History of Germany and Austria

Thirty-seven years before that important event, the wife of a miner, named Luther, (a worthy, studious, and stubborn man), had, in the little town of Eisleben, become the mother of a boy, who was named Martin, from having been born on St. Martin's Eve. Removed in infancy to Mansfeld, on the banks of the Vipper, young Luther, while standing by his father's forge, or accompanying his mother to gather fagots in the forest, indulged in the anticipation of becoming a scholar, and being sent, after some preparatory training, to Erfurt, he excited by his intellectual powers the admiration of the whole university. One day, while reading keenly in the library, he came upon a Latin copy of the Bible, the pages of which he perused with breathless interest; and resolving upon a monastic life, he entered the Convent of St. Augustine at the age of twenty-one. After spending three years in the cloister, Luther accepted a professorship in the University of Wittemberg, which Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, had founded. And in 1512 being sent as envoy to Rome, where Pope Julius then reigned, and his monastic illusions vanishing into air, he commenced his career as a Reformer, and was excommunicated by Leo X, who did not like his hunting, shooting, and fishing to be disturbed by heretics. Luther retaliated by publishing the 'Babylonish Captivity'; and the book being burned, he, in 1520, publicly committed to the flames the Pope's bull and decretals.

The popular spirit in Germany was in Luther's favor; for though, from the days of Louis of Bavaria, the Emperors had acknowledged the ascendancy of the Popes, the people had exhibited an increasing dislike to the yoke of Rome, and in 1512 the populace of the Rhenish provinces had displayed their discontent by forming the League of Shoes, Maximilian, it appears, had not manifested any dislike to the new faith; but Charles V had inherited enough of Spanish bigotry to decide his opinions, and in 1521 he summoned Luther to appear before the Diet of Worms, and answer for his doctrines. The bold Reformer soon arrived from Wittemberg in a wagon, Vended himself with great spirit, and afterward escaped into Saxony, where, secured by his friend the Elector in the fortress of Wartberg, while branded by the Pope as a viper of hell,' he commenced his translation of the Bible. And matters did not rest here, for the mind of Europe was in agitation.

While, in England, Henry was attacking alike the Catholics and Protestants; while, in Scotland, Cardinal Beaton was feasting his eyes with the burning of heretics; while, in France, the brave and glory-loving Francis was sullying his fame by consenting to the villages of the Vaudois being converted into a desert waste; the Emperor Charles was by no means indifferent to the interest of the Romish Church within the Imperial dominions. And when freed by the death of his impetuous rival from apprehensions of war, he gained, at Muhlberg, a victory over the Confederates at Smalcalde, which placed the venerable Frederick of Saxony in his power. Strangely, at that crisis, the Lutherans turned for aid to Henry II of France, who though bent on persecution at home, on certain conditions proclaimed himself their champion. But ere his services could be rendered, Maurice of Saxony, to whom Charles had given the Electorate, prefer. ring to be a chief of the Protestants to figuring as the Emperor's creature, after much dissimulation marched on Inspruck, and almost succeeded in capturing Charles, who, after escaping over the. Alps in a litter, sick and solitary, signed the Convention of Passau, which was converted into a definitive peace in 1552 - the era of religious liberty in Germany.

At the close of this war, weary of the world, the great Emperor, having previously abdicated the Spanish throne in favor of his son Philip, resigned the Imperial crown to his brother Ferdinand, king of the Romans. After a reign of eight years, that prince was succeeded by his son, Maximilian II, who died in 1596, while preparing to support his election as King of Poland.

Rodolph II, son of Maximilian, was so entirely devoted to the study of astronomy and astrology that he saw with indifference his dominions usurped by his brother Matthias, who, succeeding to the Empire in 1612, procured .the election of his cousin Ferdinand to the thrones of Hungary and Bohemia. Both nations revolted, and the Hungarians were appeased; but Ferdinand was a pupil of the Jesuits, and the Bohemian Protestants, to whom he was obnoxious, advanced in arms to the gates of Vienna; and, while Matthias was on his dying bed, commenced that terrible conflict known in history as the Thirty Years' War.

Ferdinand, though elevated to the imperial throne, was sternly rejected by the Bohemians, who offered their crown to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, and son-in-law of the first James of England. Frederick, proceeding to Prague, accepted the gift, but rashly, as it soon appeared; for in November, 1620, the Imperialists coming thither, under Tilly, inflicted a defeat, which made the Elector and his fair spouse, whom Men called the Queen of Hearts, fly to the Hanle, while their friends surrendered town after town in the Palatinate to the Italian general Spinola. The Duke of Batavia, ere long, took possession of the Electorate; and its hereditary sovereign, homeless and houseless, in spite of the alliance of the King of Denmark, remained a pensioner on Dutch bounty at the Hague.