From their first appearance in the history of the world the Germans represented the principle of unchecked individualism, as opposed to the Roman principle of an all-embracing authority. German history in the Middle Ages was strongly influenced by two opposing principles: universalism and individualism. After Arminius had fought for German freedom in the Teutoburg Forest the idea that the race was entitled to be independent gradually became a powerful factor in its historical development. This conception first took form when the Germanic states grew out of the Roman Empire. Even Theodoric the Great thought of uniting the discordant barbarian countries with the aid of the leges gentium into a great confederation of the Mediterranean. Although in these Mediterranean countries the Roman principle finally prevailed, being that of a more advanced civilization, still the individualistic forces which contributed to found these states were not wasted. By them the world-embracing empire of Rome was overthrown and the way prepared for the national principle. It was not until after the fall of the Western Empire that a great Frankish kingdom became possible and the Franks, no longer held in check by the Roman Empire, were able to draw together the tribes of the old Teutonic stock and to lay the foundation of a German empire. Before this the Germanic tribes had been continually at variance; no tie bound them together; even the common language failed to produce unity. On the other hand, the so-called Lautverschiebung, or shifting of the consonants, in German, separated the North and South Germans. Nor was German mythology a source of union, for the tribal centres of worship rather increased the already existing particularism. The Germans had not even a common name. Since the eighth century most probably the designations Franks and Frankish extended beyond the boundaries of the Frankish tribe. It was not, however, until the ninth century that the expression theodisk (later German Deutsch), signifying "popular," or "belonging to people" made its appearance and a great stretch of time divided this beginning from the use of the word as a name of the nation.
The work of uniting Germany was not begun by a tribe living in the interior but by one on the outskirts of the country. The people called Franks suddenly appear in history in the third century. They represented no single tribe, but consisted of a combination of Low and High German tribes. Under the leadership of Clovis (Chlodwig) the Franks overthrew the remains of the Roman power in Gaul and built up the Frankish state on a Germano-Romanic foundation. The German tribes were conquered one after another and colonized in the Roman manner. Large extents of territory were marked out as belonging to the king, and on these military colonies were founded. The commanders of these military colonies gradually became administrative functionaries, and the colonies themselves grew into peaceful agricultural village communities. For a long time political expressions, such as Hundreds, recalled the original military character of the people. From that time the Frankish ruler became the German overlord, but the centrifugal tendency of the Germanic tribes reacted against this sovereignty as soon as the Merovingian Dynasty began slowly to decline, owing to internal feuds. In each of the tribes after this the duke rose to supremacy over his fellow tribesmen. From the seventh century the tribal duke became an almost independent sovereign. These ducal states originated in the supreme command of large bodies of troops, and then in the administration of large territories by dukes. At the same time the disintegration was aided by the bad administration of the counts, the officials in charge of the territorial districts (Gau), who were no longer supervised by the central authority. But what was most disastrous was that an unruly aristocracy sought to control all the economical interests and to exercise arbitrary powers over politics. These sovereign nobles had become powerful through the feudal system, a form of government which gave to medieval Germany its peculiar character. Caesar in his day found that it was customary among the Gauls for a freeman, the "client," voluntarily to enter into a relation of dependence on a "senior." This surrender (commendatio) took place in order to obtain the protection of the lord or to gain the usufruct of land. From this Gallic system of clientship there developed, in Frankish times, the conception of the "lord's man" (homagium or hominium), who by an oath swore fealty to his suzerain and became a vassus, or gasindus, or homo. The result of the growth of this idea was that finally there appeared, throughout the kingdom, along with royalty, powerful territorial lords with their vassi or vassalli, as their followers were called from the eighth century. The vassals received as fief (beneficium) a piece of land of which they enjoyed the use for life. The struggle of the Franks with the Arabs quickened the development of the feudal system, for the necessity of creating an army of horsemen then became evident. Moreover the poorer freemen, depressed in condition by the frequent wars, could not be required to do service as horsemen, a duty that could only be demanded from the vassals of the great landowners. In order to force these territorial lords to do military service fiefs were granted from the already existing public domain, and in their turn the great lords granted part of these fiefs to their retainers. Thus the Frankish king was gradually transformed from a lord of the land and people to a feudal lord over the beneficiaries directly and indirectly dependent upon him by feudal tenure. By the end of the ninth century the feudal system had bound together the greater part of the population.
While in this way the secular aristocracy grew into a power, at the same time the Church was equally strengthened by feudalism. The Christian Church during this era a fact of the greatest importance was the guardian of the remains of classical culture. With this culture the Church was to endow the Germans. Moreover it was to bring them a great fund of new moral conceptions and principles, much increase in knowledge, and skill in art and handicrafts. The well-knit organization of the Church, the convincing logic of dogma, the grandeur of the doctrine of salvation, the sweet poetry of the liturgy, all these captured the understanding of the simple-minded but fine-natured primitive German. It was the Church, in fact, that first brought the exaggerated individualism of the race under control and developed in it gradually, by means of asceticism, those social virtues essential to the State. The country was converted to Christianity very slowly for the Church had here a difficult problem to solve, namely, to replace the natural conception of life by an entirely different one that appeared strange to the people. The acceptance of the Christian name and ideas was at first a purely mechanical one, but it became an inner conviction. No people has shown a more logical or deeper comprehension of the organization and saving aims of the Christian Church. None has exhibited a like devotion to the idea of the Church nor did any people contribute more in the Middle Ages to the greatness of the Church than the German. In the conversion of Germany much credit is due the Irish and Scotch, but the real founders of Christianity in Germany are the Anglo-Saxons, above all St. Boniface. Among the early missionaries were: St. Columbanus, the first to come to the Continent (about 583), who laboured in Swabia; Fridolin, the founder of Saeckingen; Pirminius, who established the monastery of Reichenau in 724; and Gallus (d. 645), the founder of St. Gall. The cause of Christianity was furthered in Bavaria by Rupert of Worms (beginning of the seventh century), Corbinian (d. 730), and Emmeram (d. 715). The great organizer of the Church of Bavaria was St. Boniface. The chief herald of the Faith among the Franks was the Scotchman, St. Kilian (end of the seventh century); the Frisians received Christianity through Willibrord (d. 739). The real Apostle of Germany was St. Boniface, whose chief work was in Central Germany and Bavaria. Acting in conjunction with Rome he organized the German Church, and finally in 755 met the death of a martyr at the hands of the Frisians. After the Church had thus obtained a good foothold it soon reached a position of much importance in the eyes of the youthful German peoples. By grants of land the princes gave it an economic power which was greatly increased when many freemen voluntarily became dependents of these new spiritual lords; thus, besides the secular territorial aristocracy, there developed a second power, that of the ecclesiastical princes. Antagonism between these two elements was perceptible at an early date. Pepin sought to remove the difficulty by strengthening the Frankish Church and placing between the secular and spiritual lords the new Carlovingian king, who, by the assumption of the title Dei gratia, obtained a somewhat religious character.
The Augustinian conception of the Kingdom of God early influenced the Frankish State; political and religious theories unconsciously blended. The union of Church and State seemed the ideal which was to be realized. Each needed the other; the State needed the Church as the only source of real order and true education; the Church needed for its activities the protection of the secular authority. In return for the training in morals and learning that the Church gave, the State granted it large privileges, such as: the privilegium fori or freedom from the jurisdiction of the State; immunity, that is exemption from taxes and services to the State, from which gradually grew the right to receive the taxes of the tenants residing on the exempt lands and the right to administer justice to them; further, release from military service; and, finally, the granting of great fiefs that formed the basis of the later ecclesiastical sovereignties. The reverse of this picture soon became apparent; the ecclesiastics to whom had been given lands and offices in fief became dependent on secular lords. Thus the State at an early date had a share in the making of ecclesiastical laws, exercised the right of patronage, appointed to dioceses, and soon undertook, especially in the time of Charles Martel, the secularization of church lands. Consequently the question of the relation of Church and State soon claimed attention; it was the most important question in the history of the German Middle Ages. Under the first German emperor this problem seemed to find its solution.
Real German history begins with Charlemagne (768-814). The war with the Saxons was the most important one he carried on, and the result of this struggle, of fundamental importance for German history, was that the Saxons were brought into connexion with the other Germanic tribes and did not fall under Scandinavian influence. The lasting union of the Franks, Saxons, Frisians, Thuringians, Hessians, Alamanni, and Bavarians, that Charlemagne effected, formed the basis of a national combination which gradually lost sight of the fact that it was the product of compulsion. From the time of Charlemagne the above-named German tribes lived under Frankish constitution retaining their own old laws the leges barbarorum, which Charlemagne codified. Another point of importance for German development was that Charlemagne fixed the boundary between his domain and the Slavs, including the Wends, on the farther side of the Elbe and Saale Rivers. It is true that Charlemagne did not do all this according to a deliberate plan, but mainly in the endeavour to win these related Germanic peoples over to Christianity. Charlemagne's German policy, therefore, was not a mere brute conquest, but a union which was to be strengthened by the ties of morality and culture to be created by the Christian religion. The amalgamation of the ecclesiastical with the secular elements that had begun in the reign of Pepin reached its completion under Charlemagne. The fact that Pepin obtained papal approval of his kingdom strengthened the bond between the Church and the Frankish kingdom. The consciousness of being the champion of Christianity against the Arabs, moreover, gave to the King of the Franks the religious character of the predestined protectors of the Church; thus he attained a position of great importance in the Kingdom of God. Charlemagne was filled with these ideas; like St. Augustine he hated the supremacy of the heathen empire. The type of God's Kingdom to Charlemagne and his councillors was not the Roman Empire but the Jewish theocracy. This type was kept in view when Charlemagne undertook to give reality to the Kingdom of God. The Frankish king desired like Solomon to be a great ecclesiastical and secular potentate, a royal priest. He was conscious that his conception of his position as the head of the Kingdom of God, according to the German ideas, was opposed to the essence of Roman Caesarism, and for reason he objected to being crowned emperor by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800. On this day the Germanic idea of the Kingdom of God, of which Charlemagne was the representative, bowed to the Roman idea, which regards Rome as its centre, Rome the seat of the old empire and the most sacred place of the Christian world. Charlemagne when emperor still regarded himself as the real leader of the Church. Although in 774 he confirmed the gift of his father to the Roman res publica, nevertheless he saw to it that Rome remained connected with the Frankish State; in return it had a claim to Frankish protection. He even interfered in dogmatic questions.
Charlemagne looked upon the revived Roman Empire from the ancient point of view inasmuch as he greatly desired recognition by the Eastern Empire. He regarded his possession of the empire as resulting solely from his own power, consequently he himself crowned his son Louis. Yet on the other hand he looked upon his empire only as a Christian one, whose most noble calling it was to train up the various races within its borders to the service of God and thus to unify them. The empire rapidly declined under his weak and nerveless son, Louis the Pious (814-40). The decay was hastened by the prevailing idea that this State was the personal property of the sovereign, a view that contained the germ of constant quarrels and necessitated the division of the empire when there were several sons. Louis sought to prevent the dangers of such division by law of hereditary succession published in 817, by which the sovereign power and the imperial crown were to be passed to the oldest son. This law was probably enacted through the influence of the Church, which maintained positively this unity of the supreme power and the Crown, as being in harmony with the idea of the Kingdom of God, and as besides required by the hierarchical economy of the church organization. When Louis had a fourth son, by his second wife, Judith, he immediately set aside law of partition of 817 for the benefit of the new heir. An odious struggle broke out between father and sons, and among the sons themselves. In 833 the emperor was captured by his sons at the battle of Luegenfeld (field of lies) near Colmar. Pope Gregory IV was at the time in the camp of the sons. The demeanour of the pope and the humiliating ecclesiastical penance that Louis was compelled to undergo at Soissons made apparent the change that had come about since Charlemagne in the theory of the relations of Church and State. Gregory's view that the Church was under the rule of the representative of Christ, and that it was a higher authority, not only spiritually but also substantially, and therefore politically, had before this found learned defenders in France. In opposition to the oldest son Lothair, Louis and Pepin, sons of Louis the Pious, restored the father to his throne (834), but new rebellions followed, when the sons once more grew dissatisfied.
In 840 the emperor died near Ingelheim. The quarrels of the sons went on after the death of the father, and in 841 Lothair was completely defeated near Fontenay (Fontanetum) by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. The empire now fell apart, not from the force of national hatreds, but in consequence of the partition now made and known as the Treaty of Verdun (August, 843), which divided the territory between the sons of Louis the Pious: Lothair, Louis the German (843-76), and Charles the Bald, and which finally resulted in the complete overthrow of the Carlovingian monarchy.
As the imperial power grew weaker, the Church gradually raised itself above the State. The scandalous behaviour of Lothair II, who, divorced himself from his lawful wife in order to marry his concubine, brought deep disgrace on his kingdom. The Church however, now an imposing and well-organized power, sat in judgment on the adulterous king. When Lothair II died, his uncles divided his possessions between them; by the Treaty of Ribemont (Mersen), Lorraine, which lay between the East Frankish Kingdom of Louis the German and the West Frankish Kingdom of Charles the Bald, was assigned to the East Frankish Kingdom. In this way a long-enduring boundary was definitely drawn between the growing powers of Germany and France. By a curious chance this boundary coincided almost exactly with the linguistic dividing line. Charles the Fat (876-87), the last son of Louis the German, united once more the entire empire. But according to old Germanic ideas the weak emperor forfeited his sovereignty by his cowardice when the dreaded Northmen appeared before Paris on one of their frequent incursions into France, and by his incapacity as a ruler. Consequently the Eastern Franks made his nephew Arnulf (887-99) king. This change was brought about by a revolt of the laity against the bishops in alliance with the emperor. The danger of Norman invasion Arnulf ended once and for all by his victory in 891 at Louvain on the Dyle. In the East also he was victorious after the death (894) of Swatopluk, the great King of Moravia. The conduct of some of the great nobles forced him to turn for aid to the bishops; supported by the Church, he was crowned emperor at Rome in 896. Theoretically his rule extended over the West Frankish Kingdom, but the sway of his son, Louis the Child (899-911), the last descendant of the male line of the German Carlovingians, was limited entirely to the East Frankish Kingdom. Both in the East and West Frankish Kingdoms, in this era of confusion, the nobility grew steadily stronger, and freemen in increasing numbers became vassals in order to escape the burdens that the State laid on them; the illusion of the imperial title could no longer give strength to the empire. Vassal princes like Guido and Lamberto of Spoleto, and Berengar of Friuli, were permitted to wear the diadem of the Caesars.
As the idea of political unity declined, that of the unity of the Church increased in power. The Kingdom of God, which the royal priest, Charlemagne, by his overshadowing personality had, in his own opinion, made a fact, proved to be an impossibility. Church and State, which for a short time were united in Charlemagne, had, as early as the reign of Louis the Pious, become separated. The Kingdom of God was now identified with the Church. Pope Nicholas I asserted that the head of the one and indivisible Church could not be subordinate to any secular power, that only the pope could rule the Church, that it was obligatory on princes to obey the pope in spiritual things, and finally that the Carlovingians had received their right to rule from the pope. This grand idea of unity, this all-controlling sentiment of a common bond, could not be annihilated even in these troubled times when the papacy was humiliated by petty Italian rulers. The idea of her unity gave the Church the strength to raise herself rapidly to a position higher than that of the State. From the age of St. Boniface the Church in the East Frankish Kingdom had direct relations with Rome, while numerous new churches and monasteries gave her a firm hold in this region. At an early date the Church here controlled the entire religious life and, as the depositary of all culture, the entire intellectual life. She had also gained frequently decisive influence over German economic life, for she disseminated much of the skill and many of the crafts of antiquity. Moreover the Church itself had grown into an economic power in the East Frankish Kingdom. Piety led many to place themselves and their lands under the control of the Church.
There was also in this period a change in social life that was followed by important social consequences. The old militia composed of every freeman capable of bearing arms went to pieces, because the freemen constantly decreased in number. In its stead there arose a higher order in the State, which alone was called on for military service. In this chaotic era the German people made no important advance in civilization. Nevertheless the union that had been formed between Roman and German elements and Christianity prepared the way for a development of the East Frankish Kingdom in civilization from which great results might be expected. At the close of the Carlovingian period the external position of the kingdom was a very precarious one. The piratic Northmen boldly advanced far into the empire; Danes and Slavs continually crossed its borders; but the most dangerous incursions were those of the Magyars, who in 907 brought terrible suffering upon Bavaria; in their marauding expeditions they also ravaged Saxony, Thuringia, and Swabia. It was then that salvation came from the empire itself. The weak authority of the last of the Carlovingians, Louis the Child, an infant in years, fell to pieces altogether, and the old ducal form of government revived in the several tribes. This was in accordance with the desires of the people. In these critical times the dukes sought to save the country; still they saw clearly that only a union of all the duchies could successfully ward off the danger from without; the royal power was to find its entire support in the laity. Once more, it is true, the attempt was made by King Conrad I (911-18) to make the Church the basis of the royal power, but the centralizing clerical policy of the king was successfully resisted by the subordinate powers. Henry I (919-36) was the free choice of the lay powers at Fritzlar. On the day he was elected the old theory of the State as the personal estate of the sovereign was finally done away with, and the Frankish realm was transformed into a German one. The manner of his election made plain to Henry the course to be pursued. It was necessary to yield to the wish of the several tribes to have their separate existence with a measure of self-government under the imperial power recognized. Thus the duchies were strengthened at the expense of the Crown. The fame of Henry I was assured by his victory over the Magyars near Merseburg (933). By regaining Lorraine, that had been lost during the reign of Conrad, he secured a bulwark on the side towards France that permitted the uninterrupted consolidation of his realm. The same result was attained on other frontiers by his successful campaigns against the Wends and Bohemians. Henry's kingdom was made up of a confederation of tribes, for the idea of a "King of the Germans" did not yet exist. It was only as the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" that Germany could develop from a union of German tribes to a compact nation. As supporters of the supreme power, as vassals of the emperor, the Germans were united.
This imperial policy was continued by Otto I, the Great (936-73). During his long reign Otto sought to found a strong central power in Germany, an effort at once opposed by the particularistic powers of Germany, who took advantage of disputes in the royal family. Otto proved the necessity of a strong government by his victory over the Magyars near Augsburg (955), one result of which was the reestablishment of the East Mark. After this he was called to Rome by John XII, who had been threatened by Berengarius II of Italy, and by making a treaty that secured to the imperial dignity a share in the election of the pope, he attained the imperial crown, 2 February, 962. It was necessary for Otto to obtain imperial power in order to carry out his politico-ecclesiastical policy. His intention was to make the Church an organic feature of the German constitution. This he could only do if the Church was absolutely under his control, and this could not be attained unless the papacy and Italy were included within the sphere of his power. The emperor's aim was to found his royal power among the Germans, who were strongly inclined to particularism, upon a close union of Church and State. The Germans had now revived the empire and had freed the papacy from its unfortunate entanglement with the nobility of the city of Rome. The papacy rapidly regained strength and quickly renewed the policy of Nicholas I. By safeguarding the unity of the Church of Western Europe the Germans protected both the peaceful development of civilization, which was dependent upon religion, and the progress of culture which the Church spread. Thus the Germans, in union with the Church, founded the civilization of Western Europe. For Germany itself the heroic age of the medieval emperors was a period of progress in learning. The renaissance of antiquity during the era of the Ottos was hardly more than superficial. Nevertheless it denoted a development in learning, throughout ecclesiastical in character, in marked contrast to the tendencies in the same age of the grammarian Wilgard at Ravenna, who sought to revive not only the literature of ancient times, but also the ideas of antiquity, even when they opposed Christian ideas. Germany now boldly assumed the leadership of Western Europe and thus prevented any other power from claiming the supremacy. Moreover the new empire sought to assert its universal character in France, as well as in Burgundy and Italy. Otto also fixed his eyes on Lower Italy, which was in the hands of the Greeks, but he preferred a peaceful policy with Byzantium. He therefore married his son Otto II, in 972, to the Greek Princess Theophano.
Otto II (973-83) and his son Otto III (983-1002) firmly upheld the union with the Church inaugurated by Otto I. Otto II aimed at a great development of his power along the Mediterranean; these plans naturally turned his mind from a national German policy. His campaign against the Saracens, however, came to a disastrous end in Calabria in 982, and he did not long survive the calamity. His romantic son sought to bring about a complete revival of the ancient empire, the centre of which was to be Rome, as in ancient times. There, in union with the pope, he wished to establish the true Kingdom of God. The pope and the emperor were to be the wielders of a power one and indivisible. This idealistic policy, full of vague abstractions, led to severe German losses in the east, for the Poles and Hungarians once more gained their independence. In Italy Arduin of Ivrea founded a new kingdom; naturally enough the Apennine Peninsula revolted against the German imperial policy. Without possession of Italy, however, the empire was impossible, and the blessings of the Ottonian theory of government were now manifest. The Church became the champion of the unity and legitimacy of the empire.
After the death of Otto III and the collapse of imperialism the Church raised Henry II (1002-24) to the throne. Henry, reviving the policy of Otto I which had been abandoned by Otto III, made Germany and the German Church the basis of his imperial system; he intended to rule the Church as Otto I had done. In 1014 he defeated Arduin and thus attained the Imperial crown. The sickly ruler, whose nervousness caused him to take up projects of which he quickly tired, did his best to repair the losses of the empire on its eastern frontier. He was not able, however, to defeat the Polish King Boleslaw II: all he could do was to strengthen the position of the Germans on the Elbe River by an alliance with the Lusici, a Slavonic tribe. Towards the end of his reign a bitter dispute broke out between the emperor and the bishops. At the Synod of Seligenstadt, in 1023, Archbishop Aribo of Mainz, who was an opponent of the Reform of Cluny, made an appeal to the pope without the permission of the bishop. This ecclesiastical policy of Aribo's would have led in the end to the founding of a national German Church independent of Rome. The greater part of the clergy supported Aribo, but the emperor held to the party of reform. Henry, however, did not live to see the quarrel settled.
With Conrad II (1024-39) began the sway of the Franconian (Salian) emperors. The sovereigns of this line were vigorous, vehement, and autocratic rulers. Conrad had natural political ability and his reign is the most flourishing era of medieval imperialism. The international position of the empire was excellent. In Italy Conrad strengthened the German power, and his relations with King Canute of Denmark were friendly. Internal disputes kept the Kingdom of Poland from becoming dangerous; moreover, by regaining Lusatia the Germans recovered the old preponderance against the Poles. Important gains were also made in Burgundy, whereby the old Romanic states, France and Italy, were for a long time separated and the great passes of the Alps controlled by the Germans. The close connexion with the empire enabled the German population of north-western Burgundy to preserve its nationality. Conrad had also kept up the close union of the State with the Church and had maintained his authority over the latter. He claimed for himself the same right of ruling the Church that his predecessors had exercised, and like them appointed bishops and abbots; he also reserved to himself the entire control of the property of the Church. Conrad's ecclesiastical policy, however, lacked definiteness; he failed to understand the most important interests of the Church, nor did he grasp the necessity of reform. Neither did he do anything to raise the papacy, discredited by John XIX and Benedict IX, from its dependence on the civil rulers of Rome. The aim of his financial policy was economic emancipation from the Church; royal financial officials took their place alongside of the ministeriales, or financial agents, of the bishops and monasteries. Conrad sought to rest his kingdom in Germany on these royal officials and on the petty vassals. In this way the laity was to be the guarantee of the emperor's independence of the episcopate. As he pursued the same methods in Italy, he was able to maintain an independent position between the bishops and the petty Italian despots who were at strife with one another. Thus the ecclesiastical influence in Conrad's theory of government becomes less prominent.
