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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

When Wallenstein was dismissed


Wallenstein,

while equally despotic, was much more arrogant and reckless than Ferdinand II. He openly declared that reigning princes and a National Diet were no longer necessary in Germany; the Emperor must be an absolute ruler, like the kings of France and Spain. At the same time he was carrying out his own political plans without much reference to the Imperial authority. Both Catholics and Protestants united in calling for a Diet: Ferdinand II. at first refused, but there were such signs of hostility on the part of Holland, Denmark, Sweden and even France, that he was forced to yield. The Diet met on the 5th of June, 1630, at Ratisbon, and Maximilian of Bavaria headed the universal demand for Wallenstein's removal. The Protestants gave testimony of the merciless system of plunder by which he had ruined their lands; the Catholics complained of the more than Imperial splendors of his court, upon which he squandered uncounted millions of stolen money. He travelled with 100 carriages and more than 1,000 horses, kept 15 cooks for his table, and was waited upon by 16 pages of noble blood. Jealousy of this pomp and state, and fear of Wallenstein's ambitious designs, and not the latter's fiendish inhumanity, induced Ferdinand II. to submit to the entreaties of the Diet, and remove him.

[Sidenote: 1630.]

The Imperial messengers who were sent to his camp with the order of dismissal, approached him in great dread and anxiety, and

scarcely dared to mention their business. Wallenstein pointed to a sheet covered with astrological characters, and quietly told them that he had known everything in advance; that the Emperor had been misled by the Elector of Bavaria, but, nevertheless, the order would be obeyed. He entertained them at a magnificent banquet, loaded them with gifts, and then sent them away. With rage and hate in his heart, but with all the external show and splendor of an independent sovereign, he retired to Prague, well knowing that the day was not far off when his services would be again needed.

Tilly was appointed commander-in-chief of the Imperial armies. At the very moment, however, when Wallenstein was dismissed, and his forces divided among several inferior generals, the leader whom the German Protestants could not furnish came to them from abroad. Their ruin and the triumph of Ferdinand II. seemed inevitable; twelve years of war in its most horrible form had desolated their lands, reduced their numbers to less than half, and broken their spirit. Then help and hope suddenly returned. On the 4th of July, 1630, Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, landed on the coast of Pomerania, with an army of 15,000 men. As he stepped upon the shore, he knelt in the sight of all the soldiers and prayed that God would befriend him. Some of his staff could not restrain their tears; whereupon he said to them: "Weep not, friends, but pray, for prayer is half victory!"

Gustavus Adolphus, who had succeeded to the throne in 1611, at the age of 17, was already distinguished as a military commander. He had defeated the Russians in Livonia and banished them from the Baltic; he had fought for three years with king Sigismund of Poland, and taken from him the ports of Elbing, Pillau and Memel, and he was now burning with zeal to defend the falling Protestant cause in Germany. Cardinal Richelieu, in France, helped him to the opportunity by persuading Sigismund to accept an armistice, and by furnishing Sweden with the means of carrying on a war against Ferdinand II. The latter had assisted Poland, so that a pretext was not wanting; but when Gustavus laid his plans before his council in Stockholm, a majority of the members advised him to wait for a new cause of offence. Nevertheless, he insisted on immediate action. The representatives of the four orders of the people were convoked in the Senate-house, where he appeared before them with his little daughter, Christina, in his arms, asked them to swear fealty to her, and then bade them a solemn farewell. All burst into tears when he said: "perhaps for ever," but nothing could shake his resolution to undertake the great work.


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