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the Protestants was to put themselves into a state of respect, and to get themselves acknowledged by the laws of the empire. In this they succeeded at the peace of Passau.
But the ecclesiastical reservation, as I have before mentioned, had then ordained that if a Roman Catholic turned Protestant, his benefice should be lost to him.
Truth, therefore, had no equal chance: a serious impediment was thrown in the way, not only of conviction, but of all avowal of conviction, and even of all religious inquiry. For with what candour, with what ardour, was any ecclesiastic to inquire, when the result of his inquiry might be, that he would have to lose not only his situation in society, but his accustomed means of subsistence ? This point, however, could never be carried by the Protestants.
The Roman Catholics considered the reservation as the bulwark of their faith, and found no difficulty in persuading the people, and more particularly the rulers of the people, that their cause was the cause of all true religion and good government. At the peace of Westphalia, therefore, it was agreed, that if a Catholic turned Protestant, he should lose his benefice as before, and the same if a Protestant turned Catholic. But it will be observed, that to make the last provision was, in fact, to do nothing; for the Protestant was the invading sect. There was no chance of the Protestant's turning Roman Catholic, and the only question of practical importance was, whether the Catholic might be allowed to open his eyes, and, if he thought good, turn Protestant without suffering in his fortunes. This he could not; the eyes of the Protestant were already opened.
The great cause, therefore, of religious inquiry at least (there was no doubt a great difficulty in the case) failed, but not entirely. For the inroads that the Protestants had made on the Catholic ecclesiastical property, during the first century of the Reformation, down, for instance, to the year 1624, were not inconsiderable; and in the possessions which they had thus obtained, they were not to be disturbed; a certain progress-an important progress-was therefore made and secured.
Again (what is very remarkable) the civil rights of the Protestants, their equality with their Catholic brethren on
all public occasions, in the diet and other tribunals, were allowed.
This was an important vietory; far more than inferior sects have been always able to obtain, more than they have obtained for instance, in our own country; far more than can be accounted for by any influence which moderation and good sense could have had upon the contending parties.
Another result took place; the Calvinists and Lutherans contrived at last, to consider themselves as one body, whose business it was, during the negotiations of the peace and ever after, to provide for their common security, while equally resisting the authority of the Church of Rome.
This, too, was an important victory, a victory which the two sects obtained, not over their enemies, but over themselves, partly in consequence of their past sufferings, still more from the influence of their own worldly politics; above all, from the master interference of France, whose ministers, equally disregarding the distinctions between Lutheran and Calvinists, and the cause of Protestant and Papist, wished only to subdue the House of Austria, and to combine and manage every party so as to produce this grand effect, the object of all their politics—the humiliation of the House of Austria.
The future progress of religious truth seems to have been but loosely provided for. A prince was allowed to change or reform the religion of his dominions in all cases not limited by the treaty, or settled by antecedent compact with the subject.
The truth is, that a question like this last was too delicate to be adjusted by any formal ordinance in an age of religious wars, or indeed in any age.
The general principle adopted by the treaty seems to have been, to confirm every thing in the state it was left by the year 1624, an arrangement that must, on the whole, be considered favourable to the Protestants, far more so than could have been expected, if we reflect on their own unfortunate intolerance of each other, and the difficulty, at all times, of sustaining a combination of smaller powers against a greater.
The great gainer in this contest was France; the great
sufferer the House of Austria. The grandeur of the one was advanced, and the ambition of the other was for ever humbled.
A combination against the House of Austria had been long carried on with more or less regularity and effect, but chiefly by the influence of France. The result of this united effort, was seen in the peace of Westphalia.
It is painful to think that the establishment of the civil and religious liberties of Germany was owing, not to the generous, rational, steady resistance of the Protestant princes, but much more to the anxiety of France to depress the House of Austria; and again, to the check which that House of Austria continually experienced to its designs, and was still likely to experience, from the arms of the Ottoman princes.
In this manner it happened that for the religious part of the great treaty of Westphalia; for such toleration, good sense, and Christianity as are to be found there, mankind were, after all, indebted principally to such strange propagators of the cause of truth and free inquiry, as Richelieu and the Mahometans.
By the treaty of Westphalia, the apprehensions which Europe had so long entertained of the power of the House of Austria were, as I have just mentioned to you, removed.