This statesmanlike sovereign was followed by his son, the youthful Henry III (1039-56). Unlike his father Henry had a good education; he had also been trained from an early age in State affairs. He was a born ruler and allowed himself to be influenced by no one; to force of character and courage he added a strong sense of duty. His foreign policy was at first successful. He established the suzerainty of the empire over Hungary, without, however, being always able to maintain it; Bohemia also remained a dependent state. The empire gained a dominant position in Western Europe, and a sense of national pride was awakened in the Germans that opened the way for a national spirit. But the aim of these national aspirations, the hegemony in Western Europe, was a mere phantom. Each time an emperor went to Italy to be crowned that country had to be reconquered. Even at this very time the imperial supremacy was in great danger from the threatened conflict between the imperial and the sacerdotal power, between Church and State. The Church, the only guide on earth to salvation, had attained dominion over mankind, whom it strove to wean from the earthly and to lead to the spiritual. The glaring contrast between the ideal and the reality awoke in thousands the desire to leave the world. A spirit of asceticism, which first appeared in France, took possession of many hearts. As early as the era of the first Saxon emperors the attempt was made to introduce the reform movement of Cluny into Germany, and in the reign of Henry III this reform had become powerful. Henry himself laid much more stress than his predecessors on the ecclesiastical side of his royal position. His religious views led him to side with the men of Cluny. The great mistake of his ecclesiastical policy was the belief that it was possible to promote this reform of the Church by laying stress on his suzerain authority. He repeatedly called and presided over synods and issued many decisions in Church affairs. His fundamental mistake, the thought that he could transform the Church in the manner desired by the party of reform and at the same time maintain his dominion over it, was also evident in his relations with the papacy. He sought to put an end to the disorder at Rome, caused by the unfortunate schism, by the energetic measure of deposing the three contending popes and raising Clement II to the Apostolic See. Clement crowned him emperor and made him Patrician of Rome. Thus Henry seemed to have regained the same control over the Church that Otto had exercised. But the papacy, purified by the elevated conceptions of the party of reform and freed by Henry from the influence of the degenerate Roman aristocracy, strove to be absolutely independent. The Church was now to be released from all human bonds. The chief aims of the papal policy were the celibacy of the clergy, the presentation of ecclesiastical offices by the Church alone, and the attainment by these means of as great a centralization as possible. Henry had acted with absolute honesty in raising the papacy, but he did not intend that it should outgrow his control. Sincerely pious, he was convinced of the possibility and necessity of complete accord between empire and papacy. His fanciful policy became an unpractical idealism. Consequently the monarchical power began rapidly to decline in strength. Hungary regained freedom, the southern part of Italy was held by the Normans, and the Duchy of Lorraine, already long a source of trouble, maintained its hostility to the king. By the close of the reign of Henry III discontent was universal in the empire, thus permitting a growth of the particularistic powers, especially of the dukes.
When Henry III died Germany had reached a turning-point in its history. His wife Agnes assumed the regency for their four-year-old son, Henry IV (1056-1106), and at once showed her incompetence for the position by granting the great duchies to opponents of the crown. She also sought the support of the lesser nobility and thus excited the hatred of the great princes. A conspiracy of the more powerful nobles, led by Archbishop Anno (Hanno) of Cologne, obtained possession of the royal child by a stratagem at Kaiserswert and took control of the imperial power. Henry IV, however, preferred the guidance of Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, who was able for the moment to give the governmental policy a more national character. Thus in 1063 he restored German influence over Hungary, and the aim of his internal policy was to strengthen the central power. At the Diet of Tribur, 1066, however, he was overthrown by the particularists, but the king by now was able to assume control for himself. In the meantime the papacy had been rapidly advancing towards absolute independence. The Curia now extended the meaning of simony to the granting of an ecclesiastical office by a layman and thus demanded an entire change in the conditions of the empire and placed itself in opposition to the imperial power. The ordinances passed in 1059 for the regulation of the papal elections excluded all imperial rights in the same. Conditions in Italy grew continually more unfavourable for the empire. The chief supporters of the papal policy were the Normans, over whom the pope claimed feudal suzerainty. The German bishops also yielded more and more to the authority of Rome; the Ottonian theory of government was already undermined. The question was now raised: In the Kingdom of God on earth who is to rule, the emperor or the pope? In Rome this question had long been settled. The powerful opponent of Henry, Gregory VII, claimed that the princes should acknowledge the supremacy of the Kingdom of God, and that the laws of God should be everywhere obeyed and carried out. The struggle which now broke out was in principle a conflict concerning the respective rights of the empire and the papacy. But the conflict soon shifted from the spiritual to the secular domain; at last it became a conflict for the possession of Italy, and during the struggle the spiritual and the secular were often confounded. Henry was not a match for the genius of Gregory. He was courageous and intelligent and, though of a passionate nature, fought with dogged obstinacy for the rights of his monarchical power. But Gregory as the representative of the reform movement in the Church, demanding complete liberty for the Church, was too powerful for him. Aided by the inferior nobility, Henry sought to make himself absolute. The particularistic powers, however, insisted upon the maintenance of the constitutional limits of the monarchy. The revolt of the Saxons against the royal authority was led both by spiritual and secular princes, and it was not until after many humiliations that Henry was able to conquer them in the battle on the Unstrut (1075). Directly after this began his conflict with the papacy. The occasion was the appointment of an Archbishop of Milan by the emperor without regard to the election already held by the ecclesiastical party. Gregory VII at once sent a threatening letter to Henry. Angry at this, Henry had the deposition of the pope declared at the Synod of Worms, 24 January, 1076. Gregory now felt himself released from all restraint and excommunicated the emperor. On 16 October, 1076, the German princes decided that the pope should pronounce judgment on the king and that unless Henry were released from excommunication within a year and a day he should lose his crown. Henry now sought to break the alliance between the particularists and the pope by a clever stroke. The German princes he could not win back to his cause, but he might gain over the pope. By a penitential pilgrimage he forced the pope to grant him absolution. Henry appealed to the priest, and Gregory showed his greatness. He released the king from the ban, although by so doing he injured his own interests, which required that he should keep his agreement to act in union with the German princes.
Thus the day of Canossa (2 and 3 February, 1077) was a victory for Henry. It did not, however, mean the coming of peace, for the German confederates of the pope did not recognize the reconciliation at Canossa, and elected Duke Rudolf of Swabia as king at Forchheim, 13 March, 1077. A civil war now broke out in Germany. After long hesitation Gregory finally took the side of Rudolf and once more excommunicated Henry. Soon after this however, Rudolf lost both throne and life in the battle of Hohenmoelsen not far from Merseburg. Henry now abandoned his policy of absolutism, recognizing its impracticability. He returned to the Ottonian theory of government, and the German episcopate, which was embittered by the severity of the ecclesiastical administration of Rome, now came over to the side of the king. Relying upon this strife within the Church, Henry caused Gregory to be deposed by a synod held at Brixen and Guibert of Ravenna to be elected pope as Clement III. Accompanied by this pope, he went to Rome and was crowned emperor there in 1084. Love for the rights of the Church drove the great Gregory into exile where he soon after died. After the death of his mighty opponent Henry was more powerful than the particularists who had elected a new rival king, Herman of Luxembourg. In 1090 Henry went again to Italy to defend his rights against the two powerful allies of the papacy, the Normans in the south and the Countess Matilda of Tuscany in the north. While he was in Italy his own son Conrad declared himself king in opposition to him. Overwhelmed by this blow, Henry remained inactive in Italy, and it was not until 1097 that he returned to Germany. No reconciliation had been effected between him and Pope Urban II. In Germany Henry sought to restore internal peace, and this popular policy intensified the particularism of the princes. In union with these the king's son, young Henry, rebelled against his father. The pope supported the revolt, and the emperor was unable to cope with so many opponents. In 1105 he abdicated. After this he once more asserted his rights, but death soon closed (1106) this troubled life filled with so many thrilling and tragic events. To Henry should be ascribed the credit of saving the monarchy from the threatened collapse. He has been called the most brilliant representative of the German laity in the early Middle Ages. During his reign began the development, so fruitful in results, of the German cities.
Henry V (1106-25) also adopted the policy of the Ottos. In the numerous discussions of the right of investiture men of sober judgment insisted, as did the emperor, that the latter could not give up the right of the investiture of his vassal bishops with the regalia, that a distinction must be made between the spiritual and secular power of the bishops. The pope now made the strange proposal that the emperor should give up the investiture and the pope the regalia. This proposal to strip the Church of secular power would have led to a revolution in Germany. Not only would the bishops have been unwilling to give up their position as ruling princes, but many nobles, as well as vassals of the Church, would have rebelled. The storm of dissatisfaction which in 1111 broke out in Rome obliged the pope to annul the prohibition of investiture. It was soon seen to be impossible to carry out the permission so granted, and the conflict regarding investitures began again. The ecclesiastical party was again joined by the German princes antagonistic to the emperor, and the imperial forces soon suffered defeats on the Rhine and in Saxony. Consequently the papal party gained ground again in Germany, and the majority of the bishops fell away from Henry. Notwithstanding this he went, in 1116, to Italy to claim the imperial feudal estates of the Countess Matilda, who had died, and to confiscate her freehold property. This action naturally made more difficult the relations between pope and emperor, and in spite of the universal weariness the conflict began anew. The influence of the German secular princes had now to be reckoned with, for at this time certain families of the secular nobility commenced to claim hereditary power and appeared as hereditary dynasties with distinct family names and residences. It was in the age of the Franconian emperors that the dynastic families of the German principalities were founded. These princes acted as an independent power in settling the disagreement between emperor and pope. Callistus II was ready for peace; in 1122 an agreement was reached and the concordat was proclaimed at the Synod of Worms. In this the pope agreed that in Germany the election of bishops should take place according to canonical procedure in the presence of the king or his representative, and that the bishop-elect should then be invested by the king with the sceptre as a symbol of the regalia. In Germany this investiture was to precede the ecclesiastical consecration, in Italy and Burgundy it was to follow it. The emperor therefore retained all his influence in the appointment to vacant dioceses, and as secular princes the bishops were responsible to him. Not withstanding this the Concordat of Worms was a defeat for the imperial claims, for the papacy that had been hitherto a subordinate power had now become a power of at least equal rank. It was now entirely free from the control of the German Crown and held an independent position, deriving its dignity wholly from God. The emperor, on the contrary, received his dignity from the papacy. The talented, but intriguing and deceitful, king had greatly strengthened the anti-imperial tendency in all Western Europe. During the great investiture conflict the other kings had freed themselves completely from the suzerainty of the emperor. The pope was the guarantee of their independence, and he had become the representative of the whole of Christendom, while the imperial dignity had lost the attribute of universality. The way was now open to the pope to become the umpire over kings and nations. There was now a truce in the conflict between pope and emperor. Only a minor question had been settled, but the conflict had awakened the intellects of men, and on both sides a voluminous controversial literature appeared. The assertion was now made that the Christian conception of the papacy was not realized by existing conditions. There were also other manifestations of independent thought. The Crusades opened a new world of ideas; historical writing made rapid progress, and art ventured upon new forms in architecture. Commerce and travel increased through the active intercourse with Italy, a state of affairs beneficial to the growth of the cities. Germany grew in civilization although it did not reach the same level of culture which Italy and France had then attained.
Henry V died childless, and his nephew, Duke Frederick of Swabia, the representative of the most powerful ruling family in the empire, hoped to be his successor. The clergy, led by Archbishop Adalbert of Mainz, however, feared that Frederick would continue the ecclesiastical policy of the Franconian emperors, and they succeeded in defeating him as a candidate. At Mainz the majority of the princes voted for Lothair of Supplinburg (1125-37); thus the electors disregarded any hereditary right to the throne. The Hohenstaufen brothers, Frederick and Conrad, did not yield the crown to Lothair without a struggle. The Hohenstaufen family was in possession of the crownlands belonging to the inheritance of the Franconian emperors, and a long struggle ensued over these territories. Lothair's suzerainty was for a while in a very critical position; the Hohenstaufen power increased to such an extent that in 1127 its abettors ventured to proclaim Conrad king. In the end, however, Lothair conquered. A courageous man, but one somewhat inclined to hasty action, he was able to maintain the claims of the empire against Bohemia, Poland, and Denmark. As a statesman, however, Conrad was less aggressive. He allowed the schism of 1130, when Innocent II and Anacletus Il contended for the Holy See, to pass by without turning the temporal weakness of the papacy to the benefit of the empire. After a delay Lothair finally recognized Innocent as pope and brought him to Rome. Here Lothir was crowned emperor in 1133; but the Curia did not agree to his demand for the restoration of the old right of investiture. However, he received the domains of the Countess Matilda as a fief from the pope and thus laid the foundation of the strong position of the house of Welf (Guelph) in Central Europe. In the meantime the two Hohenstaufen brothers were defeated, and Lothair was now able (1136), without fear of an uprising in Germany, to go to Rome for a second time. The object of this further campaign in Italy was to defeat King Roger of Sicily, the protector of the antipope, but the success of the imperial army was only temporary. Differences of opinion as to imperial and papal rights in lower Italy and Sicily endangered at times the good understanding between the two great powers. The emperor grew ill and died on the way home, and after his death the vigorous Roger united all lower Italy, with the exception of Benevento, into a kingdom that held an unrivalled position in Europe for its brilliant and strangely mixed culture. In the struggle between the papacy and the empire this Sicilian kingdom was before long to take an important part.
The political policy of the Church was directed by its distrust of the aims of the Saxon dynasty in lower Italy; consequently by a bold stroke it brought about the election of Conrad III (1138-52), the Hohenstaufen Duke of Franconia, passing over Duke Henry the Proud, ruler of Saxony and Bavaria, and a descendant of Duke Welf (Guelph). The new king demanded from Henry the surrender of the Saxon duchy. Although after a long struggle the double Duchy of Bavaria-Saxony was dissolved, yet the Saxon duchy that was given by the treaty of 1142 to young Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud, continued a menace to the Hohenstaufen rule. Conrad was not able to put an end to the disorders in his realm, and the respect felt for the empire on the eastern frontier declined; neither was he able to assert his power in Italy. Yet all these troubles did not prevent his yielding to the fiery eloquence of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and joining the Second Crusade. This crusade, the success of which had been promised by St. Bernard and the pope, failed completely. When Conrad returned home, broken in spirit, he was confronted by the danger of a formidable rising of the Welfs. In 1152 he died. During his reign the intellectual results of the Crusades began to show themselves. Men's imaginations had been stimulated and led them away from traditional medieval sentiment. The world was seized by a romantic impulse and the conception of the Crusades, developed first among the Romanic nations, gave a Romanic colouring to the civilization and morals of the age. For a long time German knighthood, in particular, was characterized by Romanic ideas and manners.
When the new king, Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-90), ascended the throne his German kingdom seemed on the verge of disintegration, and he sought to strengthen his power by a journey through all parts of his realms. Contrary to the policy pursued by his predecessor, he exerted himself to settle the strife between the Welf (Guelph) and Hohenstaufen parties. He wanted to strengthen the Welf power to such extent as to make it evident that this party's interests coincided with those of the Crown. Besides, Saxony, Henry the Lion received also the Duchy of Bavaria which had been taken from his father Henry the Proud. As secular protector of the Church, Frederick came to an agreement with the pope in regard to the latter's adversaries, the citizens of Rome and King Roger of Sicily. The imperial policy of Frederick was one of vast schemes which he could only carry out when he had a firm footing in Italy. But in Italy the city republics had arisen, and these had entirely cast off his suzerainty. Not realizing the power of resistance of the free communities, Frederick wanted to force the cities to recognize the supremacy of the empire. In case the pope should interfere in the dispute, Frederick was resolved not to permit his intervention in secular affairs. Frederick was filled with an ideal conception of his position as emperor. He believed that the Germans were destined in the history of the world to exercise universal rule. It was this idea, however, that exasperated the Italians and aroused their hatred. Frederick could only carry out this universal policy if Italy were his, and the question of its possession led to renewed struggles between Church and State. When Frederick went to Rome to be crowned emperor in 1155, most of the Italian cities paid their homage to him. On his return home Bavaria was restored in fief to Henry the Lion, the East Mark (later Austria) being first detached from the duchy. This led in the course of time to a development of the mark that proved of great importance for the future history of the empire. Frederick's policy was, in the main, not to interfere with the rights of the German princes as long as they obeyed the laws of the empire. The spiritual princes he attached closely to himself. The most powerful bishops of this period, Rainald of Cologne, Christian of Mainz, and Wichmann of Magdeburg, supported the imperial party. The majority of the bishops looked upon Frederick as a protection against the encroachments of Rome and of the secular rulers. The emperor sought, by strengthening his dynastic power, to make himself independent of both the ecclesiastical and temporal princes; to carry out this policy he depended on his inferior civil officials (Ministerialen), who were still serfs, and from whom was hereafter to come the important military nobility. Thus Frederick prepared the way for the flourishing period of chivalry, which was to give its signature to the time now at hand. A romantic, knightly culture arose; poetry flourished; yet the love lyrics of the age often expounded unhealthy views of morals and marriage. Nevertheless, the movement did not penetrate very deep, and the common people remained uncorrupted. Moreover, poetry was not wasted on artificial love songs; Wolfram von Eschenbach had the courage to attempt great problems; Walther von der Vogelweide was the herald of German imperialism. Art undertook to solve great questions, and began to draw its themes from life. Scientific learning, however, had not made equal progress; the time of apprenticeship was not yet passed, while in France and Italy Scholasticism had already shown itself creative. In 1158 Frederick made a second campaign in Italy that closed with the sack of Milan, the subjugation of Italy, and the flight of Pope Alexander III to France. When, however, the rest of Europe sided with the lawful pope, the defeat of the emperor was assured, for the papacy, when supported by all other countries, could not be coerced by Frederick. The emperor's third campaign in Italy (1162-64) ended in the failure of his lower Italian policy, and the outbreak of the plague destroyed the more promising prospects of the fourth expedition. In the fifth campaign (1174) occurred the memorable defeat near Legnano which opened the eyes of the emperor to the necessity of a treaty of peace. In 1177 he made peace with the pope at Venice, and recognized Alexander III, whom he had so obstinately opposed. The papacy had victoriously defended its equality with the empire. In Germany Frederick was obliged to take steps against the violent proceedings of Henry the Lion. The insubordinate Guelph was deposed and his fiefs divided, Bavaria being given to Otto of Wittelsbach. By the repeated allotment of these lands Frederick in reality helped to break up the empire, and when in 1184 he betrothed his son Henry to Constance, the heiress of the Norman kingdom, he prepared the way for new complications. Frederick took part in the Third Crusade in order that the highest power of Christendom might actively fight against the infidel. He was drowned in Asia Minor, 10 June, 1190; and was, at his death, a popular hero. He had greatly strengthened the feeling of the Germans that they were one great people, though a really national empire was at the time quite out of the question; the achievement of unity was prevented by the international character of intellectual, and partly of social, life.
Frederick's son, Henry VI (1190-97), meant to establish a world power along the Mediterranean. His schemes were opposed by a Saxon-Guelphic combination headed by Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, and also by the German princes, who strove to hinder the increase of the royal power aimed at by Henry. The capture of Richard in 1192 dissolved the league of princes and led to peace with the House of Guelph. In 1194 Henry succeeded in conquering Sicily, and it now seemed as though his imperialistic schemes would gain the day; nevertheless they failed owing to the opposition of the German princes and the pope. When Henry died in 1197 the countries of Western Europe had already taken a stand against the all-embracing schemes of the German emperor. Germany was threatened by the horrors of a civil war. All the anti-national forces were active.
Instead of the crown going to Frederick, son of Henry, who was at Naples, Archbishop Adolph of Cologne sought, by means of the electoral rights of the princes, to obtain it for the son of Henry the Lion, Otto IV (1198-1215). But the Hohenstaufen party anticipated this scheme by securing the election of the popular Duke Philip of Swabia (1198-1208). For the first time the question now arose, which of the princes have the right to vote? The number of electors had not, so far, been defined, yet as early as the election of Lothair and Conrad only the princes had voted, and the right of the Archbishops of Mainz to preside at the election was clearly admitted. Not much later the opinion prevailed that only six ruling princes were entitled to act as electors: the three Rhenish Archbishops, the Rhenish Palsgrave, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg; to these was added in the course of time the King of Bohemia. The "Sachsenspiegel" (compilation of Saxon law, c. 1230) caused this view to prevail. At the time of the double election of Otto and Philip the policy pursued by the German princes was a purely selfish one. The energetic Innocent III, who was then pope, claimed the right of deciding the dispute and adjudged the crown to Otto. Thus the latter for a time gained the advantage over Philip. In this conflict the German princes changed sides whenever it seemed to their interest. Archbishop Adolph of Cologne, who had carried the election of Otto, finally fell away from him. Philip gained in authority, and after the successful battle near Wassenberg in 1206 he would have overcome Otto and his ally the papacy, had he not been murdered at Bamberg in 1208 by Otto of Wittelsbach.
Otto IV was now universally acknowledged king. He had promised the pope to give up his claim to the domains of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany and to grant the free election of bishops. But when at Rome he refused to carry out these promises. However, the pope, though displeased, crowned him emperor in 1209. But when Otto after this wished to revive the imperial claims to Naples, the pope excommunicated him (1210).
