The Ghost of a Spanish King
( Originally Published 1912 )
THREE citizens of the American Republic have just been elevated by ordination of Pope Pius X to a rank that had its origin in the Roman catacombs. They have entered the senate of their church, which was organized under the direction of that Hildebrand who afterward became Pope Gregory VII. Having left the modern cities of Boston and New York—the Boston and New York we know, that are alive with the fullness of the spirit of this age; having crossed the Atlantic in great vessels propelled by steam-power; having flashed messages to friends from mid-ocean by means of a modern miracle, the wireless telegraph; having traversed that ancient Gaul, in which St. Boniface preached, in cars drawn by steam-locomotives; having ridden in automobiles through the streets of the city of the Caesars, they kneel before the altar of the great Church of St. Peter, whose foundations were laid, four decades before Columbus sailed from Palos, upon the last resting-place of that Peter who was Prince of the Apostles of Jesus Christ!
Incidents such as this realize history for us; they are the living, tangible bonds between us and the distant past; they connect the things which are familiar, visible, intimate, with the things that are strange, ghostly, and remote; they are to a doubting generation as were the wounds of the Saviour which the doubting Thomas must touch with his own hands.
They help us to invest with flesh and blood and vitalize with spirit the figures that history presents to us. They make it easier for us to form a mental picture of the Julius II with whom Michelangelo talked of this very dome beneath which Pius X and the American cardinals kneel to-day. We see the flashing eyes of the master sculptor as he urges his mighty project upon the pope: "Think, your Holiness, of this vast dome, this replica of the ancient Roman Pantheon, elevated upon great columns to typify the elevation of our holy faith over that paganism which once found its home in the Pantheon; think of so majestic a structure in which all that is noble and beautiful shall find expression, its base comprehending the world beneath it, its foundations on the grave of the martyred Peter, and its apex lifted high in glorification of the Son of God !" We can better understand the enthusiasm of the great soldier-pope, the impatience with which he had torn down the ancient basilica in order that so vast a project should not be hampered for lack of room; the op-position of some of the cardinals who represented the love the medieval world had for the old church with all its great memories. These things come nearer to us; they are clearer to our sight because of the ceremonies whereby Cardinals Farley, Falconio, and O'Connell have just been inducted into the senate of their ancient church.
Julius II came to the throne of Peter when the war-like spirit of Europe was changing in its character. It was more fierce and cruel than ever it had been, but it was no longer devotional. The church still cherished the design of reclaiming the Holy Land, but the princes were interested in nothing but territorial extension and political power. The old fluid condition of European politics was passing away; states were solidifying, national boundaries growing more definite. No man can play a great part in any age without being influenced by the spirit of that age, and Julius II, when he received the Ring of the Fisherman, had a great part to play. The personal immorality of Alexander VI, the cruelty and rapacity of Caesar Borgia, had not only weakened the moral prestige of the papacy, but had ruined the Papal States. Everywhere there was rebellion, everywhere in the domain of the church there was lack of respect for law. Free companions plundered the cities, and nobles and their henchmen robbed and murdered on the public roads. Proud vassals laughed at the enfeebled papacy, and tyrannized over the common people. The north of Italy had been lost to the States of the Church, the German power shadowed all Italy.
Without a clear understanding of all this, and of the thoughts and motives of the princes of Europe, we cannot understand how political conditions influenced the thought and literature of the Reformation and the attitude of Protestant peoples toward the church from which they had separated. It was never the theological consideration that embittered Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Catholic; it was ever the breath of secular politics that fanned the flame of hatred and blackened history for three centuries with the most remarkable falsehoods. A di-vision on points of doctrine there might have been, otherwise; but it would never have left us with prejudices so blind that our every thought of the commonest problems must be made insane by the hatred we have for fellow-Christians.
We do not have to go in this day to Catholic historians for proof that this is so. A reading of our own accepted historians shows it so clearly that it is strange that every one who reads them does not see it instantly. The Great Schism was due to the interference of the temporal rulers with ecclesiastical affairs. That interference left a Catholic world with two claimants to the papacy, and a wide-spread doubt as to which had the right on his side. It was settled at the Council of Constance, but in the meantime it had been made the tool of politics. By confusing the people it had allowed the princes to shift from side to side, as suited them, without fear of such consequences as would follow in the days when, despite the election of antipopes, there was no doubt among the people as to the identity of the true pope. Ranke points this out. "It was long at the option of each prince," he says, "to attach himself to one pope or the other, as might best suit his political interests."