But it is the great misfortune of mankind that the balance is no sooner restored by the diminishing of one exorbitant power than it is again in danger by the preponderancy of another. From this epoch of the peace of Westphalia, the real power to be dreaded was no longer the House of Austria, but France; and the ambition of her cabinets, the compactness of her possessions, the extent of her resources, and the genius of her people, soon converted into the enemy of the happiness of the world, that very nation which at the peace of Westphalia appeared, and but appeared, in the honourable character of the protectress of the civil and religious liberties of Germany, and the mediatrix of the dissensions of a century. In the empire, the different states and princes were now more protected than before from the emperor, but they were not harmonized into a whole, nor was it possible that a number of petty sovereigns should be influenced by any general principle. It was impossible that they should form themselves either into any limited monarchy, or fall into any system; which, however it might have advanced the substantial greatness of all, would have diminished the personal splendour and fancied importance of each individual potentate.
They therefore continued in their common form of union and law, and endeavoured to maintain the independence of the several princes and states by a league for their common interest ; but this league could not possibly be made sufficiently binding and effective to secure that common interest, while they were exposed to the practices of foreign intrigue, not only from their situation, but from the improvident selfishness which belongs as well to states as to individuals. Thus it happened that France, or any other power, found it easy at all times to convert a portion of the strength of Germany to its own purposes. Thus it happened that this immense division of the most civilized portion of the world never rose to that external consequence, and what is more, never to that state of internal improvement and happiness, which, under favourable circumstances, it might certainly have realized.
I must now make two general observations, and conclude: first, on the House of Austria; secondly, on the peace of Westphalia.
There is no pleasure in reading the history of these princes of the House of Austria. At the most critical period of the world they were the greatest impediments to its improvement; every resistance possible was made to the Reformation by Charles V. Philip II. is proverbial for his tyranny and bigotry. If we turn from the Spanish to the German line of this house, we see nothing, except in one instance (that of Maximilian), but the most blind and unfeeling hostility to the civil and religious rights of mankind. In this line are numbered, Ferdinand I., Maximilian, Rodolph, Matthias. Ferdinand I. we see always employed in tyrannizing over his kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia. In his measures we can discern only the most continued violation of every principle which should animate a legislator. Instead of rational attempts to train up the bold privileges of a rude people into some political system, properly modified and adapted to the dispensation of more secure and practical freedom, we see force and fury, and command and authority, and all the machinery of harsh and arbitrary government, drawn out and employed to harass, subjugate, and destroy a spirited people—a people that deserved a better fate, by no means incapable of attachment to their rulers, and perfectly susceptible of a sincere and ardent devotion to their Creator.
Was there any worldly policy in such outrages and injustice? Instead of affectionate and zealous subjects to be interposed between the dearest possessions of the House of Austria and the Turks, men only were to be seen ever ready to break out into insurrection (mutinous chiefs), rebels to the power of the crown, candidates for the crown itself; men who were the sources of terror and embarrassment to the empire, not its defenders, or the guardians of the general security and repose.
Nothing better can be said of Rodolph II. and Matthias; and Ferdinand II., under whom the thirty years' war broke out, was, as nearly as human bigotry and tyranny would admit, the very counterpart of Philip II. of Spain.
Men like these should be pointed out in history to statesmen and to sovereigns, as examples of all that they should in their public capacities avoid, not imitate. And this lesson is the more important, because these princes were men, not only of princely virtues, of elevation of mind in adversity, of patience and of fortitude, and of great attention to business, but men of very sincere, though mistaken piety; Ferdinand II. more particularly, while his public conduct exhibited the most unprincipled lust of power, and the most unfeeling bigotry, was in private life the best of fathers, of husbands, and of masters; and whenever the religion of mercy was not concerned, was merciful and forgiving.
My second observation is connected with the treaty of Westphalia, and relates to the general condition and progress of the religious and political happiness of mankind.
What is the history of that religious and political happiness, the history as here presented to us, in this final adjustment by the peace of Westphalia ? Consider it.
A spirit of religious inquiry had been excited in a monk of Wittemburgh; and so prepared had been mankind at the time, that this spirit had passed from his closet and solitary thoughts, into the cabinets and the councils, the mind and