In the meantime the supreme position of the empire had become so important a matter that foreign princes meddled in German politics. The great conflict between Philip II Augustus of France and John of England was reflected in the contest between the Guelphs and the Hohenstaufens in Germany. Protected by the French and the pope, Frederick II (1212-50) came to Germany and was crowned at Mainz. The coalition of the English and the Guelphs was broken by the French at the battle of Bouvines (1214), yet Otto kept up the struggle for his rights until his death in 1218. The long conflict had greatly impaired the strength of the Hohenstaufen line; both the imperial and the Hohenstaufen domains had been squandered, and the German princes had become conscious of their power. Like his father, Frederick II made Italy the centre of his policy; but at the same time he intended to keep the control of Germany in his own hands, as the imperial power was connected with this country and he must draw the soldiers needed for his Italian projects from Germany. In order to maintain peace in Germany and to secure the aid of the German princes for his Italian policy Frederick made great concessions to the ecclesiastical princes in the "Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis" (1220) and to the secular princes in the "Statutum in favorem principum" (1232). These two laws became the basis of an aristocratic constitution for the German Empire. They both contained a large number of separate ordinances, which taken together might serve as a secure basis for the future sovereignty of the local princes. In these statutes the expression landesherr (lord of the land) occurs for the first time. In this era Germany was cut up into a large number of territorial sovereignties, consisting of the ecclesiastical territories, the duchies, which, however, were no longer tribal duchies, the margravates, among which the North Mark ruled by Albert the Bear was one of the most important, the palatinates, the countships, and the independent domains of those who had risen from landed proprietors to landed sovereigns. In addition to these were the districts ruled directly by the king through imperial wardens. What Frederick sought to get by favouring the princes he obtained. He had no real interest in Germany, which was at first ruled by the energetic Engelbert, Archbishop of Cologne; after 1220 he visited it only once. It was to him an appendage of Sicily. Frederick's Italian policy threatened the papacy, and he strove by concessions to avert a conflict with the pope. The highly talented, almost learned, emperor was far in advance of his age; an autocratic ruler, he created in lower Italy the first modern state; but by his care for Italy he overstrained the resources of the empire. This brought advantages to the neighbouring Kingdoms of France, and England, now long independent powers, as well as to Hungary, Poland, and the Scandinavian countries. The conflict between the sacerdotal power and the empire had aided the independent development of the states of Western Europe. The possession of Italy and the vow to go on a crusade regulated Frederick's relations with the Curia. In 1212 he was crowned emperor. Repeatedly urged to undertake the promised crusade, and finally excommunicated because he failed to do so, the emperor obtained successes in the East in 1227-29, contrary to the wishes of the pope. The silent acknowledgment of these successes by the Curia was a victory for Frederick. A rebellion headed by his son Henry was quickly crushed, but the confederates of Henry, the Lombards, assumed a threatening attitude. The emperor was able to bring order out of the confusion in Germany by the policy of yielding to the princes. About the same time began Frederick's struggle with the Lombards and Pope Gregory IX (1227-41). The German princes loyally upheld the emperor, consequently, upon the pope's death, the victory seemed to belong to the imperial party. Innocent IV (1243-54), however, renewed the struggle and from Lyons excommunicated the emperor, whose position now became a serious one. In Germany his son Conrad was obliged to contend with the pretenders, Heinrich Raspe of Thuringia and William of Holland. In Italy, though, conditions seemed favourable, but just at this juncture Frederick died (13 December, 1250), and with his death ended the struggle for the world sovereignty.
The year 1250 marks an era of extraordinary change in Germany. The romance of chivalry passed away, and new forces directed the life of the nation. On account of the extraordinary economic changes the population rapidly increased; the majority of the people were peasants, and this class was rising, but compared with nobles and ecclesiastics the peasants had no weight politically. The important factor of the new era was the municipality, and its development was the beginning of a purely German policy. The glamour of the imperial idea had vanished, men now took their stand on facts and realities. Education found its way among laymen, and it developed with trade. New markets were opened for commerce. The new commercial settlements received "city charters" under the royal cross. The merchants in these settlements needed craftsmen, and these latter from the twelfth century formed themselves into guilds, thus making a new political unit. Councils elected by the cities strove to set aside the former lords of the cities, especially the bishops on the Rhine. In vain the Hohenstaufen rulers supported the bishops against the independence of the towns, but the government in the cities could no longer be put down. In order to protect their rights some of the cities formed alliances, such as the confederation of the Rhenish towns, that was formed as early as the period of the Great Interregnum in order to guard the public peace. These confederations promised to become dangerous opponents of the territorial lords, but such alliances did not become general and, divided among themselves without mutual support, the smaller confederations of towns succumbed to the united princely power. The growth of the towns brought about the ruin of the system of trade by barter or in kind; the rise of the capitalistic system of commerce at once affected German views of life. Up to this time almost wholly absorbed in the supernatural, henceforth the Germans took more interest in worldly things. Unconditional renunciation of the world came to an end, and men grew more matter-of-fact and practical. This change in the German way of thinking was aided by the opposition that sprang up in the towns between the citizens and the former lords of the territory, often the bishops and their clergy. Here and there the influence of the city on the views of the clergy manifested itself. The Dominicans and Franciscans, at least, taught their doctrines in language quite intelligible to the people. The rise of the cities was also of importance in the social life of the day, for the principle, "City air gives freedom" (Stadtluft macht frei), created an entirely new class of freemen.
Under the last of the Hohenstaufens the beginnings of a national culture began to appear. Latin had fallen into disuse, and German become the prevailing written language. For the first time Germany felt that she was a nation. This soon brought many Germans into opposition to the Church. In the conflict between the papacy and the empire the former often seemed the opponent of nationalism, and bitterness was felt, not against the idea of the Church, but against its representative. The Germans still remained deeply religious, as was made evident by the German mystics.
The most valuable result of this strengthening of the national feeling was the conquest of what is now the eastern part of the present German Empire. Henry I had sought to attain this end, but it was not until the thirteenth century that it was accomplished, largely by the energy of the Teutonic Order. The Marks of Brandenburg, Pomerania, Prussia, and Silesia were colonized by Germans in a manner that challenges admiration, and German influence advanced as far as the Gulf of Finland. The centres of German civilization in these districts were the Premonstratensian and Cistercian monasteries. This extraordinary success was won by Germans in an era when the imperial government seemed ready to go to pieces. It was the period of the Great Interregnum (1256-73). We find traces of internal chaos as early as the reign of Frederick's son, Conrad IV (1250-54), and the confusion grew worse in the reign of William of Holland, and after him during the nominal reigns of Richard of Cornwall and Alfonso of Castile. At the same time Bohemia rapidly advanced in power under Ottocar II and became a dangerous element for the domestic and foreign policy of Germany. It was Pope Gregory X who restored order in Germany. To carry out his projects in the Holy Land peace must be secured in Western Europe. He therefore commissioned the electoral princes, who now appear for the first time, to elect a new king. In 1273 the princes chose Rudolf of Hapsburg (1273-91), a man of no great family resources. Meantime the imperial power had fallen into decay; the imperial estates had been squandered; there were no imperial taxes; and the old method of obtaining soldiers for the service of the empire had broken down. Rudolf saw how necessary the possession of crown-lands was for the imperial authority, his aim being to create a dynastic force. Ottocar II, King of Bohemia, sought to induce the Curia to object to the election of Rudolf, but the Curia had quickly come to terms with Rudolf concerning conditions in Italy. After his election he demanded from Ottocar the return of the imperial fiefs, and the refusal of the latter led to a war (1276) in which, on the plain called the Marchfeld, Ottocar lost both life and crown. This victory gave Rudolf secure possession of the Austrian provinces. As the German king was not permitted to retain vacant fiefs, he evaded this law by granting Austria, Styria, Carniola, and Lusatia in fief to his sons Albert and Rudolf; in this way the power of the family was greatly increased. Not even Rudolf thought of strengthening the kingly power by constitutional means. He decided to protect the public peace but did not entirely succeed in this. His policy was always influenced by the circumstances of the moment: at one time he favoured the princes, at another the cities; consequently he was never more than half successful. His only great achievement was that he secured for his family a position in Eastern Europe that was destined to give it importance in the future.
Rudolf's successor was Adolf of Nassau (1292-98), not his son Albert, as he had desired. The policy of the new sovereign was to weaken Austria, his natural opponent. Like Rudolf he recognized the necessity of obtaining possessions for his family, for which he tried to lay a foundation in Thuringia. Adolf's success against Frederick the Degenerate of Thuringia caused the electoral princes to incline to Albert. In a battle near Goellheim, fought between Albert and Adolf, Albert, aided by Adolf's numerous enemies, defeated the king, who was killed.
Albert I of Austria, a very able but morose man (1298-1308), was filled with a boundless ambition for power. Without regard for the rights of others, he enforced the recognition of his own rights in his duchy. He desired to preserve the public peace in Germany and opposed the cruel persecution of the Jews customary at this time. He also wished to reorganize the imperial lands, which were to be regained in such a way as to provide a connecting link between the territories of the Hapsburgs in the east and those in the west. If his lands were thus united he would be a match for the strongest of the territorial princes; but the latter opposed this scheme. Albert also roused the anger of the ecclesiastical electors by combining with King Philip IV of France against Boniface VIII, who had not recognized Albert. Boniface now declared his intention of summoning Albert before his tribunal for the murder of Adolf. Supported by the cities, Albert contended successfully with the Rhenish electors, but after a while, in order to carry out his plans for the aggrandizement of his family, he came to terms with the pope, and this put an end to the opposition of these electors. The only opponent of his dynastic schemes now to be dreaded was Wenceslaus II of Bohemia; but the Przemysl line soon died out, and Albert at once claimed their lands and gave them to his son Rudolf as a fief. Before he could carry out his designs on Thuringia he was murdered by John of Swabia, called Johannes Parricida. According to legend, the tyranny of his rule in Switzerland led to a great struggle for freedom on the part of the confederated Swiss. The aim pursued by Albert was always the same: by making Austria powerful to force the other sovereign princes to acknowledge his suzerainty and thus to make the crown hereditary in his family. It is, therefore, not a matter of surprise that after his death the electors decided to select a less mighty prince.
Archbishop Baldwin of Trier managed the matter so skillfully that his brother Henry of Luxembourg (Lützelburg) was chosen (1308-13). A man of gentle, amiable character, Henry was full of visionary enthusiasm, but withal he was a man of energy; consequently he was soon very popular. By birth he was in sympathy with the French. German interests concerned him less. Italy had a great fascination for him; he was ambitious to receive the imperial crown, to be the first after a long interregnum. Clement V had recognized him. The Ghibelline party in Italy greeted him with joy. At first he sought to hold a neutral position in the quarrels of the Italian parties, but this proved to be impossible. The Guelphs, led by King Robert of Naples, began to oppose him. When Henry thereupon wished to attack Naples, the old conflict with the Church again broke out, but death suddenly ended his imperial dreams. Henry's only successful act was the marriage of his son John with the heiress of Bohemia, Elizabeth, the sister of Wenceslaus III; for Germany his reign proved of no advantage. The election of his son John to succeed him was impossible, and the Luxembourg party chose Louis the Bavarian (1314-47) in opposition to Frederick the Fair (1314-30). There was a double election, each of the candidates being elected by one party, and a civil war broke out, confined, however, mainly to the partisans of the two Houses of Wittelsbach and Hapsburg. The struggle was ended by the capture of Frederick at the battle of Mühldorf (1322); after this Louis was universally recognized.
While this conflict was going on the old strife between Church and State again broke out. At the time of the double election John XXII claimed the rights of an administrator of the country. He asserted that no king chosen by the electors could exercise authority before the pope had given his approval. This over-straining of the papal claims roused a dissatisfaction which continually grew and to which were already added complaints of the worldliness of the Church. The Minorites placed at the disposal of the king eloquent preachers to denounce the worldliness of the papacy, which had rejected as heretical the Franciscan teaching concerning the poverty of Christ and the Apostles. In 1324 Louis was excommunicated because he had not obeyed the papal command to lay down his authority. To this Louis made a sharp reply in the proclamation of Sachsenhausen, in which he denied the claims of the pope and at the same time defended the teaching concerning poverty upheld by the Franciscans. In the conflict with the pope, who supported the candidature of Charles IV of France for the imperial throne, the German cities and the German episcopate, the latter led by Baldwin of Trier, were virtually a unit on the side of Louis. Even the death of Frederick the Fair did not produce a reconciliation with the Curia. It was at this juncture that the writings of the Franciscans, Michael of Cesena and William of Occam began to exert their influence. The spirit of revolution in the Church is shown by the "Defensor Pacis" of Marsilius of Padua, a professor of Paris who went to the Court of Louis the Bavarian. In this the medieval papal ecclesiastical system is attacked. The intellectual ferment enabled Louis to undertake an expedition to Rome. He had been invited to enter Italy by the magnates of northern Italy, especially by the Visconti of Milan and the Scala of Verona. The city of Rome received him with joy, and he was the first German king to receive the imperial crown from the Roman commonwealth which had always regarded itself as the source of all sovereignty. But the fickle populace soon drove him away; the means at his command were too small to carry out the old imperial policy. Again Italy was lost. Notwithstanding the lack of success in Italy, Germany in the main held to Louis, who had been excommunicated again. It was now evident that papal interdicts had largely lost their terrors; the civil communities frequently paid no attention to them, and in some places ecclesiastics were forced, notwithstanding the prohibition, to say Mass. The growth of a worldly spirit in the Church began to undermine respect for it, and Germany was the first country to turn against the ideals of the Middle Ages. Sects opposed to sacerdotalism appeared; mysticism tended to make the soul independent in its progress towards God, without, however, rejecting the sacraments, as was done by some in this era. Yet, unintentionally, mysticism strengthened the tendency to deny the absolute necessity of the intercessory office of the Church. Moreover, mysticism gave a national cast to German religious life, for the intellectual leaders of mysticism, Ekkehard, Suso, and Tauler, wrote and preached in German. The chief strength of this religious movement was among the citizens of the towns. In the conflict between Church and State the cities sided with the emperor, but they were not yet strong enough without assistance to maintain the authority of a German emperor. Consequently, the position taken by the German princes was decisive for Louis. As he meant to carry on a dynastic policy, as his predecessors had done, he soon came into conflict with these princes, and, in order to be stronger than his opponents, he sought to establish friendly relations with the pope. But although Louis could resolve on vigorous action, yet he lacked the necessary persistence. He was not an able man, nor one of much intellectual power. He tried to make a good impression on every one; as a consequence, he failed with all parties. He opened negotiations with the Curia, but the intrigues of Philip VI of France kept the two parties from concluding peace. This led Louis to take the side of Edward III of England at the beginning of the war between the French and English for the succession to the French throne. This stand won more general sympathy for Louis in Germany. The electors were also influenced by public opinion when they declared at Rense in 1338 that a legitimate German emperor could be created only by their votes; a king so chosen needed no papal recognition, and the pope, by crowning the German king, only gave him the imperial title. Louis was also declared to be entirely without blame in the dispute with the Curia. When Edward III appeared before Louis at Coblenz and the latter appointed him imperial vicar for the territories beyond the Rhine, the emperor had reached the zenith of his power. Nevertheless the fickle Louis, because he hoped, through the mediation of the King of France, to be reconciled with the Curia and to secure the support of the latter for his schemes to aggrandize his family, allied himself with the French in 1341. Instead of peace a worse estrangement with the papal court was the result.
With the consent of the emperor, Margaret Maultasch of Tyrol, who had married John of Luxembourg (Lützelburg), had divorced herself without awaiting the papal decision and married the emperor's son, Louis of Brandenburg. The Luxembourg party at once had recourse to Clement VI. Louis was excommunicated in 1346, and Charles IV of Moravia (1347-78) was, with the help of the pope, chosen German king by five of the electors under humiliating conditions. At first Louis had strong support from the German cities, but his unexpected death secured universal recognition for Charles. Henceforth for nearly a hundred years the Luxembourg-Bohemian dynasty held the throne. The king set up by the Wittelsbach party, Guenther of Schwarzburg, could make no headway against the adroit policy of Charles IV. In 1347 Germany was ravaged by the Black Death; the Jews were immediately accused of poisoning the wells, and a frightful persecution followed. In the midst of the confusion the country was traversed by bands of Flagellants, and these "penitents" were often full of hostility to the Church. While in Italy Petrarch and Cola di Rienzi revived the dream of the universal dominion of the Eternal City, Charles IV regarded Italian affairs with the eyes of a political realist. The Italians said that he went to Rome (1355) to secure the imperial crown like a merchant going to a fair. In Germany Charles sought to settle the election to the crown at the Diets of Nuremberg and Metz in 1356, and he issued the Golden Bull, which was the first attempt to put into writing the more important stipulations of the imperial constitution. Above all, the Bull was intended to regulate the election of the king, and defined what princes should have the electoral vote. The electoral college was to consist of the three Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne; the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony (Sachsen-Wittenberg), and the Margrave of Brandenburg; to this number was added later the King of Bohemia. The electors were granted special privileges; besides the royal rights (regalia) and those of taxation and coinage, they received the privilegium de non evocando, that is, their subjects could not be summoned before the court of another jurisdiction, not even before an imperial one. The royal authority was to find in the electors who were scattered throughout the empire a support against the many petty princes. Other articles of the Golden Bull were to guard the rights of the local princes against their vassals and subjects, especially against the cities. Nothing is said of the share of the pope in the election of the king; the one chosen by the majority of the electors was to be the king. Only the coronation as emperor was left to the pope. The Golden Bull remained the most important part of the fundamental law of the Holy Roman Empire.
Learning flourished under the rule of Charles, who was a scholar among his contemporaries. He was surrounded by highly educated men, one of whom was John of Neumarkt, the head of his chancelry. His interest being almost entirely in Bohemia, he showed his care for the advancement of learning chiefly in this country and founded there, 7 April, 1348, the University of Prague. Charles held steadfastly to Catholicism and Christian Scholasticism. But this did not prevent him from carrying on policies independent of the pope. In reorganizing the imperial chancelry he encouraged the use of German in the imperial documents and thus assured the victory of the national tongue over Latin. By this action he gave German learning an independent standing.
Charles also furthered the interests of the empire in various other directions. He did not, indeed, overthrow the power of the princes, which had grown strong during the several hundred years of its existence, but he sought by the maintenance of internal peace to preserve his supreme power. To promote the foreign interests of Germany he desired to liberate the papacy from its connexion with France and to persuade the pope to return from Avignon to Rome. Gregory went back to Rome, but the Babylonian Captivity was to be followed by the Great Schism. In the meantime, Charles had largely increased the territorial possession of his family; the Marks of Brandenburg, Lusatia, and Silesia came into his hands. By marriage he hoped to obtain for his son, and thus for his dynasty, both Hungary and Poland. Thus for a time the House of Luxembourg threatened to crash out the Hapsburgs. In two directions only Charles's adroit agreements and diplomatic skill failed of success. The Swiss Confederation seceded more and more completely from the empire, and the cities by their leagues established for themselves an independent position in the empire. Towards the end of his life he secured the election of his son Wenceslaus as German king.
Wenceslaus (1378-1400) reigned without the confirmation of the defenceless pope of that time. The German crown was no longer dependent on the papacy. Other questions far more important than this were now brought into the foreground by the Great Schism. There was a continually growing clamour, which could not be suppressed, for the reform of the Church in its head and members. The demand for reform had infused new life into the whole conception of the Church, and the leaders of this movement still held to Catholic dogmas. The most difficult task of the new king, and one he did not shirk, was to put an end to the schism. He sided with Rome and supported Urban VI while France, at the head of the Romanic countries, upheld Clement VII. Wenceslaus, however, took no energetic action in ecclesiastical affairs; the internal disorder in Germany did not permit it, for here the confederations of princes, knights, and the cities, struggled with one another. In 1381 the confederation of the Rhenish cities formed a coalition with the league of the Swabian cities and sought with considerable success to obtain the adherence of other Swabian towns and of those of North Germany. Thus strengthened, the cities wished to share in the government of the empire; this desire was opposed by the princes who in military force were superior to the cities. The attempts of the rulers of Austria to overthrow the Swiss confederates failed, but in Germany the army of the Swabian League suffered a crushing defeat in 1388 near Doeffingen. After this Wenceslaus changed his policy and sided with the princes. Confederations of the cities were forbidden. Owing to their lack of union the cities succumbed in this contest for political independence and the territorial princes were the conquerors. The quick-tempered, irascible king sought to strengthen his hold on his hereditary provinces by protecting himself against the other ruling princes, but in this he was not successful. A government by favouritism of the worst kind began which excited the anger of the nobility and the clergy. A dispute with the Archbishop of Prague led to the murder, by the king's command, of the archbishop's vicar-general, John of Pomuk, and this caused open rebellion. In 1394 the nobles with Jost, Margrave of Moravia, as their leader, took the king prisoner; he was soon set free at the instance of the German princes, but his release did not do away with the rule of the nobility in Bohemia. In this era of confusion no attempt was made to oppose the repeated incursions (1388) of Charles VI of France into Germany. Wenceslaus looked on inactively when the French king undertook to carry out a scheme for putting an end to the schism by securing the success of the Avignon pope by a bold stroke; but in 1392 Charles VI became insane, and his plans were brought to nought. The waning influence of the German Empire was everywhere perceptible and called forth universal indignation. The king's lack of capacity for government led the majority of the electors to form a league for the protection of the interests of the country.
Soon after this the three episcopal electors chose Ruprecht, Count Palatine of the Rhine, as King of Germany (1400-10). As only a part of the electors joined in this choice Ruprecht was never more than a pretender, and although he was an ambitious and capable man he never succeeded in uniting the empire. Ruprecht hoped to gain popularity by restoring German influence in northern Italy, and by securing the imperial crown to prove himself the legal sovereign. As Ruprecht had no money, his expedition to Italy was inglorious, and its failure had a bad effect on his position in Germany. Even his final recognition by the pope, who had for a long time held to the Luxembourg dynasty, his faithful supporters, did little to aid Ruprecht's cause, and his throne began to totter. In 1405 Archbishop Johann of Mainz combined the princes against Ruprecht in the League of Marbach which, however, accomplished next to nothing. In the question of the schism Ruprecht supported Boniface IX. As King of the Germans Ruprecht was a failure. During the laxity of government that followed his death the German conquests in the eastern part of the empire were in danger of being lost. A new factor had appeared in history, the Kingdom of Poland.
All this time the confusion in the affairs of the Church had continued to grow worse, and it was now proposed to put an end to the schism by means of a council. The cardinals of the two rival popes called a council at Pisa which deposed Popes Gregory XII and Benedict XIII and elected Alexander V, but Gregory and Benedict could still count on some supporters, and the world thus saw three popes. The greater part of Germany held to the new pope, Alexander V, but the party of the Count Palatine and of the Bishop of Trier held to Gregory. A period of utter confusion and great distress of conscience followed; all the relations of life suffered, the political by no means the least. In Germany the troubles led to a double election; Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary, the brother of Wenceslaus was elected (1410-37), as was also Jost, Margrave of Moravia. Jost withdrew, and Wenceslaus resigned the government to Sigismund, who in 1411 was generally recognized as emperor. The impotence of the last reign convinced the electors, who had chosen Margrave Jost for reasons of Church politics, that a king who had not large territorial power could accomplish nothing. Consequently they dropped their opposition to Sigismund. The latter's life before his election had been a very eventful one. He had married the daughter and heiress of Louis the Great of Hungary, and had been crowned king of that country in 1387. In the war between Hungary and the Turks he had been completely defeated by Sultan Bajazet; after this he had to contend with a dangerous rebellion in Hungary. Sigismund was talented, eloquent, witty, and exceedingly ambitious; he was inclined to visionary schemes, but he honestly desired to relieve the woeful troubles of his time. In his hereditary dominions, to which Hungary was now added, there was great disorder. Yet notwithstanding this he succeeded in bringing together the great councils of Constance and Basle. Ambition led him to attempt to settle the difficulties in which the Church was involved, but he was also impelled by political considerations. He hoped that a council would aid him in suppressing the religious troubles kindled in his hereditary kingdom of Bohemia by John Hus. It was not zeal for the Church, however, which inspired his interest in the council, as is evident from the general bent of his mind. For with all his interest in literature and learning, Sigismund scrupulously avoided involving himself in theological difficulties; moreover he took pleasure in denouncing the faults of the clergy. Nevertheless it was Sigismund's energy that held together the great council at Constance. It was certainly not his fault that many were not satisfied with the result of this and the following council. The forcible interference of the Council of Constance in the religious difficulties of Bohemia and the burning of John Hus were injurious to Sigismund's dynastic interests, and not in accordance with his political schemes. In Bohemia and Moravia the Hussites at once strove to prevent the king from taking possession of these countries; and it, especially in Bohemia, was a violent religious and national outbreak. The king was held directly responsible for the burning of the national hero and saint. Fanatical hordes led by Ziska repeatedly overthrew Sigismund's army in his crusade against the Hussites, and the storm spread over the adjacent provinces of the empire. Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, and Silesia were terribly devastated. The imperial government broke down completely. The selfishness of the cities prevented the reform of the German military system, even after its necessity had been proved by further successes of the Hussites. In 1427 an imperial law for the levying of a war-tax was laid before the Diet at Frankfurt, but it was never carried out.