And the princes were only seeking some such pre-text. Remember, it was the day of personal government, of absolutism in politics, the day when the favor or disfavor of a prince meant life or death to a subject! The "civil power," of which we hear so much, didn't mean a "government of the people, by the people, for the people"; it meant a Henry, or a Conrad, or a Philip, or a Louis, who might happen to be born a king. They were robbing one another whenever opportunity offered, and the people all the time; they were indulging every passion without scruple and without check—"the king could do no wrong." Where was the bar at which he could be arraigned, where was the judge to try him? There was only one such to pass upon his moral guilt, and he went as far as he dared to defy and oppress that. No wonder that, as the Protestant historian we have quoted says, "The civil power would no longer endure the presence of any higher authority." No wonder that the popes themselves looked to the material sword to protect them against so conscienceless a band of tyrants as then cursed Europe.
"I had once thought," exclaimed a speaker at the Council of Basel, "that the secular power should be wholly separate from that of the church; but I have now learned that virtue without force is but slightly respected, and that the pope, without the patrimony of the church, would be the mere servant of kings and princes !"
Indeed, the princes had done much toward impairing the moral value of the church. They had made the great bishoprics crown patronage; it was a poor monarch who did not have a vassal prelate riding in mail among his men-at-arms, and a profligate arch-bishop of his own appointment making jest of holy things at his court, while a hired substitute performed his pastoral duties.
Into such a world came Pope Julius II to talk to such princes in the only language for which they had any respect. He was not a young man when he ascended the chair of St. Peter and received the temporal crown of the Papal States with the spiritual crown of the Bishop of Rome, but he undertook the warfare for the pacification and reclamation of the patrimony of the church with the zeal and strength and skill of a spirit upon which the passing years seemed to have no effect. The boasting nobles of Italy first felt his power; he cleared the roads of robbers, peasant and noble alike. The bandit business became unprofitable and extremely dangerous. Everywhere in the tyrant-ridden States of the Church the armed priest appeared as a liberator, and the people thereafter rejoiced in just and benignant government. It was by the sword that Julius regained many of the alienated provinces of the papacy, but it was by bonds of affectionate loyalty that he bound them into a political unit which secular princes learned to dread. He had begun his career of conquest by calling the Swiss to his aid; he needed no foreign soldiery when once the people learned of the beneficence and justice of his government. "Time was," Machiavelli writes, "when no baron was so insignificant but that he might venture to brave the papal power : now it is regarded with respect even by a king of France."
But he not only consolidated and strengthened the Papal States, and reclaimed from the Venetians those cities they had seized : he freed all Italy from the shadow of foreign domination. Before the sword of this soldier-priest, who in his old age would lead his knights across the bloody field and into the breach of a battered wall, the German invaders were driven into their own boundaries and the German power was humiliated by the loss of northern Italy.
The consequences of this were tremendous. The national pride of Germany had been hurt by a pope; one of the despised Latin race had broken the warlike Teuton's power. All the bitterness of a war between races found expression in calumnies of the pope and the Italians. It was reported throughout Germany that Rome was full of evil things, that the papacy was being used to humiliate and dismember the empire.
To me it seems that Julius II would have had the praise of the world had he been but one of the two things he was. He was splendid as a patriot; as a soldier he had no superior among the generals of the day; as a prince he was just and wise. On the other hand, his devotion was pure and his piety profound, his mind was enlightened, and the budding flower of the Renaissance which was to burst into full bloom in the reign of Leo X was sympathetically nurtured by Julius. As a pope he was admirable; as a prince he was admirable : but as pope and prince, he sowed political prejudice deep in the breast of Germany.
Less than ever after the day of Julius were the princes of Europe disposed to bear the check of the papal influence. He had planted in their mind the suggestion that a pope might arise with the spirit of a Caesar and the temper of a Julius, with a vast project of consolidating politically a great Christian state, and little did they relish such a notion. "It was now the time," says Ranke, "when the European kingdoms were finally consolidating their forces after long struggles. The papacy, interfering in all things and seeking to dominate all, came very soon to be regarded in a political point of view; the temporal princes now began to put forth higher claims than they had done hitherto."
But it was not only that their spirit of licentiousness was chafed: another consideration was making itself felt. Kings and nobles fought, monks worked. The result is simple in economics. The long wars had impoverished the princes; there was not much profit now even in robbing one another, and the wealthy cities had strong walls and paid soldiers to make their despoliation difficult and dangerous. On the other hand, the church properties were rich and unprotected. The "thirsting eye of enterprise" rested longingly on them. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there were many instances of the appropriation of the funds and property of religious by the secular powers. Sometimes it was done under the color of royal proclamation, sometimes it was simple pillage. Sometimes it was accomplished through the agency of political bishops.
The political control of ecclesiastical appointments, against which Gregory VII had fought, had had its effect. The clergy were in a great measure demoralized. The court favorites who held the great church benefices by imposition of the kings lived dissolute lives, and the lower clergy in quite considerable number followed the bad example of their superiors. The moral relaxation invaded monasteries, and there is on record a report of that Cardinal Caraffa, who was afterward Pope Paul IV, to Pope Clement, who had sent him to visit the monasteries, in which the cardinal indignantly describes the evil state to which politics had reduced children of the church.
