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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

In accordance with the stipulations of the Treaty of Passau


Maurice of Saxony had been besieging Magdeburg for a year, in the Emperor's name. The city was well-provisioned, admirably defended, and the people answered every threat with defiance and ridicule. Maurice grew tired of his inglorious position, sensitive to the name of "Traitor" which was everywhere hurled against him, and indignant at the continued imprisonment of Philip of Hesse. He made a secret treaty with Henry II. of France, to whom he promised Lorraine, including the cities of Toul, Verdun and Metz, in return for his assistance; and then, in the spring of 1552, before his plans could be divined, marched with all speed against the Emperor, who was holding his court in Innsbruck. The latter attempted to escape to Flanders, but Maurice had already seized the mountain-passes. Nothing but speedy flight across the Alps, in night and storm, attended only by a few followers, saved Charles V. from capture. The Council of Trent broke up and fled in terror; John Frederick of Saxony and Philip of Hesse were freed from their long confinement, and the Protestant cause gained at one blow all the ground it had lost.

[Sidenote: 1553. ALBERT OF BRANDENBURG'S RAID.]

Maurice returned to Passau, on the Danube, where Ferdinand of Austria united with him in calling a Diet of the German Electors. The latter, bishops as well as princes, admitted that the Protestants could be no longer suppressed by force, and agreed to establish a religious peace, independent of any action of the Pope and Council. The "Treaty of Passau," as it was called, allowed freedom of worship to all who accepted the Augsburg Confession, and postponed other questions to the decision of a German Diet. The Emperor at first refused to subscribe to the treaty, but when Maurice began to renew hostilities, there was no other course left. The French in Lorraine and the Turks in Hungary were making rapid advances, and it was no time to assert his lost despotism over the Empire.

With the troops which the princes now agreed to furnish, the Emperor marched into France, and in October, 1552, arrived before Metz, which he besieged until the following January. Then, with his army greatly reduced by sickness and hardship, he raised the siege and marched away, to continue the war in other quarters. But it was four years before the quarrel with France came to an end, and during this time the Protestant States of Germany had nothing to fear from the Imperial power. The Margrave Albert of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, who was on the Emperor's side, attempted to carry fire and sword through their territories, in order to pay himself for his military services. After wasting, plundering and committing shocking barbarities in Saxony and Franconia, he was defeated by Maurice, in July, 1553. The latter fell in the moment of victory, giving his life in expiation of his former apostasy. The greater part of Saxony, nevertheless, has remained in the hands of his descendants to this day, while the descendants of John Frederick, although representing the elder line, possess only the little principalities of Thuringia, to each of which the Saxon name is attached, as Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Gotha, &c.

[Sidenote: 1555.]

Charles V., who saw his ambitious plans for the government of the world failing everywhere, and whose bodily strength was failing also, left Germany in disgust, commissioning his brother Ferdinand to call a Diet, in accordance with the stipulations of the Treaty of Passau. The Diet met at Augsburg, and in spite of the violent opposition of the Papal Legate, on the 25th of September, 1555, concluded the treaty of Religious Peace which finally gave rest to Germany. The Protestants who followed the Augsburg Confession received religious freedom, perfect equality before the law, and the undisturbed possession of the Church property which had fallen into their hands. In other respects their privileges were not equal. By a clause called the "spiritual reservation," it was ordered that when a Catholic Bishop or Abbot became Protestant he should give up land and title in order that the Church might lose none of its possessions. The rights and consciences of the people were so little considered that they were not allowed to change their faith unless the ruling prince changed his. The monstrous doctrine was asserted that religion was an affair of the government,--that is, that he to whom belonged the rule, possessed the right to choose the people's faith. In accordance with this law the population of the Palatinate of the Rhine was afterwards compelled to be alternately Calvinistic and Lutheran, four times in succession!


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