In addition to the troubles in Bohemia, Sigismund's already insecure position was made more precarious by a fresh invasion of Hungary by the Turks. The only help he received was from Duke Albert V of Austria, his son-in-law and the prospective heir of the great inheritance of the Luxembourg possessions. The jealousy among the German states prevented common action against both foes. Sigismund's chief ambition, after the reunion and reformation of the Church, to unite all the nations of Western Europe in a war against the Turks, became more and more hopeless. The defeat of the Hussites appeared equally impossible, and negotiations were opened with them, peace being finally arranged at Basle. Sigismund induced the pope to weaken in his attitude towards the conciliar theory, and especially to the Council of Basle which was to deal with the Hussite difficulties. To gain his point he had gone to Rome, where he was crowned emperor in 1433. Even in Bohemia where the existing anarchy had been increased by a new religious quarrel, where the moderate Calixtines had obtained a decisive victory over the Taborites under Procopius the Great in 1434, the need of peace grew more and more intense. The year previous to this, 1433, a commission of the Council of Basle had made a number of concessions to the Hussites in the Compact of Basle or of Prague; among these was the granting of the Cup to the laity. On the basis of the Compact a peace was agreed to, which was followed by the recognition (1436) of Sigismund as king in Bohemia. When this was attained Sigismund seemed to lose all concern for the reform of the Church and empire in which before he had shown so keen and active an interest. He can hardly be blamed for the boundless selfishness and jealousy of the princes repeatedly wrecked the work of reform; and the whole responsibility for the scanty gains for the empire achieved during his reign should not be laid on his shoulders. Only two of his measures were to have permanent existence: the transfer of the Mark of Brandenburg to the Hohenzollerns, and the granting of electoral Saxony to the House of Wettin. The great councils passed without bringing the fervently desired reform. Great changes were witnessed in these assemblies. At Basle the pope was regarded simply as a representative of the Church, and the superiority of the council over the pope was openly declared. In 1433 Procopius had been allowed to enter Basle at the head of his heretical followers and to set forth his opinions before the assembled members of the council without molestation. At Basle opinions which were signs of a revolutionary movement in the Church repeatedly appeared. In character this council differed entirely from all earlier ones; the excitement was so great that tumults and brawls occurred. Contrary to the wishes of Rome the council remained at Basle; the fear was that if it were transferred to Italian soil the work of reform would be forgotten. Yet the honest intentions of the majority of the members cannot be doubted. In the end the pope was victorious, and the council was transferred to Ferrara. Some of the members remained at Basle and the spectacle of a conciliar schism was offered to the world.
In this troubled era Albert II (1438-39), Duke of Austria, was chosen emperor. The electors recognized the fact that the centre of gravity of the empire now lay towards the east. Albert, member of the Hapsburg family, had not put himself forward as a candidate, and the electors probably selected him through fear that the important and necessary eastern territories might fall away from the empire. Before he could come to Western Germany Albert, a rough soldier, died during a campaign against the Turks.
The election now went to the head of the Hapsburg family, the inert and indolent Frederick III, who, as King of the Romans, was Frederick IV (1440-93). During his reign the work of reform in the empire fell completely into abeyance. He too was obliged to face the difficulties in the Church. The electors had decided to remain neutral in the dispute between the pope and the Council of Basle, but this neutrality had been broken, inasmuch as the Diet of Mainz in 1439 accepted the reform decree of Basle, with exception of the assertion of the superiority of the council over the pope. Henceforth bishops and abbots were to be elected canonically, but the king had the right to secure the election of suitable persons by negotiation. Papal reservations and annates were abolished. The Council of Basle, however, held firmly to its exaggerated conception of the powers of a council, and its members wished to establish the dogma of conciliar superiority by deposing Pope Eugene IV. In this dispute the electors remained neutral. The reform of the Church was more and more lost sight of by the Council of Basle in its struggle with the pope. Frederick, who was appealed to by both Rome and Basle, at first remained neutral; then he proposed the calling of a new council to reunite divided Christianity. Western Europe gradually turned again to the rightful pope, and the pope elected at Basle, Felix V, received but slight recognition. For a time the German attitude of neutrality was maintained, but after a while Frederick gave the impulse to the universal recognition of Pope Eugene. This was brought about by Aeneas Sylvius, later Pius II, an adroit diplomat who was able to influence the king and the leading princes. An agreement was made with Rome in the Concordat of Vienna (1448) in which the Curia made but trifling concessions, while the question of reform received scant consideration. From now on the Synod of Basle, transferred to Lausanne, had only a shadowy existence. The Curia, although sorely pressed, had once more conquered. The general anxiety to avoid a new schism in the Church had far more to do with the settlement of these ecclesiastical troubles than the interference of Frederick. Moreover Frederick showed his lack of skill in other ways. In 1444 the Swiss at the battle of St. Jakob on the Birs, not far from Basle, by their extraordinary courage defeated his French mercenaries, called Armagnacs, and thus frustrated his schemes for restoring the control of the Hapsburgs over the Swiss League. In spite of the constant disorders in the empire and the frequent wars, Frederick never wavered in his belief in the future greatness of the Hapsburg dynasty. It was this confidence that in 1452 led him to Rome, where he was crowned emperor by the pope, the last German king to be crowned at Rome. Directly afterwards came the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, which obliged the emperor to take up arms for the defence of the eastern frontier of his realm. Yet he could neither maintain peace within the empire nor its most important rights. Luxembourg and the possessions of the Wittelsbach family in the Netherlands fell into the hands of Burgundy, the Poles annexed West Prussia, and the remnant of the Teutonic Order in East Prussia was obliged to recognize the suzerainty of the Polish king. Thus the Germanizing influences that had been at work for centuries in what is now the eastern part of the German Empire were destroyed.
The complete breakdown of the power of the empire called forth the demand that the emperor should be either deposed or have a coadjutor, but the lack of harmony among the electors prevented any change. The clamour for internal reform grew louder, but nothing was done except to enact laws for the maintenance of the public peace. During this confusion Frederick's position in his hereditary possessions became very precarious. The Czechs had held the preponderating power in Bohemia ever since the time of the Hussite troubles and now elected George of Podiebrad as king. The Hungarians also chose a ruler for themselves, electing the hero of the wars with the Turks, Matthias I Corvinus. Matthias soon overthrew the Bohemian king, and in 1487 apparently intended to form a great kingdom by uniting the eastern German provinces with the Bohemian, Moravian, and Hungarian territories. Important changes also occurred in the northern part of Germany. The Counts of Holstein, who had carried the German nationality into the northern territory of what is now Germany, had received Schleswig as early as 1386 in fief from Denmark; the two provinces, Holstein and Schleswig, soon grew together. After the death of the last Count of Holstein, King Christian of Denmark was in 1460 elected duke by Schleswig and Holstein. In this way he became a prince of the empire, a point of importance in the near future. This was afterwards to influence the position of the Baltic countries and the German interests there. For centuries the centre of the empire had been in the south, and Germany had no maritime interests. In this case also, as in the Germanization of the east, self-help was the means of attaining the desired end. The Hanseatic League, a union of German mercantile guilds, rapidly extended from Cologne to Reval on the Gulf of Finland. From the middle of the thirteenth century the chief towns of the League were Luebeck and Hamburg. German commerce flourished on all waters, for the members of the League carried the fame of their country across all the seas surrounding the Europe of that day. It is in fact a striking phenomenon that the national feeling was invigorated, while the strength of the empire was weakened by the division into so many petty sovereignties. The Hanseatic League maintained its ascendency in the Baltic as late as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
At the same time a great power threatened to spring up in the west. By peaceful agreement Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1467-77), attempted to secure Frederick's consent to his election as King of the Romans and to the elevation of his possessions to the rank of an independent kingdom. But all these ambitious plans came to an end upon the death of Charles at the battle of Nancy in 1477. The duke's possessions fell to Louis XI of France, while Maximilian, son of the Emperor Frederick and son-in-law of Charles the Bold, hastened to the Netherlands, which he secured for himself (1479) by the brilliant battle at Guinegate. He was not, however, able to make himself master of Burgundy and Artois. Moreover, Flanders was not willing to submit to the new regime and it was not until 1489 that it was completely subdued. Somewhat later, on the death of Matthias Corvinus in 1490, Maximilian's energetic action gained for his dynasty the future possession of Hungary and Bohemia, while at the same time he reunited the Tyrol with Austria. Consequently when the old emperor died, all looked to the knightly hero Maximilian for the restoration of the empire.
Thus the outlook was by no means unfavourable at the time Maximilian I (1493-1519) ascended the throne. There were even indications of a healthier condition of internal affairs. The Swabian League, made up of the free cities and of the knights, sought, especially in 1486, to effect an adjustment of those interests of the different estates which most threatened the existence of the empire. Another favourable sign was the rapid development in civilization and culture of the several principalities. No less promising was the decision of the electors, now that the imperial authority had shown its entire impotence to check further decentralization. Turbulent agitation for reform in the cities was another important indication in the same direction. Maximilian tried by vigorous reforms to win the good will of the cities, the aid of which would be essential to him in the expected war with France, but the obstacles to be overcome before reforms could be introduced seemed steadily to increase. The most serious difficulty was and remained the antagonism between the interests of the empire and those of the princes. Maximilian, with his dynastic resources, which were made up of very heterogeneous elements, was not able to overcome these opposing forces. Thus the Diet of Worms in 1495 could not do much to promote reform on account of the opposing interests of the ruling princes, the free knights of the empire, and the imperial cities. At this diet the "Universal Pacification of the Empire" was proclaimed. All private wars were forbidden. An Imperial Chamber was established as a perpetual supreme court for the maintenance of the public peace, and the appointments to it were made by the emperor and the Estates of the empire. So many matters, however, were turned over to this court that it was condemned to inactivity from the outset. Nor was the Imperial Chamber able to promote the public peace, as it lacked all power of enforcing its decrees. Order in the empire could not be attained until the subordinate rulers became strong enough to exercise a vigorous police power in their territories. Maximilian had only agreed to the establishment of this court on condition that a general imperial tax, "the common penny," and military help against France and the Turks should be promised him. Concessions of a very different character had also been demanded by the ruling princes from the king. The powerful Archbishop of Mainz, Berthold of Henneberg, was the first to express the opinion that the administration of the empire should be placed in the hands of the electors, without, however, doing away with the monarchy. This proposition of the Diet of Worms was rejected by Maximilian. Five years later, however, when the promised financial and military aid was not forthcoming, he consented to the appointment of a permanent Imperial Council at Nuremberg. If this council had maintained an active existence for any length of time the king would have become a mere puppet. But after two years the royal power proved strong enough to break down the unnatural limitations imposed on it by the Estates.
During these constitutional struggles within the empire the hostile feeling between France and Germany continued to grow. France, now greatly increased in power, wished to gain a firm foothold in the Italian peninsula, and put forward claims to Naples and Milan. Thus began the long struggle of the Hapsburg dynasty with France for the possession of Italy. Maximilian was unable to checkmate the Italian schemes of the French king. In the end Maximilian even changed his policy, for, in order to gain assistance against Venice, he allied himself with France. Yet even now he reaped no laurels in Italy. In the Swabian war also, which the Swiss confederated cantons carried on against the Swabian League, his intervention was unsuccessful. As a matter of fact Maximilian was obliged, in the Treaty of Basle (1501), to acknowledge the independence of the Swiss Confederation. In the course of these wars the Swiss had become enthusiastic soldiers, and after this Switzerland could furnish or refuse entire armies of mercenaries, in this way attaining European importance in the great struggle of the Hapsburgs with France. The work of reform in the empire, however, came to a complete standstill on account of these unsuccessful foreign undertakings. The only permanent result of all these efforts was the Imperial Chamber. The course of history could not be reversed: the territorial development of the separate states had been too logical to allow its reversal. A strengthening of the central administration, the preliminary condition for a reform of the empire, was no longer possible. In 1508 Maximilian had assumed the title of "Elected Roman Emperor," thus proclaiming that the imperial dignity was independent of papal confirmation. Restlessly active, he staked everything on the success of those foreign policies that would strengthen his royal power. It was for this reason that he finally returned to his earlier course of action and joined the Holy League against France. The brilliant success of Francis I over the Swiss at Marignano (1515) forced Maximilian to agree to a peace by which the French received Milan, and Venice obtained Verona. In the meantime various imperial diets again took up the question of reform, but the whole reform movement failed entirely, and the separate states gained a complete victory over the central administration. At Maximilian's death practically nothing had been accomplished for the constitution of the empire.
Political and cultural life followed the course of development we have described, the foci being in the several states. Among these states the most prominent were the electoral principalities, which had been granted special honours and privileges by the Golden Bull. The three Rhenish electors were the most important political personages. Saxony was much increased in size by the addition of Meissen. It would have become the leading state of northern Germany had not its territories been divided in 1485 between the Albertine and Ernestine branches of the ruling family. The Electoral Mark of Brandenburg, acquire in 1417 by the Hohenzollerns, was still in the beginnings of its growth. The Hussite wars had almost entirely estranged Bohemia from the empire. The Palatinate of the Rhine, always a home of culture, was still one of its centres. The Duchies of Brunswick-Lueneburg and Bavaria were also prominent. In 1495 the able Counts of Wirtemberg (Würtemberg) received Countship of Swabia, which was raised to a duchy. Baden grew into a principality more slowly. More rapid was the development of Hesse, whose sovereigns under the title of Landgraves, were soon to come into prominence. The future of the empire depended on these minor states. The empire lacked imperial civil officials, imperial taxes, an imperial army, a general and systematized administration of imperial justice, while in these subordinate states there arose a defined government, a centralization of the civil officials, a systematic administration of law. This is also true of Maxmilian's hereditary possessions, the Austrian provinces. The leaders of progress in this respect also were the imperial cities, in which intellectual life began to flourish. In art they produced an Albrecht Dürer and the two Holbeins. A darker side, however, was not lacking to this brilliant city life. Bloody outbreaks were often caused by a restless proletariat. Dissatisfaction was also rife among the free knights of the empire who had lost their former importance in consequence of the change in the military system, which had again made infantry the decisive element in battle. Moreover discontent was at work among the peasantry. The knights became robber-knights and highwaymen. Though banned by the empire, Franz von Sickingen, without authority, carried on war with the city of Worms. The economic changes had even more ruinous consequences for the peasantry. The age of discovery, of the growth of commerce, and of the great inventions, is also the age in which capital made its appearance as the great power of the world. There was a change in the value of money which brought severe suffering upon the peasantry which was despised and politically without rights, especially in the thickly populated southern part of Germany. Communistic writings appeared, which discussed the position of the peasants. The unrest increased in Franconia, Swabia, and on the upper Rhine, and revolts occurred. It was proposed to found a communistic kingdom of God and all hopes were placed on a strong emperor. Mixed with these desires was the expectation of a thorough reform of ecclesiastical affairs concerning which dissatisfaction was loudly expressed.
The social-religious restlessness continually increased. The period of political confusion had not passed by without leaving its impress on the German character. The brilliant exterior of life covered but thinly the brutality within. There was widespread evidence of the lack of morality in domestic life, of barbarity in the administration of justice, and of inhumanity in war. Loyalty to the Church continually decreased, although a rich and voluminous religious literature had been disseminated by the art of printing. Great preachers, like Geiler von Kaysersberg at Strasburg, also appeared at this time. The Brethren of the Common Life took for their ideal the abnegation of the world. But all this failed to prevent the decline of the authoritative influence of the Church on the life of the people. The Great Schism had severely shaken the position of the papacy. The common people were estranged from the Church. A craving for religious self-help arose, and religious movements antagonistic to the Church won large followings. German learning loosened the bond that up to then had united it to theology. A new intellectual movement disputed the dominance of Scholasticism at the universities. Nicholas of Cusa, Æneas Sylvius, and Gregor von Heimburg prepared the way for Humanism. The medieval ideals having apparently lost their attraction, men turned to others, which advocated the world and its pleasures in opposition to self-abnegation, and instead of medieval universalism preached the freedom of the individual.
In the second half of the fifteenth century Italian Humanism entered Germany in order to break down here as it had done in Italy the absolute domination of the ecclesiastical conception of the world. But Humanism in Germany assumed an entirely different form. In Germany the end sought was not beauty of form in learning, art, and life; here it manifested, rather, a practical, pedagogical, and, finally, religious tendency. Aided by the art of printing, humanism by its delight in experiment and induction, roused other sciences to fresh life, such as the science of history and especially the natural sciences. Individualism, moreover, strengthened the national sentiment and was a powerful force in overthrowing medieval universalism, and in putting an end to the ideal of the medieval world, the universality of the Kingdom of God. At the close of Maximilian's reign the signs of the times were undoubtedly very threatening, yet closer investigation shows that the Christian idea was still powerful. Notwithstanding the turning away of many from the Church, there were still men in Germany who were filled with this idea. These men did not conceal from themselves the necessity of genuine moral reform. The same power and intensity of Christian feeling that had built the great cathedrals in the later Middle Ages was still alive in the more serious minded part of the nation. Only the elect few carried these feelings over into the succeeding age, and with them the certain expectation of the reform of the Church from within.
After the death of Maximilian I the two great competitors for the imperial crown were Francis I of France and Charles, Maximilian's grandson. Notwithstanding the opposition of Leo X and the alienation of French sympathies, the choice of the electors fell on Charles (28 June, 1519), who was crowned as Charles V at Aachen, on 23 October, 1520, and by Clement VII at Bologna, on 23 February, 1530. In January, 1521, he opened the Diet of Worms and his administration of the Holy Roman Empire lasted until his abdication. In 1556 Charles V resigned the imperial throne. This act implied a serious break in the continuity of the political and religious history of the German people. Charles's reign had lasted for more than a generation, but only an insignificant part of it had been devoted to Germany. His attention had been mainly given to the Netherlands, to Spain, and to the wars with France and the Turks. Consequently from 1520 the defection from the Church had made more and more rapid headway, in spite of the emperor's prohibitory edicts issued at the Diet of Worms (1521) and at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), and shortly after 1540 this apostasy threatened to affect the whole of Germany. At the same time the separatist tendencies of the ruling princes increased in strength. It was not until towards the end of his reign that Charles took measures to check the princes of the empire. By the war in Gelderland (1543), the deposition of the Archbishop of Cologne (1547), and the Smalkaldic War (1546-47), he succeeded in bringing the triumphant career of Protestantism to a standstill, thus saving the greater part of western and southern Germany to Catholicism. Driven from these territories Protestantism overran, during the following decades, the Bavarian and Bohemian-Austrian provinces in the south-east. But even there it was not able to maintain itself. On the other hand, Charles did not succeed in forcing the princes to return to their proper position in the empire and to subordination to the emperor. The most important of the princes were the rulers of the northern states; these were in no wise affected by Charles's military successes, as he did not push his operations as far as northern Germany. The Dukes of Saxon and Bavaria also, who were friendly to Charles and took part in his campaigns, suffered no curtailment of their power. The partial failure of Charles determined the future development of the empire, the basis of which was laid down in the recess of the Imperial Diet of 1555. By it, in the so-called Religious Peace of Augsburg, Germany was divided between the Catholics and the adherents of the Augsburg Confession, and the territorial princes were practically made the political arbiters of the empire. The principle, cujus regio, ejus religio, was recognized. The Imperial Chamber (Reichskammergericht) was subjected to the influence of the Estates of the empire. In the newly instituted system of administration by "circles" also, the control of the emperor was no longer permitted. Further, the permanent council of administration (Reichsdeputationstag), an organ of centralization developed in 1558 from the system of "circles," was summoned and presided over by the Elector of Mainz as chancellor of the empire and not by the emperor. Economical and judicial legislation devolved on the separate states. At the Diet of Speyer (1570) the princes annulled the supreme authority of the emperor in military matters.
These events implied not only a change in the government of the empire, so that it was controlled by the electors and not by the emperor, but the empire itself became almost a shadow incapable of great administrative actions. Its constitutional powers waned; diets were seldom convoked (only ten up to 1618), the decisions of the Imperial Chamber were not carried out, the administration by "circles" did not take root. The empire failed just as signally, as a European power, in maintaining its interests during the great wars of the reign of Philip II in Western Europe, an exception being the Pacification of Cologne (1579), which sought to restore order in the Netherlands, but to which little heed was paid. Not even the boundaries of the empire were maintained. From about 1580 the Spaniards and Dutch established themselves in the Rhine provinces and Emden, and Spain sought in addition to obtain Alsace. France entangled as many of the south-western sections of the empire as possible in its intrigues, especially the city of Strasburg. James I of England married his daughter to the Elector Palatine. On the Baltic coast the Swedes, Russians, and Poles despoiled the Germans of the more distant territories colonized by them, while the Danes settled in the south-west corner of the Baltic. At the same time the Dutch overthrew the economic supremacy of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic Sea and German Ocean. On the Danube the Hapsburgs were compelled to buy an armistice with the Turks by the payment of tribute. The blame for the helpless condition of the empire rested principally on the reigning princes. They took no interest in its affairs, not because they were lacking in German sentiment, but because the horizon of their ideas was still too restricted, and because either they gave little thought to politics or their attention was absorbed by the details of administration within their own dominions. The governmental organization of their principalities was still very imperfect. The conservation and gradual development of their territories engrossed the energies of the princes, especially of the most powerful among them, the Elector Augustus of Saxony (1553-86) and Duke Albert V of Bavaria (1550-89). They, therefore, avoided war above all things. The only alliance among them that had any stability at that time, the "Landsberg League" of southern Germany (1556-90), had, for its sole object, the maintenance of peace.
The emperors of this period, Ferdinand I (1556-64), Maximilian II (1564-76), Rudolf II (1576-1612), and Matthias (1612-19), not only failed to arouse the princes to a more intelligent treatment of the affairs of the empire, but by their own policy they encouraged the princes to pursue purely personal ends. For, unlike Charles V who had ruled a world-empire, his successors governed territories, the political importance of which barely exceeded that of the majority of German states, and which only surpassed these latter in extent. Accordingly, as none of them were men of pre-eminent ability, their political aims were narrow, their need of peace urgent, and their credit inadequate, while the credit of the western powers had largely developed since the time of Charles V. Moreover they had harder conditions to face in their own dominions than the other princes. Most of their territories were in the eastern part of Europe where, from the end of the fifteenth century, the landed petty nobles, who formed a large class, opposed with ever-increasing success the progress of the commonalty and the introduction of orderly administration under the control of the sovereign. With this inferior nobility in the dominions of the German Hapsburgs, the Protestants, who attracted to themselves all the opposing elements, made common cause. Thus the emperors were by degrees so harassed in their family possessions that, towards the end of Rudolf's reign, the power fell into the hands of the nobility, and Matthias, though advised by his able minister Cardinal Klesl, was hardly able to maintain his authority.
