1694-1778 Voltaire.

The works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) online

. (page 18 of 19)
Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireThe works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) → online text (page 18 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

carried on step by step, under the conduct of one
single leader, who had always obstinately persisted
in the same plan, the emperor would not have been
in a condition at this time to accomplish the crown-
ing of his eldest son, Ferdinand, in the month of
August, at Prague, and afterward at Presburg,
though this young king did not live to enjoy
his dignity. Besides, the thrones which his father at
that time bestowed were very unsteady.

1647 The emperor, in endeavoring to secure
these kingdoms to his son, is nearer losing them than
ever. The elector of Saxony is obliged, by the mis-
fortunes of the war, to abandon him, as is the elector
Maximilian, his brother-in-law, whose example the
elector of Cologne follows. They sign a treaty of
neutrality with France. Marshal Turenne obliges
the elector of Mentz to adopt the same conduct, and
fear has the same influence on the landgrave of
Hesse-Darmstadt. The emperor remains alone,
without any one prince to take part in his quarrel ;
nor have we, till this time, a single instance of such
a nature in the wars of the empire.

About this period Wrangel, a new Swedish gen-
eral, who succeeded Torstenson, takes Eger; and
Bohemia is once again pillaged. The danger appears
so very great that the elector of Bavaria, notwith-

288 Annals of the Empire.

standing his great age and the peril thereby threat-
ening his dominions, cannot see the head of the
emperor left without succor, but breaks through the
treaty with France. War is made at the same time in
different places, according as the armies can subsist.
When the emperor has the least advantage, his min-
isters at the congress demand favorable conditions ;
but on the least check, are obliged to submit to
severe terms.

1648 The duke of Bavaria's revolt to the house
of Austria is not prosperous. Turenne and Wran-
gel beat his troops and the Austrians at Summar-
hausen and at Lauingen, near the Danube, in spite
of the brave resistance of a prince of Wiirtemberg
and that of Montecuculi, who began already to
prove himself worthy to oppose a Turenne. The
conqueror possesses himself of Bavaria, and the
elector takes refuge at Salzburg.

In the meantime Count Konigsmark, at the head
of the Swedes, surprises Prague in Bohemia. This
was a decisive blow. It was time at length to make
peace. Conditions were to be received, or the empire
hazarded. The French and Swedes had no longer
any enemy in Germany but the emperor. All the
rest were either allied or subdued, and waited only
that the empire should receive laws from the con-
gress at Miinster and Osnabriick.

Ferdinand III. 289


This Peace of Westphalia, at last signed on Oct.
14, 1648, at Miinster and Osnabriick, was made,
given, and received, " as a fundamental and per-
petual law " ; such are the exact words of the treaty.
It was to serve as the basis of imperial capitulations.
It is even at this day a law as sacred, and as fully
received, as the Golden Bull ; nay, very much supe-
rior to this bull, by the detail of the many interests
comprehended in the treaty of all the rights which
it confirms, and the changes made, as well in religion
as in civil affairs.

This work had been carried on incessantly for more
than six years, at Miinster and Osnabruck. There
had been, however, much time lost in disputing about
ceremonials; the emperor refusing to give the title
of Majesty to the kings who had triumphed over
him. His minister Lutzan, in the first act of 1641,
wherein the passports and conferences were settled,
spoke of preliminaries " between His Most Sacred
Caesarian Majesty and the Most Serene and Most
Christian King." The king of France, for his part,
refuses to acknowledge Ferdinand as emperor. It
was not without difficulty that the court of France
had given the title of " Majesty " to the great Gus-
tavus, who believed all kings to be equal, and admit-
ted no superiority but that of victory. The Swedish
ministers at the congress of Westphalia affected to
be put upon a footing with those of France. The
Vol. 3319

290 Annals of the Empire.

plenipotentiaries of Spain in vain insisted upon their
king being named immediately after the emperor.
The new states of the United Provinces demanded in
this treaty an equal rank with kings. The term
" Excellency " began now first to be used. The
ministers assumed it to themselves, and there were
tedious debates to know to whom it belonged.

In the famous treaty of Miinster were named his
Sacred Imperial Majesty, his Sacred Most Christian
Majesty, and the Sacred Royal Majesty of Sweden.

