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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

All Southern Alsatia with the fortress of Breisach


[Sidenote: 1645.]

The chief obstacle to peace--the power of the Hapsburgs--now seemed to be broken down. The wanton and tremendous effort made to crush out Protestantism in Germany, although helped by the selfishness, the cowardice or the miserable jealousy of so many Protestant princes, had signally failed, owing to the intervention of three foreign powers, one of which was Catholic. Yet the Peace Congress, which had been agreed upon in 1643, had accomplished nothing. It was divided into two bodies: the ambassadors of the Emperor were to negotiate at Osnabrueck with Sweden, as the representative of the Protestant powers, and at Muenster with France, as the representative of the Catholic powers which desired peace. Two more years elapsed before all the ambassadors came together, and then a great deal of time was spent in arranging questions of rank, title and ceremony, which seem to have been considered much more important than the weal or woe of a whole people. Spain, Holland, Venice, Poland and Denmark also sent representatives, and about the end of 1645 the Congress was sufficiently organized to commence its labors. But, as the war was still being waged with as much fury as ever, one side waited and then the other for the result of battles and campaigns; and so two more years were squandered.

After the armistice with Maximilian of Bavaria, the Swedish general, Wrangel, marched into Bohemia, where he gained so many advantages that Maximilian finally took sides again with the Emperor and drove the Swedes into Northern Germany. Then, early in 1648, Wrangel effected a junction with Marshal Turenne, and the combined Swedish and French armies overran all Bavaria, defeated the Imperialists in a bloody battle, and stood ready to invade Austria. At the same time Koenigsmark, with another Swedish army, entered Bohemia, stormed and took half the city of Prague, and only waited the approach of Wrangel and Turenne to join them in a combined movement upon Vienna. But before this movement could be executed, Ferdinand III. had decided to yield. His ambassadors at Osnabrueck and Muenster had received instructions, and lost no time in acting upon them: the proclamation of peace, after such heartless delays, came suddenly and put an end to thirty years of war.

[Sidenote: 1648. THE PEACE OF WESTPHALIA.]

The Peace of Westphalia, as it is called, was concluded on the 24th of October, 1648. Inasmuch as its provisions extended not to Germany alone, but fixed the political relations of Europe for a period of nearly a hundred and fifty years, they must be briefly stated. France and Sweden, as the military powers which were victorious in the end, sought to draw the greatest advantages from the necessities of Germany, but France opposed any settlement of the religious questions (in order to keep a chance open for future interference), and Sweden demanded an immediate and final settlement, which was agreed to. France received Lorraine, with the cities of Metz, Toul and Verdun, which she had held nearly a hundred years, all Southern Alsatia with the fortress of Breisach, the right of appointing the governors of ten German cities, and other rights which practically placed nearly the whole of Alsatia in her power. Sweden received the northern half of Pomerania, with the cities of Wismar and Stettin, and the coast between Bremen and Hamburg, together with an indemnity of 5,000,000 thalers. Electoral Saxony received Lusatia and part of the territory of Magdeburg. Brandenburg received the other half of Pomerania, the archbishopric of Magdeburg, the bishoprics of Minden and Halberstadt, and other territory which had belonged to the Roman Church. Additions were made to the domains of Mecklenburg, Brunswick, and Hesse-Cassel, and the latter was also awarded an indemnity of 600,000 thalers. Bavaria received the Upper Palatinate (north of the Danube), and Baden, Wuertemberg and Nassau were restored to their banished rulers. Other petty States were confirmed in the position which they had occupied before the war, and the independence of Switzerland and Holland was acknowledged.


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