In the period from 1556 to 1618 the only general movement in the inner politics of the empire, and one that caused important changes in the relative influence of the German rulers, namely, the endeavour to place the ecclesiastical principalities in the hands of the younger sons of reigning princes, was entirely due to the desire of these princes to increase their territories. The ecclesiastical domains in the eastern provinces of Germany were few and insignificant, whereas in the north-west as well as throughout the west and south they were numerous, some being large in extent and of great importance. With exception of the territorially powerful Diocese of Münster and the small diocese of Hildesheim, those in the east and north came under the control of Protestant princes as "administrators" to the aggrandizement of the Houses of Wettin, Hohenzollern, and Guelph. In this way these territories were made ripe for secularization. Bavarian princes became Bishops of Cologne and Hildesheim, which were, thereby, saved from the fate that befell the others. These measures quickened the process of consolidation by which the territories of a few dynastic houses in northern Germany steadily grew in extent, the result being of considerable importance in the future political development of Germany. On the other hand, the attempts of the princes to annex the spiritual principalities of southern Germany failed. Protestantism entered these territories at a later date and with less force than it had in those of northern Germany. Consequently the ecclesiastical lands in the south had more power of resistance than those in the north, while the princes were weaker, because their number was large and their possessions all small, excepting what belonged to the Austrian Hapsburgs on the Upper Rhine and perhaps also the territory belonging to Würtemberg. In these circumstances the Ecclesiastical Reservation (Reservatum Ecclesiasticum), adopted at the instance of the Catholics in the Recess of the Imperial Diet of 1555, proved an effective precautionary measure in southern Germany. It provided that any bishop or abbot who turned Protestant could not take advantage of the rule cujus regio, ejus religio, but must resign.
The chief opponents of the ecclesiastical principalities in southern Germany were the representatives of the House of Wittelsbach, rulers of the Palatinates and of Bavaria. Prominent because of their noble descent, the Elector Palatine being in fact the ranking temporal elector, they were all poor in land. The branch that ruled the Palatinate of Neuburg acquired a heritage on the Lower Rhine by marrying into the ducal House of Cleves-Juelich, which was becoming extinct. The other branches sought to extend their domains at the expense of their neighbours. What decided the predominance of the Catholics in the south was the result of two movements which settled the question whether the Protestants, in spite of the successes in 1543-47 of Charles V, were finally to seize Cologne and the whole country of the Lower Rhine and from these centres crush the Catholics of southern Germany. In the first of these contests, the "Cologne War" (1582-84), which arose from the apostasy of Archbishop Gebhard Truchsess, the last Archbishop of Cologne who was not a Bavarian, the Catholics were successful. In the second, the contest over the Cleves-Juelich succession on the extinction of the native ducal family, the inheritance, it is true, passed to Protestant rulers, the Palatines of Neuburg and the Hohenzollerns; but of these the Neuburg line became Catholic in 1612, so that the danger was dispelled once more. As a consequence the Catholic Church gained sufficient time, after the Council of Trent, to accomplish gradually the reconversion of the greater part of southern and western Germany, especially since Bavaria in the south, and Münster as well as Cologne in the west, remained faithful to it. The political consequence of the Catholic victory in the south-west was that this part of the empire, in contrast to the northern sections, continued to be split up into many principalities. This caused a constant state of unrest among the reigning princes and the nobles of the empire in south-western Germany. The electors palatine, especially, were dissatisfied with their fortunes. They pursued within the empire a policy of hostility to the Catholics and to the imperial house that became more and more reckless with each succeeding decade. Moreover they were in league with France and other foreign countries. In accordance with this policy they turned from the Lutheran to the Calvinistic faith and put themselves at the head of all the discontented elements in the empire. Up to 1591 their aim was to bring about a union of all the German Protestant princes, including the Lutheran, for the purpose of enforcing the claims of Protestantism in south-western Germany. Even Saxony eventually took part in these negotiations. At the same time Calvinism also penetrated surreptitiously into central Germany (the so-called Crypto-Calvinisin). But in 1592 a complete revulsion took place in Saxony. After that, the only remaining adherents of the palatine princes in central Germany were a few petty reigning princes and counts of that section. One of them, Christian of Anhalt, appears actually to have guided the policies of the electoral palatinate from 1592-1620. After sixteen years more of persistent urging, a few princes of south-western Germany joined the palatine princes in 1608 to form the "Protestant Union." Their value as allies, however, was in inverse ratio to their historical fame. The hopes of foreign succour that the palatine princes had entertained also proved vain; in 1609 the Netherlands concluded an armistice with Spain; in 1610 Henry IV of France was assassinated. In their disappointment the Calvinists brought the entire machinery of the empire to a standstill by breaking up the Imperial Diet in 1613. In their freebooting temper the party was ready to snatch at whatsoever spoil presented itself.
The Calvinistic party was, nevertheless, too weak to inflict any serious harm. The Lutherans, under the leadership of Saxony, drew back more and more. The Catholics, led by Bavaria, maintained a purely defensive attitude. The revival of religious life among them made but slow progress, despite the strenuous exertions of the Bavarian rulers, of the Hapsburgs, and of individual bishops, of whom the Bishop of Würzburg, Julius Echter of Mespelbrunn, was the most prominent, and of the Jesuits. The situation was in no wise altered by the fact that in 1598 Maximilian I succeeded to the sovereignty of Bavaria. He surpassed all the German princes of that period in ability and energy, and in the course of a few years he made Bavaria the most powerful of the German states. But he was prudent, peaceable, and above all intent on the internal improvement of his principality. Only on one occasion did he offer a decided opposition to the Calvinistic party; in 1607 he seized Donauwörth, which had persecuted its Catholic inhabitants. The Catholic League, which he organized in 1609 to offset the Protestant Union, was of a purely defensive nature.
Thus, in spite of unrest, the peace of the empire was apparently not in immediate danger at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Its impotence, however, was most clearly manifested in its economic and intellectual life. Under Charles V the German mercantile instinct had made the mistake of giving itself largely to the profitable business of money transactions with governments. This was no longer lucrative, but the self-control necessary for the more arduous gains of industrial enterprises now hardly existed. Moreover, political conditions made commerce timid. The free cities of the empire, the centres of mercantile life, had lost the support of the imperial power. The princes were either hostile to them or still biased by their economic views of land and agriculture. Furthermore, the extent of the several principalities was too small to form the basis of commercial undertakings while customs duties closed their frontiers. Foreign competition was already proving a superior force; commerce and manufacture, with the prosperity of which the growth of great states seems universally bound up, were at the point of collapse in Germany. Intellectual life was in an equally discouraging state. Almost without knowing it the nation had been divided by the Reformation into two religious camps, and a large part of it had accepted a wholly different faith. The thoughts of the people were being concentrated more and more on this one fact. They were encouraged in this by the princes who had derived from the schism great advantages in position and possessions, and also by the clergy on either side. The still insurmountable prejudice of the Lutherans of northern Germany against Catholics can be traced to the sermons of their preachers in the sixteenth century. From an entirely different point of view the Jesuits exhorted the Catholics to have as little as possible to do with Protestants. Sectarian strife controlled all minds. Thereby the common consciousness of nationality was just as obscured in the people as it was dulled in the princes by political selfishness.
The political life of the German nation was quickened into fresh activity by the strong character of several princes who in their respective states took up almost simultaneously the fight against the preponderating power of the petty landed nobility. Those among these princes who made their mark on German history were Ferdinand II of Austria, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and, a generation later, Frederick William of Brandenburg, called the Great Elector. In 1617 Frederick II was chosen by his family, on account of the vigour he had shown as ruler of Styria, to be the associate and successor of Matthias. No sooner had the nobles felt Ferdinand's strong hand than they revolted in Bohemia, where they were most rebellious (1618). As Ferdinand did not have at his disposal the means to suppress it vigorously, the rebellion spread to the Danubian provinces, where it was supported by the rulers of Transylvania. When Matthias died (1619) the insurgents, through the mediation of Christian of Anhalt, went to the extreme of raising the head of the Union, Frederick V of Palatinate, to the throne of Bohemia (August, 1619), in order to obtain the help of the German Protestants. At the same time, however, Ferdinand was chosen emperor by the electors, whereupon Maximilian of Bavaria and the Elector of Saxony promised to fight on his side. The issue at stake was the existence of the Hapsburg dynasty. The struggle was carried on chiefly by troops of the two Wittelsbach lines and the Elector Palatine was defeated by the Duke of Bavaria on 8 November, 1620, at the battle of the White Mountain (Weissenberg) before the gates of Prague. Ferdinand II followed up his victory vigorously and from 1621 to 1628 established a new basis of political administration in his dominions. The multiplicity of heterogeneous Hapsburg territories, bound together almost solely by dynastic unity, was to be replaced by a compact Austrian state. This was to be founded on a system of government based on one official language, the German, on uniformity of administrative principles, on the profession of the Catholic faith by the entire population, and on the steady support of the reigning house by a body of great landed proprietors whose states were made up of the confiscated lands of the landed petty nobility. These great landowners, established in the various dominions of the Hapsburgs and free from separatist traditions, were to represent the principle of a single state as against the peoples of the several provinces.
The consequences of this change of system were soon felt all over Europe. The scheme had in view the organization of so extensive a state that the united Austrian dominion must needs become one of the great powers of Europe. Hitherto great countries had developed only in Western Europe, namely Spain and France. Their fields of conflict were Italy and Burgundy. Now, however, a strong power was rising on the borders of central Europe, which appeared to have unlimited room for expansion in the territories of eastern Europe. By means of its dynastic connexion with Spain it was as well a menace to France. As early as 1623 Austria and Spain supported each other in Switzerland; in 1628 Ferdinand by his power as emperor protected the interests of Spain in the War of the Mantuan Succession. As a result France became the natural enemy of Austria from the very beginning.
It was for this reason that the empire first became interested in the issue of the war in Bohemia. The greater portion of its territory lay between France and Austria. In the paralyzed condition of the empire a war between these two great countries would have to be fought out on imperial territory. It was remarkable that the clouds of war so quickly gathered. For the states of western Europe were, first of all, hampered by internal troubles and by their relations to one another, while the Hapsburgs were occupied at home. Even Maximilian of Bavaria, after the battle of the White Mountain, expected to bring the war to a speedy end by overcoming Christian of Anhalt and a few other adherents of the fugitive Elector Palatine. In order to bring the old Wittelsbach family feud to a final settlement, to seize the Upper Palatinate by way of war indemnity, and to secure the transfer of the electoral dignity from the palatine to the Bavarian line of the house Maximilian occupied the entire Palatinate. But war once kindled in the empire could not be confined within limits, and it spread slowly but steadily (see THIRTY YEARS WAR). Too much inflammable material had been accumulated by the discontent of the petty princes of the empire, by the religious animosities, by the lack of employment that resulted from the economic decline, and by the occupation of the border provinces by foreign powers. Whenever Maximilian gained a victory his enemies with very little trouble enlisted fresh hosts of mercenaries; the Netherlands furnished the money. Very soon he was obliged to send his army into north-western Germany; thus the war continued to spread.
Two events of the years 1624-29 increased animosities and, finally, in 1630, gave the struggle an international character.
(a) The historical development of the German Hapsburgs had led to so close a connexion between their dynastic power in their own dominions and the imperial authority that the recovery of the former immediately filled Ferdinand with the ambition to restore the latter. When he drove the Elector Palatine out of Bohemia he had also outlawed him as a prince of the empire. Now that the territories in the empire occupied by Maximilian of Bavaria were growing in extent and the war was becoming more general throughout Germany, Ferdinand could hardly avoid assuming its direction. He had not the necessary funds for such an undertaking, because of the persistently blundering economic administration of Austria. But, he accepted Wallenstein's offer to maintain an army for him. Wallenstein was ambitious to be invested, as the head of an army, with extraordinary powers both military and diplomatic. He was a genius as an organizer and a remarkable man, but a condottiere rather than a statesman. Nevertheless the emperor placed him (1625) at the head of an army. Wallenstein did not act in conjunction with Maximilian's troops; moreover, he showed little respect either for the historically established relation between emperor and princes, or for the position of the latter in the empire. He quartered his troops in the territories of the princes, levied heavy contributions from their subjects and treated these sovereigns themselves with arrogance, while at the same time he was not a general who rapidly achieved decisive results. The blind jealousy that had animated the princes against Charles V was now directed against Ferdinand. Once more the complaint resounded that the emperor was placing on them "the yoke of brutal servitude," was making himself "monarch" of the empire, and an autocrat.
(b) Maximilian followed up the victory of the Bavarian and imperial forces by restoring Catholicism in the Upper Palatinate. The Catholics demanded the restitution of the small territories in southern Germany of which they had been despoiled since 1550, despite the Reservatum ecclesiasticum. Furthermore, overestimating their success in the field, they sought to regain the dioceses in northern Germany that had passed under Protestant administration. The emperor was impelled by his political interests to enforce the claims for restitution in the south, since this would greatly weaken the Würtemberg dynasty, which was an obstacle to the extension of the Hapsburg power in Swabia. In addition he also authorized the reclamation of the bishoprics of northern Germany in the district of the Elbe and at the mouth of the Weser, in order to place them in the hands of an Austrian archduke. Accordingly he issued the Edict of Restitution of 1629. The Calvinistic party of the Palatinate had been totally defeated, and now Lutheranism was in danger of being confined to a comparatively narrow territory split up into detached districts by Catholic ecclesiastical principalities. On this account all the Protestant states of the empire were filled with distrust and resentment, although ill-prepared to take up arms in self-defence.
Cardinal Richelieu had, meanwhile, overthrown the Huguenots in France and had laid plans to strengthen the French power in Europe by the occupation of desirable positions in upper Italy as well as in Lorraine and on German soil. He saw a menace to his schemes in the growth of the imperial power in the empire and in Ferdinand's interference in the War of the Mantuan Succession. He reminded the princes that Framoe had formerly protected their liberties, impressed them with its peace-loving character, and urged them, especially Maximilian of Bavaria, to refuse to elect the emperor's son King of the Romans and to demand the dismissal of Wallenstein (1629-30). While he thus sought to deprive the emperor of his commander-in-chief and his main army, Richelieu also used every means to induce Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, to invade the empire. The appearance of Wallenstein on the Baltic coast and the invasion of the ecclesiastical principalities on the Elbe by the Catholics disturbed the ambitious King of Sweden. He was the ablest of all the princes who, in the first half of the seventeenth century, sustained the authority of the sovereign against the encroachments of the petty nobility in central and eastern Europe. After a speedily won success in Sweden itself, he set about the task of conquering all the territories on the Baltic in which the princes still suffered the inferior nobles to do as they pleased, thereby securing also for Sweden the control of this sea and a place as one of the great powers. If the Hapsburgs should accomplish their plans for the restoration of Catholicism the schemes of Gustavus Adolphus would be completely frustrated. For, in order to control all the lands on the Baltic and to sever permanently the German provinces of this region from the empire, he must unite them in an organic political system and civilization; this would be impossible unless all of them were separated in religion from the greater part of the rest of Europe by professing Lutheranism. In the summer of 1630 the king landed in Pomerania; in August the emperor sacrificed Wallenstein to the princes.
The success of Richelieu's intrigues and of the invasion of Gustavus Adolphus appeared more alarming at first than the outcome warranted. They did not cause the dynastic power of the Hapsburgs to totter. Gustavus Adolphus was killed at Lützen (1632); his finest troops, the mainstay of his strength, were annihilated at Nördlingen (1634). Thereafter the Swedes could achieve only ephemeral successes by means of a few bold but spasmodic excursions from the coast into the interior of the empire. Years passed before Richelieu was able to replace the army of Gustavus Adolphus by French troops. During the Swedish invasion he had occupied (1630-34) the whole of Lorraine and the region between the Moselle and the Upper Rhine. After the battle of Nördlingen he openly declared war against the emperor (1635), but he did not venture far beyond the Rhine. Within the empire the first successes of the Swedes led to a reconciliation between Maximilian and the emperor, while the continued occupation of German soil by the Swedes and the French declaration of war after Richelieu's assurances of peace influenced most of the other princes to ally themselves again with the emperor, Saxony leading the way. There was a burst of patriotic indignation, such as had not been known for a long time; men were again ready to sacrifice their interests to those of the empire. In the Peace of Prague (1635) emperor and princes agreed upon the future organization of the empire. This treaty made allowances both for the historical development of the empire and its necessities: the enforcement of the Edict of Restitution was suspended, the autonomy of the Austrian dominions, of Bavaria, and of the great states of northern Germany was recognized, and the exercise of the imperial authority, in so far as it extended to internal affairs, was confined to the smaller territories of the west and south. On the other hand, the administration by "circles" was to be revived and perfected. Against foreign foes all pledged themselves to act in common, no one desired any further separate leagues. In case of war a consolidated imperial army was to enter the field. As early as 1635 the offensive was taken against France and the Swedes. In 1636 Ferdinand III was elected King of the Romans; he was emperor 1637-57.
Thus the political unity of the German nation, sorely as it had suffered from the weakness of the imperial authority, the excessive growth of separatism, and the religious schism, stood the test in the hour of danger. However, its resources, seriously weakened after a struggle of twenty years, were not adequate to carry out the compact made at Prague and to relieve the distress of the empire at one stroke; Austria, in particular, was not equal to its task. It was found impossible to drive the enemy by force out of the empire and to move all the estates to unite with the emperor. For the protection of the frontiers had been neglected and the individual states allowed to cultivate relations with foreign countries too long to permit the attainment of these ends. In western Germany the Landgravate of Hesse became a supporter of the French, while the young Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, who had succeeded to his electorate in the latter part of 1640, concluded an armistice with the Swedes. From 1640 on Richelieu was finally able to send French armies into Germany. The inadequacy of the services that Austria rendered the empire and the support it gave the Spaniards, who were hated throughout Germany, reawakened distrust in the emperor. Moreover economic conditions in the German states, after nearly a century of gradual decline, and the ravages since 1621 of the soldiery, became each year more pitiful. The need for rest excluded every other consideration. Even the antagonistic religious parties began to long for peace. The smaller estates of the empire felt no interest in the war and demanded peace at any price with the foreign enemies; even the greater ones, becoming gradually exhausted, declared themselves neutral. In conjunction with the emperor, and even without him, they negotiated for peace at Münster and Osnabrück with France and Sweden, whose influence thereby naturally became much more powerful. But the consciousness that they were parts of the empire did not again die out. A dim perception that Austria in its development as a great power partly belonged largely to eastern Europe had deepened the conviction, which was encouraged by France, that the interests of the empire and Austria were not absolutely identical, that the policy of the one need not of necessity be the policy of the other, and that the empire had needs of its own which should be safeguarded by the estates. In order to meet these exigencies the estates claimed, on behalf of the empire, the right to seek the protection of other great powers as well as of the emperor, so as to find support in all emergencies either on one side or the other. Some declared that these needs were, above all, the restoration and maintenance of peace, and the preservation of the independence of the different estates of the empire, and of the varied forms of German governmental administration as opposed to the centralization of other countries. The Bishop of Würzburg, John Philip of Schönborn, the most active representative of the inferior estates, was strongly imbued with these principles.
These views were officially recognized by the peace of Westphalia (1648). To procure the evacuation of Germany by the foreign armies France was indemnified by that part of Alsace that belonged to Austria, and Sweden by the territories at the mouths of the Oder and the Weser. The great possessions gained by Austria in Bohemia and in the countries on the Danube were not touched, but it agreed to cease supporting Spain. Within the empire everyone was restored to his own possessions and his own rights. At the same time, however, the possessions of the German princes having military resources were enlarged in such manner that the balance of power was maintained among them. To do this the lands of decadent principalities, especially the lands of the bishoprics of northern Germany which were ready for secularization, were allotted to them. The consolidation of northern Germany into an ever decreasing number of states thus made another great advance, as was evidenced by the fact that towards the end of the war even the much divided possessions of the Guelphs in the north-west were combined to a large extent, like those of the other north German dynasties, under a single government. An attempt was made to assure the mutual recognition of the new territorial boundaries by establishing complete equality between Protestants and Catholics. The Catholics were satisfied with a slight enlargement of their possessions over those they held in the year 1618, the year taken as the standard being 1624, and the Calvinistic Confession was recognized. The new order of things was protected, as regards the emperor, by proclaiming the sovereignty of the princes of the empire, by restoring to them the right to make alliances, and by making France and Sweden the guarantors of the execution of the treaty. As against these two powers, however, it was most inadequately secured; the disturbances in the south-west, it is true, were suppressed, but the division of that region into small states was maintained, and its development thereby impeded. The result was that the frontier bordering on France was ill-protected, while the occupation of the lands at the mouths of the Oder and Weser by the Swedes was a perennial danger to northern Germany.
Frightful as had been the devastation of property and loss of life, the conclusion of peace did not find a ruined people. Both in political affairs and in the advance of civilization the war had brought about the renewal of national vigour. In most of the states the governments gave themselves to arduous work. Some commercial centres gradually revived, and by untiring energy the agriculture of northern Germany recovered its working power. Intellectual life also reawakened and grew apace. In jurisprudence, political science, education, the perfecting of the German language, and poetry, a succession of scholars, by a constantly increasing mastery of form and matter, produced a series of great works. The study of these works during the next two decades matured the all-embracing genius of Leibniz (1646-1716). France, which reached the height of its literary culture in the following generation, was the teacher of Germany, and Catholicism derived especial advantage from the influence of France. The reputation of Catholicism rapidly increased, and it soon exerted a powerful force of attraction over many high-minded Protestants in Germany which eventually led them into the Church. Around Schönborn especially, who in 1647 had become Archbishop of Mainz and chancellor of the empire, was gathered a circle of Catholics, converts, and well-intentioned Protestants, among the latter Leibniz. From Schönborn emanated an influence that permeated the entire intellectual life of Germany. In the domain of politics Catholic hopes were founded on the military successes of Austria and Bavaria, which had shown themselves the strongest of the German states, on the efforts of Schönborn to infuse life into the administration by "circles," and on his attempt to form alliances among the princes with the ultimate aim of bringing about a general confederation of the estates. Schönborn desired, by means of such a general confederation, to make Germany under his own leadership independent of the favour of the great powers. Although this confederation was to be peaceful in character and could consequently only become a second grade power, he even hoped to make of it a means of establishing a balance of power in Europe between France and Austria, such as some Italians had sought to make of their country in the preceding century. Schönborn's policy was most successful in 1657-58, when Ferdinand III died without leaving an heir who had attained his majority and had been elected King of the Romans, thus giving France an opportunity to attempt to dictate the succession to the imperial crown. Schönborn, however, secured its bestowal upon another Hapsburg, Leopold I (1658-1705); at the same time he united a large number of princes in the Confederation of the Rhine (Rheinbund), which looked for support to France.