None of the electors plenipotentiaries had the title
of Excellency given him in these conferences ; nor
do the ambassadors of France give place even to the
electors themselves among the princes, and the count
d'Avaux wrote thus to the elector of Brandenburg:
" Sir, I have done all I could to serve you." When
the king of France addressed them, the states-gen-
eral of the United Provinces were to be called the
Lords of the States ; pursuant to which, when Count
dAvaux went from Miinster to Holland in 1644, he
never addressed them by any title but that of Mes-
sieurs ; nor could they procure for their plenipoten-
tiaries the distinction of Excellency. The count
dAvaux also refused it to an ambassador from
Venice, and only gave it to Contarini because he
was a mediator. Affairs were very much retarded
by these pretensions and refusals, which the Romans
call "gloriole," and which all the world condemns
when they are without character, but insist on when
they have established one. These customs, titles,

Ferdinand III. 291

ceremonies, superscriptions, and subscriptions of let-
ters, with their different forms, have varied from
time to time. Often the negligence of a secretary
was sufficient to found a title. The languages in
which they wrote, established forms, which, passing
afterward into other languages, appeared odd. The
emperors before Rudolph I. sent all their mandates
in Latin, " thouing " every prince, as the grammar
of that language admits. This " thouing " of the
counts of the empire was continued in the German
language, which disallows such expressions. We
find everywhere such examples, but they have not
even to this day settled a particular precedent.

The mediating ministers were rather witnesses
than arbitrators ; above all, the nuncio Chigi, who
was there only to see the church sacrificed. He sees
the diocese of Bremen and Verden given up to the
Swede, who was a Lutheran; those of Magdeburg,
Halberstadt, Minden, and Camin, to the elector of

The bishoprics of Ratzeburg and Schwerin were
only fiefs of Mecklenburg. The bishoprics of Osna-
briick and of Liibeck were not indeed entirely secu-
larized, but alternately appointed to a Lutheran and
a Catholic bishop. This was a delicate regulation,
which could never have taken place during the first
troubles of religion; but which is not contradicted
by a nation naturally quiet, in which the fury of
fanaticism was extinct.

Liberty of conscience was established all over

Annals of the Empire.

Germany. The emperor's Lutheran subjects in
Silesia had a right to build new churches, and the
emperor was obliged to admit Protestants into tha
aulic council.

The commanderies of Malta, the abbeys and bene-
fices, in Protestant countries, were given to the
princes and sovereigns who were at the expense of
the war.

How very different were these concessions from
the edict of Ferdinand II., who, in the time of his
prosperity, had ordered the restitution of all ecclesi-
astical possessions. Necessity, and the repose of
the empire, ordained this law. The nuncio protested
and anathematized. That a mediator should con-
demn the treaty over which he presided was before
this unknown; but he knew not what other step to
take. The pope by his bull " deprives him of his full
power, annulling all the articles of the Peace of
Westphalia, as far as they related to religion." But
had he been in the place of Ferdinand he would have
ratified the treaty. This pacific revolution in relig-
ious, causes another in civil affairs. Sweden
becomes a member of the empire, being in posses-
sion of Hither Pomerania, the most beautiful
and profitable part of the other, the principality of
Riigen, the town of Wismar, many neighboring vil-
lages, and the duchies of Bremen and Verden. The
duke of Holstein also hereby gained some territories.

The elector of Brandenburg indeed loses a great
part of Hither Pomerania, but gains the fertile

Ferdinand III. 293

country of Magdeburg, which was infinitely better
than his marquisate. He had also Cammin, Halber-
stadt, and the principality of Minden.

The duke of Mecklenburg loses Wismar, but he
gains the territory of Ratzeburg and of Schwerin.
Five millions of German crowns are at length paid
to Sweden, which the seven circles were to have dis-
charged; and six hundred thousand crowns were
paid to the prince landgrave of Hesse, to be raised
by the archbishoprics of Mentz, of Cologne, of
Paderborn, of Miinster, and the abbey of Fulda.
Germany, as impoverished by this peace as it had
been by the war, could scarcely have paid its pro-
tectors dearer.

These afflictions were, however, healed by the
useful regulations made both in commerce and jus-
tice, by the care which was taken to regulate the
complaints of every town, as well as of every gen-
tleman, who laid their rights before the congress,
as before a supreme court that was to determine the
fate of the world. The particulars were prodigious.

