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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

And he asked the Diet to confer it on Konrad


[Sidenote: 912.]

When Ludwig the Child died, the state of affairs in Germany had greatly changed. The direct dependence of the nobility and clergy upon the Emperor, established by the political system of Charlemagne, was almost at an end; the country was covered with petty sovereignties, which stood between the chief ruler and the people. The estates which were formerly given to the bishops, abbots, nobles, and others who had rendered special service to the Empire, were called _Lehen_, or "liens" of the monarch (as explained in Chapter X.); they were granted for a term of years, or for life, and afterwards reverted to the royal hands. In return for such grants, the endowed lords were obliged to secure the loyalty of their retainers, the people dwelling upon their lands, and, in case of war, to follow the Emperor's banner with their proportion of fighting men.

So long as the wars were with external foes, with opportunities for both glory and plunder, the service was willingly performed; but when they came as a consequence of family quarrels, and every portion of the empire was liable to be wasted in its turn, the Emperor's "vassals," both spiritual and temporal, began to grow restive. Their military service subjected them to the chance of losing their _Lehen_, and they therefore demanded to have absolute possession of the lands. The next and natural step was to have the possession, and the privileges connected with it, made hereditary in their families; and these claims were very generally secured, throughout Germany, during the reign of Karl the Fat. Only in Saxony and Friesland, and among the Alps, were the common people proprietors of the soil.

[Sidenote: 912. THE WARS OF KING KONRAD.]

The nobles, or large land-owners, for their common defence against the exercise of the Imperial power, united under the rule of Counts or Dukes, by whom the former division of the population into separate tribes or nations was continued. The Emperors, also, found this division convenient, but they always claimed the right to set aside the smaller rulers, or to change the boundaries of their states for reasons of policy.

Charles the Silly, of the Carolingian line, reigned in France in 911, and was therefore, according to the family compact, the heir to Ludwig the Child. Moreover, the Pope, Stephen IV., had threatened with the curse of the Church all those who should give allegiance to an Emperor who was not of Carolingian blood. Nevertheless, the German princes and nobles were now independent enough to defy both tradition and Papal authority. They held a Diet at Forchheim, and decided to elect their own king. They would have chosen Otto, Duke of the Saxons,--a man of great valor, prudence and nobility of character--but he felt himself to be too old for the duties of the royal office, and he asked the Diet to confer it on Konrad, Duke of the Franks. The latter was then almost unanimously chosen, and immediately crowned by Archbishop Hatto of Mayence.

Konrad was a brave, gay, generous monarch, who soon rose into high favor with the people. His difficulty lay in the jealousy of other princes, who tried to strengthen themselves by restricting his authority. He first lost the greater part of Lorraine, and then, on attempting to divide Thuringia and Saxony, which were united under Henry, the son of Duke Otto, his army was literally cut to pieces. A Saxon song of victory, written at the time, says, "The lower world was too small to receive the throngs of the enemies slain."


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