Still more powerful but not more advantageous for Germany was the influence exercised on the course of events by another reigning prince, Frederick William of Brandenburg, the Great Elector. His contemporaries looked upon him only as the most turbulent of the rulers in the empire. His chief object was the aggrandizement of Brandenburg to the eastward of the Elbe, but in the Peace of Westphalia he had been compensated by new territories in western Germany. Dissatisfied with this arrangement he openly avowed that as the greater part of his dominion bordered on eastern Europe, he, like Austria and even more unscrupulously, did not consider the interests of Germany as identical with those of Brandenburg. When Sweden declared war on Poland in 1655 he took part on the side of the former country with all his resources. In 1658 the new emperor joined forces with him to drive Sweden out of Germany. In order to be more certain of the aid of the imperial troops Frederick William, at the election of the emperor, brought it about that Austria was required to renew its pledges not to support Spain, at which France was preparing to strike the final blow. This threatened Germany once more with serious danger, for France, after forcing Spain into concluding the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, in 1660 dictated peace on the Baltic at Oliva and Copenhagen on such terms that Sweden was protected against any diminution of its territories. Then when the Turks, after a long truce, renewed their advance on Vienna in 1662 France forced auxiliaries on Austria as soon as the latter began to offer a sturdy defence. Consequently, after the first victories, Leopold preferred to come to a secret understanding with the Turks at Vasvár (1664). France interfered in every quarrel among the states of the empire.
Aided by the personal charm of its young king Louis XIV, who had assumed the government in 1661, France appeared to have obtained a dominant influence in Germany such as Charles V had formerly held in Italy. What it had vainly striven to gain by war France now acquired during ten years of peace. Apparently in all parts of the empire, including Austria, there was a continually growing need of peace. The subsidies that Louis poured into the exchequers of the impecunious princes, who were just beginning to devise a rational system of taxation, were intended to fetter them. The upper classes in Germany surrendered themselves completely to the influence of French culture and customs. Moreover, French statecraft, economic policy, and military system, which presented to the princes an example of effective administrative organisation, all promised to place Germany more and more under the spell of its western neighbour. The Houses of Guelph and Wittelsbach and the rulers of Saxony allowed themselves to be won over by France. In 1667-68 Louis was able to place a check upon the Elector of Brandenburg, and also upon Austria, the dynastic line of which was now reduced to one person, and threatened to become extinct like that of Spain. Although the Peace of Westphalia led the Germans to take France as a model, yet in many unseen ways it prepared the emancipation of Germany. The national consciousness became quickened in proportion as intellectual life reawakened, and the national spirit once more found a voice. The princes gradually drew back from France, and its friendship was only seriously sought by the House of Wittelsbach. When de Lionne, Louis's adviser in foreign affairs, warned him not to carry out his purpose of attacking the Netherlands until he was sure of the sympathy of the more important German princes, all the efforts of the able French diplomats did not avail to obtain this assurance. Louis, nevertheless, advanced against the Dutch, and a storm of popular indignation broke out in Germany which carried along with it the German princes, with the exception of the Wittelsbach line. In 1674 the empire declared war against France.
This was the signal for a war of forty years duration, which was divided into three periods. In the first the advantages of efficient generals, well-trained troops, and abundant means were all on the side of France. The contingents of the German princes formed a motley body; in 1675 the Elector of Brandenburg withdrew, and marched into Pomerania against the Swedes. In addition, the allies of the emperor, the Netherlands and Spain, proved inefficient. Only a few isolated exploits, such as the battle of Fehrbellin (1675), revived the fame of German military prowess. In 1679 peace was made between the empire and France at Nimwegen. Louis, however, overestimated his success. On the one hand he calculated on detaching the Elector of Brandenburg permanently from the German cause by compelling him in 1660, to restore all the territory won from the Swedes and then to enter into an alliance with France that would reduce him almost to feudatory dependence. On the other hand, after peace had been signed, France seized various strips of territory on the western frontier of Germany (called the "Reunions"), this unwarranted procedure culminating in the occupation of Strasburg (1781). Such conduct, however, only stimulated the patriotic indignation of the small western states (Alliance of Laxenburg, 1682), while at the same time the rising generation in the larger principalities, including the territories of the Wittelsbach line, was rallying enthusiastically around the emperor for the Turkish war. The repulse of the Turks at the siege of Vienna (1683), followed by the glorious recovery of Hungary, gave a new, impulse to Austria's political power. With the increase of French interference in German affairs (succession to the Palatinate, 1685; election of the Bishop of Cologne, 1688), German resistance to Louis, in which Brandenburg joined, became unanimous. Louis retorted by renewing war. Although Austria was still engaged in the struggle with the Turks, the military forces of the two sides were almost even. The Margrave Louis William of Baden organized the troops of the small south-western states of Germany in an efficient manner. Austria found in Eugene of Savoy a general and statesman who, in a position similar to Wallenstein's, far surpassed the latter in genius and character. Moreover, the emperor found in England a far more efficient ally than the Netherlands had been. Both sides brought larger and larger armies into the field, until each of them maintained 400,000 men. By the Peace of Ryswick (1697) Louis restored part of the territory of which he had robbed the empire. Austria, by the brilliant victory of Zenta (1697), drove the Turks completely out of Hungary and Transylvania (Treaty of Carlowitz, 1699). The death of the last Spanish Hapsburg (1700) caused a fresh outbreak of the war as early as 1701. This time Austria was able to employ most of its forces against France, England being again the ally of the empire. The allied powers won brilliant victories, some jointly, some separately (Blenheim, 1704, Ramillies and Turin, 1706, Oudenarde, 1708, Malplaquet, 1709). By straining its powers to the utmost France bettered its position after 1709. During the course of the war Austria changed rulers twice, Joseph I reigning 1705-11, Charles VI, 1711-40. After Charles VI ascended the throne England deserted Austria. By the Treaties of Rastatt and Baden in 1713-14 France retained only Alsace out of all its conquests on the German frontier. Meanwhile Austria, which had once more become embroiled with the Turks, again defeated the latter, and imposed terms at the Peace of Passarowitz in 1718 that were extremely favourable to Austrian trade in the Levant. At the same time a war was raging between Russia and Sweden, and the princes of northern Germany took advantage of it to drive Sweden completely out of Germany (treaty of Stockholm between Sweden and Hanover in 1719; between Sweden and Prussia in 1720).
By the victories over the Turks and by its opposition to Louis XIV the Austrian monarchy became in the fullest sense a great power, while France effected no substantial extension of its frontiers. In this way the plans of Ferdinand II were realized and secured for a long period. But at the same time Ferdinand's successors allowed the imperial power and the reorganization of the empire to decline. In the reign of Leopold I the Diet had, indeed, become a permanent body at Ratisbon from 1663, and the empire took part as a whole in all three periods of the war. The contemporary sovereign princes, however, were interested chiefly in the political development of the separate states. Their policies were based on the centralizing and absolutist principles of the government of Louis XIV. These principles were susceptible of application to the individual principalities, but not to the empire, which, by its very nature, was federal and parliamentary. The empire could never have the same bureaucratic form of administration that the separate principalities had now received, nor could it be organized on a fiscal basis similar to theirs. Consequently Austria, Prussia, which had become a kingdom in 1701, and the other larger German states detached themselves more and more from the empire. Some ruling houses, dissatisfied with the smallness of their territories, which did not admit of extension, were disposed, at the beginning of the new century, to seek new countries. The Elector of Saxony, belonging to the Wettin line, accepted the crown of Poland (1697), while the main branch of the Guelphs ascended the throne of England (1714). The branch of the House of Wittelsbach that ruled Bavaria aspired to the crown of Spain, or at least to the sovereignty of the Spanish Netherlands. When foiled in this they made an alliance with France in 1701; this doomed them to an unfruitful, separatist policy in their territories. Even among the people the conception of imperial unity no longer obtained. It is true that the nation made steady progress towards intellectual unity, as the development of its written language improved. Moreover between 1660 and 1690 the patriotic sentiment of the nation showed itself plainly, but it grew weak again at the very moment that was decisive for a constitutional policy. For the people took but little interest in the aims of the last period of war, the struggle over the Spanish succession while at the same time the entire organic life of a nation was undergoing a vital crisis. Economically the country made but little progress because its resources were too much exhausted and the constant wars permitted no recuperation. Consequently the social organization of the nation, in particular, lost its elasticity; the nobility became arrogant, the middle class decayed, the bureaucracy grew overweening and excluded all others from participation in state affairs. During this period the Germans made no effort to secure national unity. Under these circumstances, notwithstanding the German victories, foreign countries affected in large measure German politics. France continued to be the guaranteeing power. Two other great powers, England and Russia, had considerable influence, the former on Hanover, with which it was connected by a common dynasty, the other on all the German states on the Baltic, especially Prussia.
Catholicism lost its preponderance once more owing both to the renewed decay of political and national life in Germany and to the decline of France. At the beginning of the eighteenth century its progress lay in the field of art, especially in that of architecture. In Vienna and the capitals of the spiritual and temporal lords of southern Germany many architecturally striking buildings were erected; among the great architects and fresco painters of the period were Hildebrand, Prändauer, Fischer of Erlach, Neumann, and the brothers Asam. Protestantism, however, led in learning, as was exemplified by the professors of the University of Halle, Thomasius, Christian Wolff, Francke. Moreover, the close relations of England to Germany now began to make themselves felt, and German Protestantism found in England a powerful and progressive intellectual aid that Sweden had not been able to afford.
Many petty differences were still left unsettled in 1713, many an ambition was as yet unrealized. In Germany as well as in the rest of Europe questions remained to be settled by diplomatic negotiations, but swords were sheathed. The people had an intense desire for peace. The industrial classes longed to emerge from the miserable hand-to-mouth existence which had been theirs for so many years, to rise again to the profitable exercise of trades and commerce, and to accumulate capital for larger undertakings. For several decades to come they were obliged to work without visible results. But the strenuous effort produced the will and the strength necessary to achieve the phenomenal economic progress of the German people in the nineteenth century. The prevailing tendency among the princes and nobility was towards the voluptuous enjoyment of the social and artistic pleasures of life, which they gratified by the erection of magnificent buildings and by gorgeous court ceremonials; examples of the indulgence of such tastes were the rulers of Saxony Augustus II (1694-1733) and Augustus III (1733-63), the latter being also King of Poland; Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria (1679-1726); Eberhard Louis (1677-1733) and Charles Eugene (1737-93) of Würtemberg. Men of higher aims were Maximilian III Joseph of Bavaria (1745-77), and, among the bishops, especially those of the Schönborn family. In the interior development of the states the princes sought to complete the reorganization of their territories according to the French absolutist and bureaucratic model, as: the introduction of state officials into local government, the collection of taxes in coin and a money basis for trade, the augmentation of the standing armies, repression of the privileges of the nobility, and the extinction of parliamentary and corporative rights. To perfect such a system both persistent and steady effort was needed; the majority of states fell short in this respect. In Hanover the nobles gradually recovered control of the government; in Austria a perilous state of political inertia set in under Charles I. Frederick William I of Prussia (1713-40) was the only sovereign who carried out the work of economic reconstruction with energy. The ideal state which the statesmen of the age of Louis XIV sought to attain, an ideal impracticable in larger countries, was to a great extent realized in Prussia. Small as was Prussia's territory and backward as it was in civilization, it grew, nevertheless, into a power influential out of all proportion to the size of its population and area, thanks to the high efficiency of the administration, to the utilization of all resources for the benefit of the state, and to the unflagging energy of the king himself. Shortly after 1740 Prussia was able to maintain a standing army of more than 100,000 men ready for war, and with this army it could turn the scale in a conflict between the equally balanced forces of the great countries.
In 1740 Frederick II, the Great, succeeded to the throne of Prussia. In the period just passed Austria and France had exhausted themselves in a war begun in 1733 over issues that had not been settled in 1713, namely, the Polish Succession, and the right of France to Lorraine. By the Peace of Vienna in 1738 France obtained Lorraine; Austria, moreover in 1739 lost Belgrad to the Turks. Soon after Frederick's accession in Prussia, the Emperor Charles VI died, leaving a daughter, Maria Theresa (1740-80). France and Bavaria took up arms to prevent her coming to the throne of Austria; this was in direct violation of the promises made to Charles when these countries recognized the Pragmatic Sanction. At the instigation of France the electors chose Charles Albert of Bavaria emperor under the title of Charles VII (1742-45). Frederick the Great took full advantage of Maria Theresa's difficulties; he occupied Silesia and, upon her refusal to surrender it, concluded an alliance with France and Bavaria; the wars that followed upon this were the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the First Silesian War (1740-42), and the Second Silesian War (1744-45). Impaired in strength during the weak government of Charles VI, Austria seemed ready to fall to pieces under the force of the shock. But the hesitation of Frederick the Great, the aid of England, Austria's ally after 1742, and above all Maria Theresa's political energy and inspiriting personality helped Austria to withstand the shock. Silesia, it is true, was not recovered, but Maria Theresa kept all the other provinces and in 1745 her husband, Francis I, was elected emperor. She found in Kaunitz a most valuable guide in matters of foreign policy and a wise assistant in the direction of home affairs. The internal administration was steadily perfected in imitation of Prussia, the army was reorganized by Daun, Laudon, and Lacy. Further, by the new alliance between the three great European powers, Austria, France and Russia, Austria was once more established in a commanding position in Europe. However, Frederick, with the aid of England as ally, prevented the consequences of these measures from becoming immediately apparent. In 1756 he made a fresh attack on Austria while England simultaneously went to war with France for the purpose of acquiring the latter's colonies. The ensuing struggle was the Seven Years War, which exposed the weak points of the schemes of Kaunitz and especially the decline in the military strength of France before their excellences could be turned to use. Moreover Maria Theresa, by summoning as empress the French to enter the country, stifled in the princes all feeling of obligation to the empire, while Frederick by his victory over the French at Rossbach (1757) became a national hero despite the unpopularity of Prussia. In addition, the sturdy resistance that the Prussian king offered to the three powers, even though he failed of victory, made an impression on the political world in Prussia's favour no less great in results than were the consequences in northern Germany of his alliance with England.
After the Treaty of Hubertusburg (1763) Prussia was not only an independent state, it had as well an independent policy. From this time on the rest of northern Germany also became alienated from Austria and southern Germany. These states now received an impulse from England such as they had never had from the empire and Central Europe, for England in this period was rapidly advancing in commerce, industries, and intellectual life, and exhibited an energetic and far-seeing political policy. The mining of the coal and ore deposits in the Rhenish-Westphalian district and in Silesia was undertaken on a large scale, the number of factories increased, the Hanseatic towns took advantage of the American Declaration of Independence to establish transoceanic trade relations that were pregnant with rich results for the future of German commerce, while agriculture east of the Elbe adopted larger methods involving the use of capital in order to develop export trade in grain with England. In addition to Halle other universities in northern Germany became noted as centres of intellectual life; among these were Göttingen, founded in 1737, which had the historians and writers on political science, Schlözer and Spittler, as professors, and Königsberg, where Kant and Kraus taught. Most of the precursors of the classical age of German poetry, as Klopstock and Lessing, were North Germans, so were many of the writers of the Storm and Stress (Sturm und Drang) period. And although Goethe and Schiller, the great poets of the classic era, were South Germans, yet they made their homes in the north, the centre from which their influence was exerted being the Court of Weimar. Herder and the two Humboldts were Prussians. The Romantic School also under the leadership of North Germans, the Schlegels, Hardenberg, Tieck, Schleiermacher, developed around two northern cities, Berlin and Jena. It was through the intellectual ascendancy exerted by northern Germany that Denmark and Holland were brought almost completely within the sphere of German culture. From north-western Germany proceeded the chief influences that in a periodical press created German public opinion (Schlözer's criticisms on contemporary politics in his "Staatsanzeigen," the political writings of Gentz), and encouraged the sense of nationality (Möser, Count Stolberg). It was in this part of Germany that Freiherr vom Stein received his early education and his training in official life. The relatively large area of the states of northern Germany, the result of the last two hundred and fifty years of political evolution, encouraged intellectual progress and was in turn promoted thereby. For the first time northern Germany undertook to outstrip southern Germany in development; along with this, however, the Protestant states once more took the lead of the Catholic states.
It is true that southern Germany immediately strove to compete with northern Germany, but the division of the former section into so many small principalities paralyzed commerce and retarded intellectual progress and the development of industries. Joseph II, joint-ruler with Maria Theresa from 1760 and sole ruler of Austria from 1780 to 1790, desired to remedy this disintegration by annexing Bavaria to Austria and by extending the Austrian power in Swabia and on the Upper Rhine. The latter result he desired to attain by making the city of Constance a great emporium of trade between Italy and Germany. In Austria he set on foot far-reaching projects of reform. On the non-material side he and other rulers strove to infuse new strength into the intellectual and civilizing influence of Catholicity as opposed to Protestantism. Catholicity in southern Germany, which remained closely in touch with French intellectual life, suffered from the paralyzing influence of French rationalism and its destructive critical tendencies. The champions of the Church, foremost among them being the Prince-Abbot Martin Gerbert of St. Blasien, gave it a more national basis again and infused into it a more positive spirit. But they failed, almost without exception, to renounce in principle the rationalistic movement; this failure led many men, as Joseph II, and Wessenberg, into grievous errors. Progress in southern Germany depended ultimately upon progress in Austria. Not only, however, did all the political plans for Germany of Joseph II break down before the opposition of Frederick the Great, as shown in the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-79) and in the league of princes formed by Frederick against Joseph (1785), but towards the end of Joseph's reign serious revolutionary movements sprang up against him even in his own dominions. A complete reversal of the relative strength of northern and southern Germany seemed imminent. Nevertheless northern Germany did not fully utilize the pre-eminence it had obtained in intellectual progress. In spirit Frederick the Great was not in sympathy with recent developments. The English political system rested on principles differing widely from French absolutism, the methods and aims of which Frederick, following in his father's footsteps, clung to tenaciously. He even carried these somewhat further, especially in regard to economic administration. Taken altogether his political achievements were the greatest and most effective development of the French system. After 1763 by the annexation of West Prussia, obtained through the First Partition of Poland in 1722, he extended his dominions in the district of the Oder and Weichsel Rivers, and by adopting the policy of Catherine II of Russia he secured for his kingdom a strong position among the states of Eastern Europe. Moreover he declared his intention to give special weight to the eastern or Prussian part of his monarchy by making its nobility, the Junker, his principal instruments both in the military and civil administration. From the time of their arrival in these districts these nobles had been trained to fight and to colonize. The impulse towards a united northern Germany could in this era only come from Frederick the Great, the middle class of north-western Germany had not as yet made itself felt. In 1786 Frederick died, whereupon Prussia's prestige declined once more. Bereft of a strong political stimulus the intellectual life of Germany, both north and south, took on a cosmopolitan and purely humanitarian character.
Even the outbreak of the French Revolution at first produced in Germany not progress but a shock. The ideas of 1789 were greeted with approval, but when the Revolution became radical in 1792 and involved Germany in war, the people, craving peaceful development, without exception rejected it. Austria, reorganized by Leopold II (1790-92), took up again under Thugut, prime-minister of Francis II, who was Francis I of Austria (1792-1835), the policy of expansion initiated by Joseph II. Thugut, however, preferred to make conquests in Italy rather than in southern Germany, and Napoleon's victories in 1796 compelled him to desist even from these (Treaty of Campo-Formio, 1797). The princes of southern Germany, being left to themselves, now turned to the French government and by humble supplication obtained from it the aggrandizement of their territories at the expense of the ecclesiastical rulers whose dominions were to be secularized. At the Congress of Rastatt (1797-99) France was willing to grant their petitions, but Russia, England, and Austria brought the congress to a premature end by renewing the war with France. Previous to this, in 1792, Prussia had joined Austria in taking up arms against the French Revolution. At he Treaty of Basle (1795), however, it had deserted Austria and, influenced by French diplomacy, disclosed for the first time its ambition to become the ruling power of northern Germany, to annex Hanover and to carry out the secularization of ecclesiastical lands. But Frederick the Great's successors, Frederick William II (1786-97) and Frederick William III (1797-1840), were men of little energy. Moreover at the Second (1793) and Third (1795) Partitions of Poland Prussia had assumed more Polish territory than it could assimilate; its administrative resources, unable to bear the strain put upon them, were paralyzed. Thus the end of the eighteenth century left Germany in complete disorder.
South-western Germany, brought into constant contact with France by active commercial relations, now manifested a desire for comprehensive and efficient political organization. For, by the impetuosity with which the French Revolution preached the principle of nationality and the rights of the individual in the State, the German mind had again become accessible to national ideas and strong political convictions. From the beginning of the nineteenth century the Romantic School extolled the glories of German nationality and the empire, and the younger generation of officials in the several states, especially in Prussia, promoted drastic measures of reform. Napoleon, as the instrument of the times, contributed to the realization of these ideals. Defeating Austria again, both in 1800 (Treaty of Luneville, 1801), and in 1805 (Treaty of Presburg), Napoleon proceeded to make a new distribution of German territory. By the Treaty of Luneville he annexed the left bank of the Rhine to France. By the partition compacts with Prussia and Bavaria in 1802 and by the Imperial Delegates Enactment of 1803, he secularized such ecclesiastical states as still existed, and in 1805-06 he abolished the rest of the decadent petty principalities in the south, including the domains of the free knights of the empire and of the free cities. He was to retain only three territorial divisions in southern Germany: Bavaria, Würtemberg, and Baden. These his creative genius built up into secondary states, similar to those of northern Germany both in area and in their capacity for internal development. The South Germans had at last a clear course for renewed progress. Napoleon hoped thereby to put them under lasting obligation to France; in 1806 he bound them, as well as the central German states, more strongly to himself by the Confederation of the Rhine (Rheinbund). In the abolition of the small principalities he gave the death-blow to the Holy Roman Empire, which ceased to exist, 6 August, 1806. The administration and economic condition of the secondary states now rapidly improved, but, contrary to Napoleon's expectations, the sympathies of their inhabitants did not turn to France. Napoleon then overthrew Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstädt (1806) and by the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) left to Prussia only its original provinces between the Elbe and the Russian frontier. After this, by means of far-reaching, liberal reforms instituted under the enlightened guidance of Freiherr vom Stein aided by Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, both state and army in Prussia became stronger and more progressive than ever before. In all the German lands on the right bank of the Rhine the educated classes were full of fervid patriotism, and in Austria and Prussia as well the people bore the foreign yoke with impatience. In 1809 a national war against Napoleon broke out in Austria. The Tyrolese under Hofer made a heroic struggle, and Archduke Charles won a victory over the French at Aspern. It is true that Napoleon, notwithstanding all this, finally maintained his ascendancy (Treaty of Schoenbrunn, also called of Vienna, 1809), and Austria, thereafter, by the advice of Metternich, who was prime-minister from 1809 to 1848, adopted a policy of inaction. Pursuing an opposite course, the Prussian people rose in a body in 1813 after Napoleon's disastrous campaign in Russia. This revolt Napoleon did not succeed in crushing; on the contrary, he himself was now defeated in the Wars of Liberation by the coalition of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and England.