France confirmed to itself forever the possession
of three bishoprics, and the acquisition of Alsace,
Strasburg excepted ; but instead of being paid, like
Sweden, she is obliged to pay.

The archdukes of the branch of Tyrol had three
millions of livres for parting with their rights upon
Alsace and Sundgau. France paid both for war and
peace; but she did not purchase so fine a province
dearly. Breisach and its dependencies were also hers,

294 Annals of the Empire.

as well as the right to garrison Philippsburg. These
two advantages she has since lost ; but kept Alsace,
which is at length incorporated with that kingdom
by Strasburg's having given herself up.

There are few civilians who do not condemn the
wording of the cession of Alsace in this famous
treaty of Miinster. In it are found many equivocal
terms. In effect, to give up " all sorts of jurisdiction
and sovereignty," and to give up " the prefecture of
ten free imperial towns," are two very different
things. It is highly probable that the plenipotenti-
aries saw this difficulty, but did not choose to fathom
it, well knowing that there are many things, the
veil of which time will remove and power overthrow.

The house of the palatine was restored to all its
rights, except the Higher Palatinate, which was left
to the Bavarian branch. An eighth electorate was
erected in favor of the palatine. Such was their
attention to all rights and every complaint, that they
went so far as to stipulate the payment of twenty
thousand crowns, which the emperor was to give the
mother of the count palatine, Charles Louis, and ten
thousand to each of his sisters. Even he who came
only to demand the restitution of a few acres of
land was well received. All things were discussed
and regulated. There were one hundred and forty
thousand restitutions appointed. The restitution of
Lorraine, and the affair of Juliers, submitted to an
arbitration. Germany has at last peace, after a war
of thirty years ; but France has not.

Ferdinand III. 295

The troubles of Paris, in 1647, emboldened Spain
to make her own advantage of it, who declines
engaging in the general negotiation. The states-
general, who were to have treated at Munster, as
well as Spain, make a separate peace with Spain, in
spite of all the obligations they had to France, the
treaties which tied them down, and the interests
which seemed to bind them to their ancient pro-
tectors. The Spanish minister made use of a very
singular artifice to engage the states to this breach
of faith : he persuaded them that he was ready to
give the infanta in marriage to Louis XIV., with the
Low Countries by way of dower. This soon fright-
ened the states into his measures. It was no more
than a lie ; and, indeed, properly speaking, what dif-
ference is there between the art of politics and the
art of lying?

In this important Treaty of Westphalia the Roman
Empire had hardly any share. Sweden had no busi-
ness to quarrel with the sovereign of Italy, but with
the king of Germany. France had some points to
regulate which Ferdinand could not agree to but as
emperor. These concerned Pignerol, the succession
of Mantua and of Montferrat, which were fiefs of
the empire. It was settled that the king of France
should pay about six hundred thousand livres to
" Monsieur the duke of Mantua, upon the receipt of
Monsieur the duke of Savoy ; " provided that he
should keep Pignerol and Casale in full and inde-
pendent sovereignty of the empire. France has since

296 Annals of the Empire.

lost these possessions, as Bremen, Verden, and part
of Pomerania have been taken from Sweden; but
the Treaty of Westphalia, as far as it concerns the
regulating of Germany, has always remained
respected, and is still inviolable.



Thus the chaos of German government was not
well settled in less than seventeen hundred years,
reckoning from the reign of Henry the Fowler,
before whose time it had not been a government.
The prerogatives of the kings of Germany had not
been restrained to proper limits ; most of the rights
of the electors, of the princes, of the immediate
noblesse, and of the towns, were not incontestably
fixed till after the Treaty of Westphalia. Germany
was a grand aristocracy, at the head of which was
a king not unlike those of England, Sweden, and
Poland, or such a form of government as had been
anciently received by the states, founded by the peo-
ple who came from the North and the East. The
diet was in the place of a parliament, where the
imperial towns had a right to vote, to determine
peace or war.

These imperial towns enjoy regal rights equally
with the princes of Germany. They are states
belonging to the empire, and not to the emperor.

