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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

Maximilian died somewhat unexpectedly on January 12th


As

soon as the _Reichsregiment_ had settled its scheme of taxation, the cities on which it was proposed to lay the whole burden of providing the funds required very naturally objected. They met by representatives at Speyer (1523), and sent delegates to Spain, to Valladolid, where Charles happened to be, to protest against the scheme of taxation. They were supported by the great German capitalists. The Emperor received them graciously, and promised to take the government into his own hands. In this way the last attempt to give a governmental unity to Germany was destroyed by the joint action of the Emperor and of the cities. It is unquestionable that the Reformation under Luther did seriously assist in the disintegration of Germany, but it must be remembered that a movement cannot become national where there is no nation, and that German nationality had been hopelessly destroyed just at the time when it was most needed to unify and moderate the great religious impulses which were throbbing in the hearts of its citizens.

Maximilian had been elected King of the Romans in 1486, and had succeeded to the Empire on the death of his father, Frederick III., in 1493. His was a strongly fascinating personality--a man full of enthusiasms, never lacking in ideas, but singularly destitute of the patient practical power to make them workable. He may almost be called a type of that Germany over which he was called to rule. No man was fuller of the longing for German

unity as an ideal; no man did more to perpetuate the very real divisions of the land.

He was the patron of German learning and of German art, and won the praises of the German Humanists: no ruler was more celebrated in contemporary song. He protected and supported the German towns, encouraged their industries, and fostered their culture. In almost everything ideal he stood for German nationality and unity. He placed himself at the head of all those intellectual and artistic forces from which spread the thought of a united Germany for the Germans. On the other hand, his one persistent practical policy, and the only one in which he was almost uniformly successful, was to unify and consolidate the family possessions of the House of Hapsburg. In this policy he was the leader of those who broke up Germany into an aggregate of separate and independent principalities. The greater German princes followed his example, and did their best to transform themselves into the civilised rulers of modern States.

Maximilian died somewhat unexpectedly on January 12th, 1519, and five months were spent in intrigues by the partisans of Francis of France and young Charles, King of Spain, the grandson of Maximilian. The French party believed that they had secured by bribery a majority of the Electors; and when this was whispered about, the popular feeling in favour of Charles, on account of his German blood, soon began to manifest itself. It was naturally strongest in the Rhine provinces. Papal delegates could not get the Rhine skippers to hire boats to them for their journey, as it was believed that the Pope favoured the French king. The Imperial Cities accused Francis of fomenting internecine war in Germany, and displayed their hatred of his candidature. The very Landsknechten clamoured for the grandson of their "Father" Maximilian. The eyes of all Germany were turned anxiously enough to the venerable town of Frankfurt-on-the-Main, where, according to ancient usage, the Electors met to select the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. On the 28th of June (1519) the alarm bell of the town gave the signal, and the Electors assembled in their scarlet robes of State in the dim little chapel of St. Bartholomew, where the conclave was always held. The manifestation of popular feeling had done its work. Charles was unanimously chosen, and all Germany rejoiced,--the good burghers of Frankfurt declaring that if the Electors had chosen Francis they would have been "playing with death."


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