The interior of Germany, the true home of Teutonic national life, had been forced almost completely into the background during the eighteenth century by Austria and Prussia. During the Napoleonic era it advanced materially in influence as a result of the formation of the secondary states and the growth of national political opinions. Nevertheless Austria and Prussia re-established their military ascendancy over the interior during the Wars of Liberation. In the Treaties of Paris (1814) and at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) efforts were made to do justice to both of these circumstances. Under Metternich's guidance Austria reached the climax of its power at the Congress of Vienna. It became the leading state in Europe, but at the same time it made the Danube and the territory east of the Alps the centres of its power and withdrew completely from southern Germany. Prussia, now likewise recognized as a great power and a leading state of Germany, received, on condition of surrendering a part of its Polish possessions, a strong position in the extreme north-west, but it did not attain the hegemony of northern Germany. The Napoleonic system of secondary states was ratified and amplified, as in the four kingdoms of Bavaria, Würtemberg, Hanover, and Saxony, etc. It was hoped that this settlement would be permanent since it was founded on the joint liability of all the European states, a principle recognized by the Vienna Congress and the maintenance of which was guaranteed both by Prussia and Austria. Moreover the political rivalry between the different faiths was supposed to have been overcome, since of the great powers Austria was Catholic and Prussia Protestant, and both were now on friendly terms. By the award of many Catholic districts to Protestant sovereigns Catholicity had, it is true, sustained great losses in central Germany, Würtemberg being one-third, Baden two-thirds and Prussia almost one-half Catholic. It was thought, however, that none of these states, not even Prussia, could be able thereafter to retain an entirely Protestant character. Moreover Catholicity gained greater influence over the minds of men owing to the Romantic movement and the spread of anti-revolutionary ideas. Metternich, continuing the policy decided upon in 1548 and 1635, committed himself to the following programme: to give a new guarantee to the reawakened national feeling by establishing a German Confederation; that each German state must belong to the Confederation, though without prejudice to its autonomy; that the primary object of the Confederation was to be the defence of the independence and stability of Germany against external foes as well as against revolutionary agitation; but it was also to be allowed to develop into a confederated state by gradually enlarging its authority over the internal affairs of the individual states, such as commerce, economic administration civil and constitutional law. The organ of this confederation was to be a permanent assembly composed of plenipotentiaries appointed by the reigning princes, as in the Imperial Diet prior to 1806. This body was authorized to enact fundamental laws for the Confederation and to organize its administrative machinery (Federal Acts of the Congress of Vienna, 9 June, 1815).
The Federal Diet was in session from 1816 to 1848 and again from 1850 to 1866 without, however, enacting any fundamental laws or creating any administrative machinery. The only result of the deliberations was a fuller and more detailed but not a more definite statement of the problems to be solved by the confederation (Final Federal Act of Vienna, 1820), and this in spite of Metternich's pressure for the working out of these problems. Prussia and the secondary states opposed all progress in the work of the Diet. Even Metternich was no longer really in earnest about it. In the autumn of 1815 he had concluded the Holy Alliance with the Czar and the King of Prussia and had thereby bound himself to a common policy with the great powers of Eastern Europe, the three countries Russia, Austria, and Prussia being then called the eastern powers. This policy, in view of the possibility of revolutionary agitation, opposed the national and constitutional current of the times. Moreover, as Premier of Austria, Metternich's course had to be directed by the fact that, after the troubles of the reign of Joseph II and the losses sustained in war during the last twenty-five years, the country stood in need of absolute rest. Austria kept its people from all foreign commercial competition and in politics avoided contact with foreign nations. Consequently its policy within the confederation was restricted substantially to the safeguarding of its own interests.
Between 1815 and 1848 Prussia and the secondary states also devoted themselves exclusively to the solution of problems within their own boundaries. Up to 1848 Germany witnessed the most complete autonomy of the individual states in its entire history. The need of national unity was once more entirely ignored. In most of the secondary states much was done to improve the administration and the economic policy. Prussia, the self-reliance of which had been still further intensified by the Wars of Independence waged against Napoleon, completed the reforms that had been started in the period before 1815, although not in the German national spirit of their authors but rather in accordance with antiquated Prussian ideas. Even the new western provinces were as far as possible subjected to the old Prussian law as well as the old Prussian ecclesiastical policy and methods of government. At the University of Berlin, founded in 1909 by William von Humboldt, Hegel raised the Prussian conception of the state, filled with the spirit of Protestantism and rooted in absolutism, to the dignity of a philosophical system. He gave this position to the state as the highest and all-controlling form of society. Nevertheless the individual German states had clearly passed the limit of their capacity for organization. Routine dominated state administration. A well-trained but arrogant bureaucracy seized control of the government in Prussia as well in the secondary states and while it carried to excess the traditional political principles, yet it did not enforce them with the firm hand of the rulers of an earlier era. This was especially the case in the conflict concerning mixed marriage in the fourth decade of the century when the Prussian government arrested Archbishop Droste-Vischering of Cologne as an "insubordinate servant of the state" (1837). Its weakness was also plainly shown when the people of western and southern Germany objected to the interfering supervision of the government officials.
The middle class was indebted to Metternich for more than thirty years of uninterrupted peace, during which he protected it from all disturbances both at home and abroad, and they owed to Prussia laws more favourable to commerce than had ever before existed. These were the moderately protective Prussian customs law of 1818 and the founding (1833) of the customs-union (Zollverein), which made a commercial unit of Prussia, central and southern Germany. Now for the first time the exertions of the commercial classes during the eighteenth century brought forth ample fruit, and Germany regained the financial ability to undertake large commercial enterprises. Important industries flourished and traffic was increased many-fold, while the middle class gained a clearer perception of the influence of foreign and domestic policies on economic conditions. The leaders (Hansemann, Mevissen, and von der Heydt) in the manufacturing district of the Lower Rhine, the most promising region in Germany from an economic point of view, were ready as early as 1840 to guide the fortunes of Prussia, provided they could obtain political rights. Holding radical views in politics and religion, they adopted also the political demands of their intellectual kinsmen in France, the Liberals: the creation of a constitutional parliament and the remodelling of the body politic in accordance with their social and economic principles. As Prussia like Austria had not granted its subjects a constitution, the struggle of these men for influence was conducted under difficulties. Their efforts, however, were aided by the existence of constitutional government in some of the smaller states since 1819, whereby a number of men, mostly university professors, were enabled in the several Diets to attack the bureaucratic administrations. These men were also Liberals, but their primary demand was the substitution of popular government for that of the bureaucracy; the leaders were Rotteck and Welcker of Baden; and of the moderates, Dahlmann. As early as 1837 matters came to a crisis in Hanover, while in Baden the contest lasted from 1837 to 1844. In answer to the opposition they called forth the Liberals raised the battle-cry of national unity, claiming that union would be the strongest guarantee of civic liberty. Their programme, as well as the appeal to the moral feeling of the people made by many of their leaders, aroused universal sympathy. As champions both of the principle of national unity and of economic and social progress, they hoped soon to be able to lead the entire people in a struggle against the reactionary administrations of the individual states. The latter, blinded by their particularistic prejudices, did not rally their forces to meet the threatening attack. As early as the forties differences on politico-economic questions weakened the customs-union between Prussia and the states of southern Germany. Metternich had repeatedly urged that Austria become a member of the customs-union. But it now appeared that the social and economic differences, always existing between Austria and the rest of Germany, had been so accentuated by the selfish policy pursued by Austria since 1815 that a strong opposition to its entering the customs-union came from within Austria itself.
The position of the Catholic Church also became critical. The expectations of the Congress of Vienna had not been realized. Catholicity, it is true, owing to the splendid abilities of a number of men, partly the sons of the Church and partly converts, exercised a leading influence in the field of political sciences (Haller, Adam Müller, Frederick von Schlegel, Görres, Jarcke, Radowitz), in history (Buchholtz, Hurter), in art (Cornelius, Overbeck, Veit), and in theology (Möhler, Döllinger, Kuhn, Hefele). But in actual political life and in connexion with the life of the masses it fared ill. The bureaucratic state administration so fettered the Catholic Church that it was hardly able to stir, while Liberalism, for the most part anti-Catholic, threatened to place a gulf between the Church and the people. The deep piety of the people, however, was manifested both in 1844, on the occasion of the pilgrimage to Trier, and in the rejection of German Catholicism (1844-46). The attempt, however, to build up a Christian and anti-revolutionary party in conjunction with a few conservative Protestants (the two von Gerlachs, and the periodical "Politisches Wochenblatt" in Berlin; Görres and his circle of friends in Munich), on the basis of Haller's political teaching, was unpopular and altogether out of sympathy with the actual politico-social and politico-economic development of the nation. Nevertheless a few courageous politicians attacked at the same time the bureaucratic administration and Liberalism; thus Görres published his "Athanasius" in 1837, and founded with friends the periodical "Historisch-politische Blätter" in 1838; others were Andlaw and Buss in Baden, Kuhn and Hefele in Würtemberg, Moritz Lieber in Nassau. In Bavaria the Catholics were represented by the Abel ministry (1837-47). In Austria Metternich favoured them.
The wide-spread political agitation in Western Europe, which from 1846 had been undermining the foundations of the system of government established by the Congress of Vienna, culminated in Germany in March, 1848. The reigning princes, unprepared for the emergency, turned the governments over to the Liberals and ordered elections for a German Parliament on the basis of universal suffrage. Austria and Prussia, in addition, now granted constitutions to their peoples and, besides the national, summoned local parliaments. On 18 May the German National Parliament was opened at Frankfurt, Heinrich von Gagern presiding. Archduke Johann of Austria was elected provisional imperial administrator. The success of Liberalism was apparently complete, the individual existence of the separate states practically annulled, and the establishment of a constitutional German national State, as opposed to the development as a confederation, seemed assured. The only difficult question was, apparently, how Prussia was to be "merged" into Germany. However, as Frederick William IV of Prussia (1840-61) had expressed his sympathy with German unity, while the Liberals were prepared to make it as easy as possible for Prussia, as the head of the customs-union and the leading Protestant power in Germany, to surrender its individuality as a state, and were ready to offer to Prussia the hereditary imperial crown, the Parliament made light of this obstacle. Austria, rent by grievous national dissensions, seemed ready to step aside of its own accord.
In the autumn of 1848, however, the situation became complicated. The draft of a new constitution made by the Liberals awakened the distrust of the Catholics by its provisions regarding the Church and the schools. At the suggestion of the Pius Association (Piusverein) of Mainz, the Catholics flooded the Parliament with petitions, while in October the Catholic societies assembled at Mainz and the German bishops at Würzburg. The Liberals gave way but conditions remained strained. The great mass of Catholics repudiated the proposed settlement of the German question in the "Little German" (Kleindeutsche) sense, which advocated the exclusion of Austria from German and the conferring of the imperial dignity upon Prussia; they demanded that Austria should remain part of Germany and should be its leader. This was called the "Great German" (Grossdeutsche) view. Simultaneously a radical reaction broke out against the Liberals. Liberalism stood for ethical and political progress only, not for social progress; nevertheless it had received the support of the labouring classes, who were impoverished by the recent industrial development but not ready to become a political organization, because of the Liberal opposition to the existing state of things. Now that the Parliament did nothing to better their condition they flocked to the standards of radical agitators. Before the spring of 1849 repeated disturbances resulted, especially in Southern Germany; furthermore Radicalism obtained a majority in the constitutional assembly of Berlin. The Liberals were not able to make any headway against this movement. Prussian troops had to re-establish the authority of the state, and in the interim the reigning princes had also regained confidence. Austria, now under the leadership of Schwarzenberg (Francis Joseph having been emperor since November, 1848), declared in December, 1848, that it would not suffer itself to be forced out of Germany. The Catholic agitation as well as the politico-economic movements were in Austria's favour. The industrial classes of Southern Germany, inspired by the fear that Prussia would adopt free-trade, desired to secure a politico-economic alliance with Austria, while the great merchants of the Hanseatic cities preferred for the field of their commercial operations Germany with Austria included, an area extending from the Baltic Sea to the Levant, to the lesser Germany alone. Having imposed a constitution on his kingdom in December, 1848, the King of Prussia refused to accept the imperial crown at the hands of the Frankfurt Parliament (April, 1849). Maximilian II of Bavaria (1848-64), by a strange recourse to the ideas of the seventeenth century, advocated a union of the secondary states, which in conjunction with Prussia but not in subjection to it, should control the policy of Germany (the "Triad").
In May, 1848, the Frankfort Parliament came to an inglorious end. An attempt was made immediately afterwards by Prussia with the aid of the Liberals and the secondary states to agree on a German constitution maintaining the federal principle (The Union, Diet of Erfurt, 1850), and to form merely an offensive and defensive alliance with Austria; this was foiled by Austria. But although Austria forced Prussia to yield in the negotiations at Olmütz in December, 1850, it failed to effect either the renewal of the German Confederation under conditions that would strengthen itself or to gain admission to the customs-union. The German Diet, still unreformed, resumed its deliberations in 1851, while by the treaty of February, 1853 (Februarvertrag) the negotiations for Austria's entrance into the customs-union were postponed for six years. Austria and Prussia neutralized each other's influence and nothing was done, either in the customs-union or in the Diet. Consequently the central states, Saxony and Bavaria, von Beust being prime-minister in Saxony and von der Pfordten of Bavaria, regarded themselves as the balance of power. Maximilian II summoned to Catholic Munich Liberal and Protestant professors, nicknamed the "Northern Lights, in order to win the public opinion of all Germany for his "Triad" project. Both of the great powers strove to secure the support of the German press. The failure to secure German unity once more gave the bureaucracy of the individual states the control. It was, however, no longer able to check the growth of democratic ideas among the people, and the masses were more and more influenced by the political and social movement of the times. In 1849-50 Liberalism underwent defeat; it then changed its programme and pursued chiefly economic aims. These were attained partly by founding countless politico-economic associations, such as consumers' leagues, unions of dealers in raw products, and loan associations (Schulze-Delitzsch); partly, and more largely, by controlling the use of capital on a large scale. During the fifties the representatives of great capital were able, by founding large joint-stock banks, principally for the purpose of building railroads and of financing mining enterprises, to attain a leading position in German economic life. The large landed proprietors of the Prussian provinces east of the Elbe had also in 1848 formed an economic, the Conservative, party. They watched over agrarian interests and also aimed at restoring the old Prussian-Protestant character of the Prussian monarchy, and the absolute sovereignty of the king. For a time incompetent leadership hindered their growth. On the other hand the Catholic movement soon spread among the people, though it did not constitute as yet an organized political party. The Catholics, undeceived at last as to the true character of Liberalism, but without entering into relations with the Conservatives, devoted themselves chiefly to the interests of the suffering masses whose social and economic needs had interested Radicalism merely as a pretext for agitation, and who had been neglected by the other parties. Thus arose the organization of journeymen's unions (Gesellenvereine) by Kolping of farmers' associations by Schorlermer-Alst, and the attempts to solve the labour question, which was taken up especially by Ketteler and Jörg. At the same time the Catholics fought against the restoration of Protestant supremacy in Prussia ("Catholic Fraction," 1852, Mallinckrodt, the Reichenspergers), and in the South-West against the unwarranted control of the Church by the bureaucracy. The beginnings of Socialism resembled those of the Catholic movement. The feeling of a community of interests awoke in the labouring classes; but it was not until about 1864 that Lassalle utilized this sentiment for political purposes. Throughout the fifties and sixties the Liberals retained the lead. As early as 1859 they deemed the time propitious for seeking to attain again to political power, without, however, any such revolutionary disturbances as in 1848. The decline of Austria's influence since Schwarzenberg's death (1852) encouraged them. In the Crimean War the temporizing policy of Austria, which offended Russia and did not satisfy the western powers, brought upon that country a serious diplomatic defeat, while in the Italian war it suffered military disaster. In both cases Austria had opposed Napoleon III who by these wars laid the foundation of his prestige in Europe.
The growth of large commercial enterprises in Germany widened the breach between it and Austria so that in 1859 the latter was obliged to consent to a further postponement of its admission into the customs-union. In ecclesiastical politics Austria sought to satisfy the "Great German" aspirations of the Catholics of southern and western Germany by signing the Concordat (1855). Würtemberg and Baden also negotiated with Rome on the subject of a Concordat; but when, in 1859, Austria was defeated they relinquished the project. Austria's discomfiture in 1859 and its failure to form an alliance with Prussia against Napoleon, greatly excited public opinion in Germany, for the impression prevailed that Germany was menaced by France. The Liberals took advantage of this to renew their agitation for the union of Germany into a single constitutional state. In 1860 the Grand Duke Frederick of Baden (1852-1907), whose land was exposed to the attacks of France, entrusted the Liberals with the ministry of Baden. In 1861 the Liberals undertook to force parliamentary government upon Prussia so as to obviate all further opposition on the part of the king to the creation of a consolidated German state. They encountered, indeed, an obstinate resistance from King William I (1861-88), but the prevailing antagonism between the bureaucracy and the people caused the sympathies of almost the entire German nation to be enlisted on the side of the Liberals. The smaller states, becoming anxious, proposed reforms, leading to greater unity, in the constitution of the German Confederation. Austria, where since 1860 von Schmerling had been prime minister, also made advances to the Liberals in order to strengthen its position in Germany (Austrian Constitution, 1861; congress of the princes at Frankfurt, 1863). However, the appointment of Bismarck to the presidency of the Prussian ministry in the autumn of 1862, and the political organization in 1864 of Socialism by Lassalle, again checked the rising tide of Liberalism as early as 1863-64. This was followed by Bismarck's determination to settle once and for all with the sword the antagonism existing since 1848 in German affairs between Prussia and Austria. As Prussian envoy to the Federal Diet in the fifties Bismarck had observed the instability of the lesser German states and the decline of Austria's strength, as well as the methods of Napoleon, especially the use the latter made of the principle of nationalities; but he was also able to see that since 1860 Napoleon's star was on the wane. To a certain extent he appropriated Napoleon's views in order that Prussia might reap the fruits of what the French emperor had sown in Europe. At the same time he preserved an independent judgment so as to fit his measures to German conditions and proved that his genius contained greater qualities and more elements of success. In the Danish War (1864), fought to settle whether Schleswig and Holstein belonged to Denmark or Germany, he forced the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, Rechberg, to adopt his policy. He then manoeuvred Austria into a position of diplomatic isolation in Europe and, after forming an alliance with Italy, made a furious attack upon Austria in 1866. After two weeks of war Austria was completely defeated at Königgrätz (3 July), and by the middle of July Prussia had occupied all Germany. In the meanwhile Napoleon had intervened. Bismarck put him off with unmeaning, verbal concessions, and in like manner pacified the German Liberals whose continued opposition might hinder the carrying out of his solution of the question of German unity. He then concluded with Austria the Treaty of Prague (23 August, 1866) which partook of the nature of a compromise. Austria separated itself entirely from Germany, the South German states were declared internationally independent, Prussia was recognized as the leader of North Germany, while Hanover, Hesse-Cassel (Electoral Hesse), Hesse-Nassau, Schleswig-Holstein, and Frankfurt were directly annexed to Prussia, and preliminaries were arranged for the adoption of a federal constitution by the still-existing North German states. The constitution of the North-German Confederation, established, 1 July, 1867, was framed by Bismarck so that the federal development of German constitutional law should be guarded, thus the constitution was adopted by treaties with the several sovereign princes, the autonomy of the individual states was assured, and a federal council (Bundesrat) was to be the representative of the various governments. The necessary unity of the government was guaranteed (1) by endowing Prussia with large authority in administration, giving it especially the command of the army and direction of diplomatic relations; (2) by assigning foreign affairs, formation of the army, economic interests, traffic and means of communication to the authority of the confederation, the competence of which was to be gradually enlarged (the model here taken being the Federal Acts of the Congress of Vienna of 1815); (3) by creating the Reichstag (Parliament), elected by universal, direct and equal suffrage, as the exponent of the national desire for unity. In the years immediately following the Reichstag passed laws regulating the administration of justice.
Bismarck considered the absence from the confederation of the South German states to be merely temporary. As early as August, 1866, he had secretly made sure of their co-operation in case of war. In 1867 he re-established the customs-union with them; politico-economic questions of common interest were, in future, to be laid before the Reichstag of the North German Confederation which, for this purpose, was to be complemented by delegates from Southern Germany so as to constitute a customs parliament. In all other respects he left diplomatic relations with the states of South Germany in statu quo. Attempts on their part to found a southern confederation failed. In like manner Bismarck postponed as long as possible the accounting with France in regard to the unification of Germany, although he foresaw that such an accounting was unavoidable. At a conference held in London, in 1867, he secured the neutralization of Luxembourg. In 1868 he desired to secure a resolution in favour of national unity from the customs parliament. To attain this he relied on the economic progress which, in consequence of the gradual unification of Germany, continually grew more marked and caused a complete change in a Liberal direction in the legislation on social and economic questions, and in that on the administration of law, both in the North German Confederation and Bavaria. Illustrations of these more liberal changes are: the organization of the postal system by Henry Stephan; introduction of freedom of trade and the right to reside in any part of Germany; enactment of the penal code, 1870. Notwithstanding these results of the efforts towards union, the opposition, led by Ludwig Windthorst, succeeded in obtaining a majority against him.
On 19 July, 1870, war broke out with France, the cause being the candidature of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern for the Spanish throne. Napoleon had not been able to secure the help of Austria and Italy; furthermore, his army was not prepared for war. Bismarck, on the contrary, fanned to white heat the national enthusiasm of Germany. The German armies quickly crossed the Rhine, and gained a firm footing on the other side by a rapid succession of victories at Weissenburg, Wörth, and the Heights of Spicheren. The main French army under Bazaine was defeated at Metz and shut up inside the city, 14-18 August. The army of relief under MacMahon was defeated at Sedan, 1-2 September. The war became a series of Strasburg fell, 28 September; Metz, 27 October; and Paris, not until 28 January. Meanwhile Gambetta had organized a national militia, 600,000 strong, which, in conjunction with the remains of the standing army, harassed and obstructed the Germans on the Loire and in the North-West from October to January. On 10 May, 1871, by the Peace of Frankfurt, Alsace-Lorraine was restored to Germany as an imperial territory (Reichsland). The southern states had already joined the Confederation, which had become the German Empire (with an area of 208,748 sq. miles). The Constitution of the North German Confederation was adopted, with the reservation of certain privileges in favour of Bavaria and Würtemberg. The Constitution was proclaimed 16-20 April, 1871, Prussia being entitled to 17 of the 58 votes in the Bundesrat or Federal Council, and to 236 of the 397 deputies in the Reichstag or Imperial Parliament. William I assumed the title of "German Emperor" at Versailles, 18 January, 1871; the office was made hereditary.
A development that had been in progress for many centuries and had been attended by many complications had practically reached its culmination; the political union of the Germans in a single body politic, without any relinquishment of the federal principle, so far as the relations among the ruling houses were concerned, had been accomplished, advantage being taken of the popular movement towards the unification of the several States into one organic whole. Austria had been excluded from Germany, the political consolidation of Northern Germany was almost complete, and Prussia's economic superiority over the south had been established beyond question. For while Southern and Central Germany (with the exception of Saxony and Nassau), as well as Hanover, experienced an increase in population of only about 22 to 36 per cent between 1830 and 1880, that of Prussia grew about 60 per cent; and nearly all the coal and ore deposits of Germany were located within the borders of the latter kingdom. Withal, during the ensuing years the united people did not devote themselves exclusively to peaceful pursuits. It is true these received great attention; German commercial and economic interests throughout the world were developed; uniformity was established in weights and measures (1872), coinage (1875), the administration of justice (1879); the laws of the empire were codified; and after a short time close attention was also given to social problems. On the other hand, military preparations (September, 1874), in case France should renew the war, were pushed forward with increasing zeal. Furthermore, the old internal feuds among the religious creeds and parties were resumed with greater passion than ever in consequence of the proclamation of the dogma of Infallibility and of the organization of the Centre party. In all this Bismarck was the leader, while the Liberals constituted the government party (see KULTURKAMPF).