Germany. 297

They neither pay the smallest imposts, nor do they
contribute to the necessities of the empire, but in
the most urgent cases. Their tax is regulated by the
general register. If they have the right of finally
determining or judging, de non appellando, without
appeal, they are absolutely sovereign states. Never-
theless, with all these rights, they have very little
power; because they are surrounded with princes
who have a great deal. The inconvenience annexed
to a government so complicated and mixed, in so
extended a country, still subsisted ; as did the state
itself. The multiplicity of sovereignties served to
balance one another, until, in the heart of Germany,
a power forms itself sufficiently great to swallow
up the rest.

This vast country repairs insensibly its losses after
the Peace of Westphalia. Its lands are cultivated,
and its towns rebuilt. In the following years these
were the most remarkable things that happened to a
body everywhere wasted and torn, who availed her-
self now of the grievances she had sustained from
her own members during thirty years.

When it is said that Germany was in those times
a free country, this is to be understood of the princes
and imperial towns ; for all the intermediate towns
are subject to greater vassals, to whom they belong;
and the condition of the inhabitants of the country
is middling, between a slave and a subject; par-
ticularly in Suabia and Bohemia.

Hungary, like Germany, breathes a little, after

298 Annals of the Empire.

so many intestine wars, and such frequent invasions
of the Turks; she standing in need of being
recruited, repeopled, and polished; but always jeal-
ous of her right of electing a sovereign, and pre-
serving under him her privileges. When Ferdinand
III. causes his son Leopold, then seventeen years
old, to be elected king of Hungary in 1664, they
make his serene highness sign a capitulation as bind-
ing as that of the emperor. It is to be observed that
the Hungarians use Serene Highness instead of
Majesty; a title they never give to any but the
emperor, or the king of the Romans. But the Hun-
garian lords were not so powerful as the German
princes; they had neither Swedes nor French to
guarantee their privileges ; they were rather op-
pressed than assisted by the Turks, and for this
reason Hungary has been at length entirely subdued,
in our time, after new intestine wars.

The emperor, after the Treaty of Westphalia,
found himself peaceable possessor of Bohemia,
devolved to him as a patrimony ; of Hungary, which
he looked upon as an inheritance, while the Hunga-
rians thought themselves an elective kingdom, and of
all the provinces to the extremity of Tyrol. He had
no territory in Italy.

The name of the Holy Roman Empire always
remains. It is difficult to define what it is besides
Germany, and what Germany is besides the empire.
Charles V. had justly foreseen that, if his son, Philip
II., had not, together with the imperial throne,

Germany. 299

enjoyed the crowns of Spain, of Germany, of Naples,
and of Milan, scarcely more would have remained
to him than the name of Empire. In effect, when
the great fief of Milan was, as well as Naples, in the
hands of the Spanish branch, this branch found itself
at the same time that it was a titulary vassal of the
empire and the pope, protecting one, and giving laws
to the other. Tuscany and the principal towns in
Italy secure themselves in their ancient independence
of the emperors. A Csesar who had no dominions in
Italy, and who in Germany was only the chief
of a republic of princes and slaves, could not pre-
tend to command like a Charlemagne or an Otho.

We see, in all the course of this history, two great
designs carried on for nearly eight hundred years;
that of the popes hindering the emperors to reign
in Rome, and that of the German lords preserving
and increasing their privileges.

It was in this condition that Ferdinand III., at his
death, in 1657, left the empire, while the Spanish
branch of Austria still carried on that long war with
France, which was finished by the Pyrenean treaty,
and the marriage of the infanta Maria Theresa to
Louis XIV.

These events are so recent, and so very well
known, as well as recited by all historians, that it
would be needless to repeat here what nobody is
ignorant of. From this situation of affairs a general
idea may be formed of the empire, from those days
down to ours.

Annals of the Empire.



It is to be remarked that at first, after the death
of Ferdinand III., the empire almost passed out of
the house of Austria; but in 1658 the electors imag-
ined themselves obliged to choose Leopold Ignatius,
the son of Ferdinand, who was then eighteen years
old ; but the good of the state, the neighborhood of
the Turks, and private jealousies, contributed to the
election of a prince whose house was sufficiently
powerful to support, but not to enslave, the German
Empire. They had formerly elected Rudolph of
Hapsburg because he had scarcely any territories.
The empire was continued to his posterity, because
they had a great deal.

