he should use the means granted by God, namely that in devotion he diligently consider the matters. Depending on the occasion and the circumstances, he should ask for recommendations and considerations from close relatives and those most interested (those who are most dependent upon the preservation and welfare of our princely house, and those who are loyal to him and well intentioned). He should consult his privy and other councilors not only in their councils, but also privately, one after another, and communicate his concerns to them. He should not only listen to good advice, but also follow it. When something has been carefully decided, he should be steadfast about holding to it. He should treat poorly no one who has provided his opinion to the best of his understanding and thinking, so that he will not be intimidated or scared away from speaking frankly and warning of the prince's detriment. [ . . . ]

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