It was not until 1875 that there was any degree of tranquillity and stability. Bismarck recognized that he was lessening the extraordinary esteem in which he was held by the whole world, by his excessive intimidation of France. Moreover, the defeat in France of the Royalists and Catholics by the Radicals and Protestants freed him from apprehension of danger from that quarter. Russia having been estranged from the empire by his anti-French policy, Bismarck sought the friendship of Austria-Hungary. In 1879 he brought about an alliance with Austria, which, when joined by Italy in 1883, became the Triple Alliance, which still subsists the league of the great powers of Central Europe. He re-established better relations with Russia by means of the secret treaty with that country in 1887. The election of Leo XIII, the "pope of peace" (1878), disposed Bismarck to come to an understanding with the Catholic Church. But as a preliminary condition he demanded either that the centre party be dissolved or that it become a government party. At the same time he contemplated sweeping changes in internal politics. The Liberal ascendancy, beginning in 1871, had been responsible for the inauguration of an excessive number of economic undertakings, resulting in the financial depression of 1873; in political finance it brought about an almost complete stagnation in the development of the systems of taxation both of the empire and the component states; in social politics it had led to a rapid increase in the ranks of the Social Democrats, who after Lassalle's death had become under Bebel and Liebknecht an international party, in which numerous anarchistic elements were blended. In 1875 there had been a fusion of the Lassalle and Bebel factions; the Gotha programme was drawn up; at the elections of 1877 they scored their first important success. Liberalism had also failed completely in its opposition to the Centre; the latter party had so grown that it controlled more than a quarter of the votes in the Reichstag. Bismarck determined to restrict once more the influence of the Liberals in domestic politics. The transformation of the Conservative faction from an old-Prussian party of landed proprietors into a German Agrarian party (1876) made it capable of further development and useful as a support for Bismarck. He purposed forming a majority by combining this Conservative party with the moderate National Liberals (under Bennigsen and Miquel), while at the same time, the Centre party having refused to disband, there was the possibility of forming a majority of the Conservatives and the Centre.
Between 1876 and 1879 to organize the administration of the empire, the Reichstag created, subordinate to the chancellor, who under the Constitution was the only responsible official, the following imperial authorities or secretariats of State: Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Imperial Home Office, Imperial Ministry of Justice, Imperial Treasury, Administration of Imperial Railways, Imperial Post Office, Imperial Admiralty, Secretariat for the Colonies (1907). A number of non-political departments were also established, in part under the various secretaries of State, the chief of which was the Imperial Insurance Department; military affairs were placed under the Prussian Minister of War. In 1879 the imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine was granted autonomy, though this was of a limited character. In 1878, after the attempts made by Hoedel and Nobiling on the life of William I, Bismarck carried out temporary measures for the suppression of Social Democratic agitation, e.g., the Socialist Law forbidding all Social Democratic organizations and newspapers. In the following year, encouraged by the increase in the sense of national unity due above all to the growth of German commerce and industry, he effected the financial and economic-political reform, his battle cry being: "Protection for German Labour!" Small protective duties were imposed upon agricultural and industrial imports, and a tariff for revenue only on colonial wares. The proceeds of both duties were to constitute the chief revenue of the empire, but of these only 130 million marks were to go to the imperial treasury, the rest being divided among the federal states, in return for which the latter, by means of federal contributions (Matrikularbeiträge), were to make good the contingent deficits of the empire. During the eighties the duties on agricultural products were gradually raised (especially in 1887), besides which several profitable indirect taxes, e.g., on brandy, tobacco, and stamps, were sanctioned, in order to meet the growing expenditures of the empire. In 1881 an imperial message to the Reichstag announced the inauguration of a policy of social reform in favour of the working classes. Between 1881 and 1889 the compulsory insurance of working-men against sickness, accident, disability, and old age was provided for by legislation. This was Bismarck's greatest achievement in domestic politics. The empire was now for the first time made the centre of the civil interests of the Germans, who up to this time had been occupied chiefly with the doings of their restive states, the management of Church and school having been retained by these. Bismarck, now at the zenith of the second creative period of his life, conceived the idea of organizing labour insurance on the basis of the community of interests of those engaged in the same work. By this means he proposed to establish in the empire self-government in social politics, which would equal in importance the local self-government of communities subordinated to the individual states, and which would complement the establishment of universal suffrage by educating the people for the administration of public affairs.
Bismarck also gave his support to the great German commercial interests which insisted upon the acquisition of colonies; in 1884 South-West Africa, Kamerun, and Togo were acquired; in 1885-86 German East Africa, German New Guinea, and the Bismarck Archipelago. He even went so far as to risk being embroiled with England, although it was an inviolable fundamental principle of his policy not to encroach on that country's privileges. It appeared as if Bismarck, though he had grown up under wholly different conditions and had been schooled in wholly different ideas, entered into the spirit of the democratic German of the future, with its world-wide commerce and its world-wide economic interests. But the first step taken, he retreated. He did not carry out his scheme of co-operative organization. It was in the fight against the growth of the German democratic tendencies within the empire that he exhausted his strength in the eighties. Domestic peace was promoted in Germany by the final though belated close of the Kulturkampf (1886-87); the beneficial effects of this were greatly lessened by the severity and violence of the measures with which Bismarck had begun (1885-86) to break up the national movement of the Prussian Poles, which was the consequence of constantly increasing prosperity and a rise of a middle class among them. Exile, efforts to suppress the Polish language, the expenditure of State funds to colonize Poland with German peasants were the means used. Incapable of respecting political parties and working in harmony with them, he became involved in incessant parliamentary contests with them. Particularly the demands of the Government for an increase in the strength of the army, which was levied by general conscription, brought him into conflict with the Centre and the Left, because of his insistence that the appropriation for army purposes should be made for a period of seven years, instead of for one year, according to the Constitution, or for the term of a parliament. Bitter quarrels also marked the debates on social questions, because Bismarck refused to agree to state protection of workmen, though he had conceded state insurance.
The political parties, all of which had been organized before the creation of the empire, now began to adapt themselves to new conditions, to cast aside issues resulting from the division of Germany into separate states, and to alter their positions to conform to new points of view; but their development was seriously hampered by these conflicts. In 1879 the Liberals had resigned the presidency of the Reichstag in consequence of the adoption of financial and tariff reform. The president was now chosen from the Conservatives, marking the Conservative era of the empire, which down to the present time has been uninterrupted with the exception of the supremacy of the Centre from 1895 to 1906. After their fall from power, the Liberals repeatedly split into factions according to their differences of opinion on commercial policy. The most important section, the National Liberal party, was reorganized in 1884 by Miquel. It became reconciled with Bismarck and regained some seats in the Reichstag, but not its former power. The Conservatives energetically took up the demands for the protection of the working classes. Eventually the Agrarian element among them got the upper hand. They failed, however, to attract into their ranks the smaller middle class, i.e., the small retail traders who had combined to resist the great industrial interests; nor did they win over the officials of the civil service, nor the Christian Socialists among their Evangelical constituents. Consequently, small parties sprang up in the west and south of Germany that were fundamentally Conservative in character but had no connexion with the great Conservative party. The attempt that von Kleist-Retzow made to found a Protestant party of the Centre in the hope of winning over the heir to the throne, Prince William, to its cause, was frustrated by Bismarck's intrigues, by which the prince was alienated from the Conservatives. The Centre maintained its strength and directed its attention to social politics in the empire and to the school question in the individual states. It became the leading party in the Reichstag, represented by Hitze and von Hertling. In 1890 the "People's Union for Catholic Germany" (Volksverein für das katholische Deutschland) was founded. The Social Democrats, prevented by the Socialist Law from agitating their cause publicly, kept up their strength by secret recruitment. By dissolving the Reichstag in 1887, Bismarck secured the most favourable electoral results that had ever fallen to his lot, inasmuch as an overwhelming majority of Conservatives and National Liberals (so-called Kartell-Reichstag) was returned. But he was unable to work harmoniously even with this majority.
In 1888 William I died. Frederick III, the hope of the Liberals, followed him to the grave in ninety-nine days, and the reign of William II began. The youthful and able ruler wished to make Germany as speedily as possible a sharer in the world's commerce. He realized that, to attain this end, internal tranquillity was as necessary as external peace. He dismissed Bismarck in March 1890 and replaced him by Caprivi (1890-94). Then he saw to it that the all but unanimous desire of the Reichstag to complete the compulsory insurance legislation by comprehensive factory legislation was satisfied. An international conference for the protection of working men was held, March, 1890, and a supplementary law (Gewerbsordnungs-Novelle) was passed 1 June, 1891. He moderated the repressive measures against the Poles. He intended to give the Catholics a guarantee that the national schools would continue to be Christian by the proposed National School Law in 1892, but withdrew the bill when the Liberals assumed a hostile attitude, and his pacific aims were thwarted. In foreign affairs he came to an understanding with England in regard to the difficulties that had arisen from the colonial expansion of Germany, e.g., the exchange of Zanzibar for Heligoland in 1890. In the interests of peace likewise he succeeded in concluding commercial treaties with Austria, Italy, Russia, and several smaller states, by lowering the agricultural duties which had become very high. With France he sought to establish relations that were at least free from bitterness. Because of its sovereignty over the Balkans and the East, he devoted special attention to Germany's political relations to Turkey. For he saw that these countries were the best markets for German trade. But trouble soon began. The emperor's autocratic proclivities and his sudden changes of opinion aroused bitter criticism among the people. The new Army Bill of 1893, which proposed to reduce the period of military service to two years, was well-meant on his part, but was so badly managed that it brought him into collision with the Centre (Dissolution of the Reichstag, 1893). On the other hand, the commercial treaties, which were opposed by the agricultural party, got the emperor into difficulties with the Conservatives. In 1895 the Reichstag turned a deaf ear to his demands for renewal of sharp repressive measures against agitations that were "hostile to the state" (the so-called "Umsturzvorlage"). His views subsequently became liberalized, his following being recruited mainly from the commercial, industrial, and intellectual classes (Krupp, Ballin, Harnack).
The success of the emperor's policy during the next few years dispelled the clouds of opposition, especially as Caprivi's successor, Chlodwig Hohenlohe (1894-1901), was a man of astute and conciliatory nature, while in Count Posadowsky, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, the emperor had the support of an extremely competent and energetic man. Germany became Turkey's chief counsellor. The maintenance of friendly relations with the rapidly developing United States of America, despite the opposition of their economical interests and isolated instances of friction between officers, strengthened public confidence in the international situation. By the occupation of Kiao-chau in 1898, Germany secured a footing in Eastern Asia, while the partition of the Samoan Islands and the acquisition of the Carolines (1898-9) gave her a much-desired increase of stations in the Pacific. The German transatlantic merchant marine held for a long period the record for the race across the Atlantic, and, even in Africa and Asia, Germany promised to become a very serious rival of England. The last decade of the nineteenth century was a period of exceptional prosperity throughout the country. From forty-one millions in 1871, the population increased to sixty millions in 1905. The increased national well-being will be realized from the fact that at present the gross value of the agricultural produce amounts to some $3,525,000,000, and of the industrial output to about $8,460,000,000. In 1871, two-thirds of the population still lived in the country, whereas in 1900 54.3 per cent lived in towns of more than 2000 inhabitants, and in 1905 19 per cent lived in cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants. In the agricultural districts, however, conditions continued to be healthy 31 per cent being cultivated by peasants, 24 per cent being held in large estates, and the remainder in lots of less than 20 hectares (roughly 50 acres). The woodland area still includes one-fourth of the total area.
During this period the national standard of living became more luxurious; revolutionary and anarchistic tendencies began appreciably to disappear. The whole nation was seized by a burning tendency towards the formation of new associations, a spirit to which we owe the foundation of the Catholic People's Union (der Volksverein: members in 1908, 600,000), the Farmers' League (1908: 300,000 members), the free (Socialistic) guilds (1908: over 750,000 members), the Christian Endeavour guilds (1908: over 200,000 members), etc. In Parliament, the great political parties (Conservatives, National Liberals, and the Centre) drew closer together; the presidency devolved on the Centre in consequence of its numerical preponderance and the ability of its leaders. In 1899, the constantly recurring conflict between the Crown and the Reichstag on the subject of appropriations for military expenditure was settled by an agreement on the part of the legislative assembly to vote supplies henceforth for the parliamentary period, which had been increased from three to five years in 1888. Among the important measures passed were the completion of the unified legal codes (1896) and the Naval Acts (1898, 1901), which had in view the raising of Germany to a maritime power of the first rank. In 1902 the resolution to restore the high protective duties on agricultural products was passed in the face of the bitter opposition maintained by the Social Democrats for many months (Tariff Bills, on the basis of which the commercial treaties were renewed in 1905). Prussia's project of constructing a canal through her own territory from the Oder to the Rhine met with obstinate resistance, not indeed in the Reichstag, but in the Prussian Diet (rejected in 1899, approved in 1903). In the midst of this era of prosperity Bismarck died (1898).
In foreign politics, however, there came a change for the worse after England's subjugation of the Boers. Under Edward VII, Great Britain forced Germany back from almost all the positions which she had recently occupied. Meanwhile, William II devoted himself to a line of policy calculated to win temporary favour (journey to Jerusalem, 1898; intervention in the Chinese complications, 1900; landing in Tangier, 1905). Prince Buelow, who replaced Hohenlohe in 1900, was unable to stem the ebbing tide. In the Moroccan controversy between Germany and France, Germany, who appealed to an international conference (at Algeciras, 1906), suffered a severe rebuff. By his efforts to separate Austria and Italy from the Triple Alliance and by his ententes with the other Powers of Europe, Edward VII isolated his rival (1907, Triple-Entente between England, Russia, and France). Buelow's Polish policy, which was more drastic even than Bismarck's (cf. the Expropriation Act of 1908), resulted only in disappointments without effectually checking the Polish disturbances. In 1907, owing in part to the financial crisis in America, Germany's commercial prosperity markedly declined. Favoured by the customs tariff, agriculture alone continued to flourish. The revenue of the empire decreased with the commercial profits. At the same time the rising of the Herreros in South-Western Africa in 1904 called for large unforeseen expenditures, while the troubled aspect of the foreign situation necessitated a tremendous increase in the outlay on armaments (cf. Naval statutes of 1908. The "ordinary" expenditure in 1907 was 2329 millions of marks; National debt in 1873: 1800 millions, and in 1908, 4400 millions of marks.) One attempt after another was made at fiscal reform [1904, relaxation of the Franckenstein clause; 1906, 150 million marks ($35,250,000) yearly taxes were voted; in 1908-09, 500 millions were demanded by the government], but the government is still carried on with a deficit. Thorough recovery has been prevented by the renewed violent dissensions in the nation by party spirit (since 1892) and the clash of opposing ideals.
The coalition, which had formed the majority during the nineties, broke up in 1903. Its most important factor was the Centre, the number of whose seats in the Reichstag and supporters in the constituencies remained stationary even during the period of its parliamentary ascendancy. Therein lay its weakness, since meanwhile its allies, the official Liberal and Conservative parties, gained ground. The Liberals gained in consequence of a movement towards concentration among the Liberals of the Left soon after the beginning of the century (Fusion of the Liberal of the Left, 1906), and of a reconciliation between the National Liberals and the Liberals of the Left by means of a "Young Liberal" movement in their ranks. The Conservatives, who had been growing as a party almost uninterruptedly since 1876, especially after the founding of the "Farmers' League" in 1893, gained by gradually invading the agrarian territory in the west and south-west.
Up to 1906, the Protestant League, founded in 1886, maintained a fanatical agitation amongst the populace to frustrate the endeavours of the Catholics, directed through the Centre, to secure recognition of their equal rights as citizens in the public life of the nation. Yielding to this agitation, first the National Liberals then the Conservatives dissociated themselves from the Centre. Despite its utmost efforts, the Centre failed in 1906 to secure the repeal of the remainder of the Kulturkampf Laws, except to the extent of the two paragraphs of the Jesuit law (i.e., the expulsion clauses). Furthermore, the so-called "toleration bills," in which the Centre strove by imperial legislation to fix the minimum of rights to be conceded to Catholics in the separate states, although repeatedly presented to the Reichstag after 1900, always met with defeat. When, in 1906, the Christian character of the national schools was finally established by statute in Prussia after an interval of 13 years, the Government drafted the bill in accordance with the wishes of the Conservatives and the National Liberals, and left to the Centre only the right of voting for it.
Another important factor in bringing about the cleavage between the parties was the spread among the wealthier classes, both Liberal and Conservative, of a strong feeling of opposition to further social legislation. This feeling found an outlet in the formation of influential syndicates, and was most bitterly directed against the Centre, as the principal promoter of social remedial measures. An open breach between the parties took place on the question of a relatively insignificant colonial budget. The Government immediately disowned the Centre, and dissolved the Reichstag (13 December, 1906). Since then the situation has been very complicated. As a result of the elections the Centre retained its former voting strength, but was isolated. The Government formed a new coalition, called "the Block," consisting of the Conservatives and the united Liberal party the Liberals of the Left had hitherto been in opposition. In this it relied on the feelings of hostility towards the Centre which animated the Protestants and the propertied classes. When the administration, however, made concessions to Liberal principles (extension of the right of association, partial repeal of the stock exchange legislation, promise to introduce popular suffrage into Prussia), the Conservatives, after some hesitation, decided to oppose the Government so again sought an alliance with the Centre. They are stronger than the Liberals, but the sympathies of the Government and of the Anti-Catholic portion of the population will help the Liberals in their contests with the Conservatives. The quarrel amongst the civil parties prevents the further loss of parliamentary seats by the Social Democrats, whose voting power has been steadily increasing since 1890 (in 1907 they cast 3,259,000 votes, 29 per cent of the total, although they won only forty-three seats in the Reichstag as compared with eighty-one in 1903). It also prevents the reconstruction of the programme of the Socialists, many of whom especially in South Germany favour a peaceful transformation of society. The difference of opinions existing among the Socialist party was clearly evidenced by the violent quarrel between the opposing sections at the Dresden Convention in 1903.
The position of the Government in view of its relations with the parties is at present (Jan., 1909) not very favourable. The administrative organization of the empire hardly suffices. Besides, the shock given to the power of the emperor in November, 1908, in consequence of the popular resentment of his personal interference in politics as revealed in the "Daily Telegraph" interview, has not served to strengthen the Government. On the other hand, its prestige was greatly enhanced by the re-establishment of German influence in international politics, owing to its firm support of Austria-Hungary in the Balkan crisis (1908-9). It has put an end to the isolation of Germany, strengthened the bonds of the Triple Alliance, and promises to result in a rapprochement with Russia.
In dealing with the present situation of German Catholicism, relations between Church and State must be separated from the question of the civic rights of the German Catholics. The authorities of the Church and State work together in a spirit of mutual benevolence, the chief credit for which is due to Cardinal Kopp, since 1886 Prince-Bishop of Breslau. Ecclesiastically speaking, Germany is divided into 5 archbishoprics, 14 suffragan and 6 exempt bishoprics, 3 Apostolic vicariates, and 2 Apostolic prefectures. The clergy are trained for the most part by 15 theological university or lyceum faculties (the most recently established being at Strasburg, 1902), a smaller number in seminaries. Ecclesiastical affairs are not regulated by the empire but by the individual state. In Prussia they rest on the Bull "De Salute Animarum" and the explanatory brief "Quodde Fidelium" of 1821 (although the promise of land endowment for the bishoprics has not been kept), on the constitution of 1850, and on the laws of 1886-87 regulating ecclesiastical polity. In Würtemberg, they rest on the Statute of 1862, in Baden on the Statutes of 1860, in Bavaria on the Concordat of 1817, which has not actually been enforced and which consequently creates a state of legal uncertainty. In these divisions of the empire, the Church has the rights of a privileged corporation. In the Kingdom of Saxony and in Saxe-Weimar, all ecclesiastical ordinances and appointments, even those issued from Rome, as well as the erection of new churches, etc., are subject to the approval of the Government. Appeal to Rome is forbidden. In the other small Thuringian states, and in Brunswick and Mecklenburg, the Catholics even recently had to submit their parochial affairs to the authority of the Protestant pastors, and in part Catholics even now pay tithes to the Protestant pastors for this unsought-for service. The building of churches and establishment of schools are also subject to galling restrictions.
The bishops are elected by the cathedral chapters, except in Bavaria (where they are chosen by agreement between the Government and Rome); in the Upper Rhenish church province, in Osnabrück, and in Hildesheim, the Irish method of election obtains; elsewhere exists the customary submission of a list of candidates to the Government. The establishment of convents is everywhere subject to the approval of the State. In Würtemberg and Baden only female orders are allowed; in Saxony and the smaller Protestant States only nursing sisterhoods. Jesuit institutions are not permitted anywhere. The primary schools are mostly denominational, but are neutral in Baden, in part of Bavaria, and in two provinces of Prussia. They are founded by the State and by the communities, but the local pastors supervise the religious instruction and are generally the local school inspectors. The system of intermediate and higher schools for boys is undenominational almost without exception, and is under either state or municipal control; the schools for girls are mostly under private and denominational management, being largely conducted by nuns. The civil marriage ceremony takes precedence of the religious by an imperial law of 1875; divorce is regulated by the civil code. For Catholic couples separation a mensâ et thoro may be granted. Charitable relief work is admirably regulated and carefully stimulated by the focusing of charitable impulses in the Charitasverband (Charity Organization Society), founded at Freiburg in 1897. It is working more and more in harmony with social relief work. There is a large number of religious societies; the throngs who assist at all religious festivals are impressive, and the numbers who receive the sacraments are gratifying. Pilgrimages are numerously attended, the most famous place of pilgrimage in Prussia being Kevelaer, in Bavaria Altötting. Considerable anxiety is inspired by the prevalence of Social Democracy in certain districts, and by the irreligious indifference of the rising generation of the propertied classes.
The civil status of Catholics is not so good. Of the 60,641,272 inhabitants of Germany in 1905, about 36.00 per cent were Catholic (in 1900 only 36.1 per cent as compared with 36.2 per cent in 1871). At present, as formerly, unity infuses life into the Catholic Church. The Catholics are splendidly organized (for politics by the Centre and in sociological respect by the Christian guilds and by Volksverein). They are making persistent efforts to secure equal recognition in public life (cf. the agitation afoot in Prussia since 1890 in favour of equal rights for Catholics; the so-called "Self-examination Movement" throughout the empire, that is to say, the general investigation into the injustices suffered by Catholics in the educational and economical life of the country). Recently, the number of Catholic pupils in the intermediate and higher schools has increased, but only on the humanistic side. Their representation in the poly-technic schools as well as in the student bodies at the universities continues to be weak, out of all proportion to those of the other communions. Only in isolated instances are the leading positions in the states and communities filled by Catholics. No Prussian state minister, and only one state secretary is Catholic. Their share in the public wealth does not at all correspond with their numerical strength.
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APA citation. (1909). Germany. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06484b.htm
MLA citation. "Germany." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06484b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by John Fobian. In memory of Robert and Evelyn Fobian.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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