The Turks, still masters of Buda; the French,
possessors of Alsace ; the Swedes, of Pomerania and
Bremen, made this election necessary; so natural
is the idea of equilibrium amongst all men.

Besides, it was in Leopold's favor that there had
been ten emperors successively of the same house ;
so many pleas are generally attended to when the
public liberty is not thought to be in danger. It is
thus that the elective throne of Poland has continued
always hereditary in the Jagellon family.

Italy could not be an object for the ministry of
Leopold; there was no longer any need of seeking
a crown at Rome, and still less of exerting the Aus-

Leopold. 301

trian claims as lord paramount over Naples and
Milan. But France, Sweden, and Turkey, employed
the Germans all this reign, these three powers, one
after another, being either limited, repulsed, or van-
quished, without Leopold's drawing his sword. This
prince, the least warlike of his time, always attacked
Louis XIV. when France was in the most flourishing
condition; at first, after the invasion of Holland,
when he furnished the United Provinces with an
assistance which he had not extended to his own
house at the invasion of Flanders ; and some years
after, at the Peace of Nimeguen, when he made that
famous League of Augsburg against Louis XIV.,
and at last at the time when, in the most astonishing
manner, the king of France's grandson was raised
to the Spanish throne.

Leopold, in all these wars, knew how to interest
the Germanic body, and to make them declare them
to be wars of the empire. The first was unfortunate
enough, and the emperor received law from the
Treaty of Nimeguen. The interior parts of Germany
were not ravaged by these wars, as they had been
by the war which lasted thirty years ; but the fron-
tiers, on the side of the Rhine, were damaged. Louis
XIV. had always the superiority; nor could it well
happen otherwise. Able ministers, experienced gen-
erals, a kingdom everywhere united, places well
fortified, armies well disciplined, and a formidable
artillery, as well as excellent engineers, must neces-
sarily have the better of a country where these

302 Annals of the Empire.

advantages are wanting. It is astonishing that
France did not succeed better against armies levied
in haste, often ill-paid, and equipped still worse,
the leaders of which were princes who seldom
agreed, and who had different interests to pursue.
France in this war, which was ended by the Treaty
of Nimeguen, owed its superiority to the excellence
of its government beyond that of Germany, Spain,
and the United Provinces, which were but badly

Fortune was less unequal in the second war pro-
duced by the League of Augsburg. Louis XIV. had
then against him England, joined to Germany and
Spain. The duke of Savoy was in the league ; and
Sweden, that had been so long the ally of France,
abandoned her, furnishing troops against her in
quality of a member of the empire. Notwithstand-
ing there were so many allies, they could scarcely
do more than defend the empire ; nor could they,
at the Peace of Ryswick, with all their power, force
Strasburg from Louis XIV.

The third war was indeed more prosperous to
Leopold and Germany; yet at this time the king
of France was more powerful than ever. He gov-
erned Spain in the name of his grandson, and had
under him the Spanish Low Countries and Bavaria ;
besides which, his armies were in the midst of Italy
and Germany. The memorable battle of Hochstadt
gave things an entirely new face. Leopold died in
the following year, 1705, convinced that France

Leopold. 303

would soon be crushed, and Alsace reunited to Ger-
many. The grandeur of Louis XIV. was of the
greatest service to Leopold during his whole reign.
This grandeur made him so vain, ostentatious, and
haughty that he irritated rather than intimidated
all his neighbors, more especially the English.

It is commonly believed that he had universal
monarchy; but even if Leopold had inherited the
Spanish succession (which seemed for some time
extremely likely), despite the fact that he was then
absolute master of Hungary, whose boundaries were
very extensive, and notwithstanding he was very
powerful in Germany, possessed Spain, and the abso-
lute dominion of one-half of Italy, and was as well
sovereign of the best part of the new world, and thus
able to support the rights and pretensions of the
empire, this would probably have been his nearest
approach to universal monarchy. They affected to
fear this in Louis XIV., because, after the Peace of
Nimeguen, he seemed inclined to make the three,
bishoprics depend on him for certain lands which
they hold of the empire ; and yet they did not fear it
in Leopold or his issue, who were near to reigning
over Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Louis XIV., in irritating his neighbors, did infi-
nitely more service to the house of Austria than he
could possibly have done harm to it by his power.

304 Annals of the Empire.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18

Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireThe works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) → online text (page 18 of 19)