How strange in ears that have heard so much of papal exactions are the words of Ranke, occurring time and again, with regard to the part thereof that really went to the church !
"Participation in ecclesiastical revenues and the right of promotion to church benefices and offices was that which the civil power more especially desired," is one of his illuminating phrases. And he gives us in-stances. In Spain, King Emanuel calmly takes to him-self one-tenth of the property of the church. Henry VII of England assumed the right of nominating bishops, and "appropriated" one-half of the "first fruits" (church tithes). And as to Henry VIII, thus was he "defending the faith," as Ranke tells it: "Be-fore Protestantism had even been thought of by the English sovereign, he had already proceeded to a merciless confiscation of the numerous monasteries." Truly, it was the open season for monasteries.
But now we come to a passage of the greatest significance, because it treats of a period and a place and a project within the youth, the vicinity, and the purview of the great leader of the Reformation.
"In 1500," Ranke says, "the [German] imperial government accorded one-third only of the sums produced by indulgences to the papal legates, appropriating the remaining two-thirds."
Here may we well pause, for it was the charge of the sale of indulgences that more than anything else contributed to the popular success of the Reformation. Princes had their own reasons, doctrinal points might interest the controversial humanists, but to the peasantry of Europe "justification by faith" meant nothing: such subtleties were not for them. The thing that hurt the Catholic Church was the charge that her priests were selling the mercy of God for gold. Melanchthon and his confrères might learnedly draft a confession of faith, but it was Luther who knew how to catch the popular ear and stir the popular indignation.
What, then, is an indulgence?
"An indulgence," says the Rev. Charles Coppens, a Jesuit, "is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin after the guilt has been remitted. That such punishment may remain after the pardon of a sin, is taught clearly in Holy Scripture, where we read that Nathan said to David : `The Lord hath taken away thy sin: nevertheless, the child that is born of thee shall die' (2 Kings xiii, 13, 14). Now Christ commissions St. Peter, saying, `Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven' (Matt. xvi,19). Hence the popes, as successors of St. Peter, claim the power of granting the remission of whatever can keep us out of heaven; both the guilt, by absolution, and the penalty of sin, by indulgences : provided all be done so as to promote the glory of God and the good of souls."
But how could indulgences "produce" money, to use Ranke's term?
The great Church of St. Peter was now under way; Julius had thrown himself into the project with characteristic enthusiasm, in Rome the dreams of Brabante and Michelangelo were being crystallized. The whole church was to participate in the creation of this magnificent pile. Those who had means were to con-tribute money, those who had none were to pray for the success of the enterprise. As the monks had in past generations gone through Europe preaching the crusades, so now they went among the people preaching the construction of Christendom's mighty altar. Whoever in any way contributed to so desirable an object did a good deed, and as a reward for that deed received an indulgence. The instructions of the popes were clear enough : the indulgence was to be granted to him who, having made a good confession and received absolution, should give to the fund for St. Peter's; or, if he had no means, should pray for the fortunate progress of the enterprise.
If, then, the greedy civil authorities were "appropriating" two-thirds of the contributions made for holy purposes, it may be conjectured that corruption would enter into the system. That it did so is quite evident from a study of Catholic authorities. The Jesuit writer whom I have quoted already says:
"Did any great abuse occur in connection with the indulgence preached by Tetzel and his companions? Yes. What we now call `graft' was a pretty common abuse in Luther's time. It was perhaps almost as bad then as it is to-day. But it was a much greater scan-dal then than it is now, because many persons guilty of it were churchmen, and not merely city or state officials. The crime of simony—that is, selling sacred things for money or its equivalent—has often been a plague of the church. It has done a great amount of harm by getting unworthy men into sacred offices.
Then these unworthy bishops or cardinals disgraced their holy religion and caused those very scandals which Luther gave as a pretext for his reform. For instance, Albert, the archbishop of Mayence at the time we speak of, had become archbishop by simony; and when the indulgence of St. Peter's Church was preached, he strove to have one-third of the money collected in his province turned into his own pocket to reimburse him for the sum he had spent to get his office."
It was in 1500 that Germany took two-thirds of the funds raised for the erection of St. Peter's Church. Only seventeen years, and Luther will be preaching those tremendous Lenten sermons in Wittenberg. Three years, and Julius II will be pope. Maximilian I is emperor of Germany, Louis XII king of France, and the great Ferdinand has just driven the Moors out of Spain and reigns on the Iberian peninsula. In England Henry VII is on the throne; John II rules Denmark and Sweden. It was a period of strange psychological uneasiness; mighty impulses were stirring everywhere. The adventurous mind of Europe was reaching out over the world. Columbus had discovered the western continent beyond the Atlantic ; soldiers and missionaries were already at work in the new lands, the former searching for treasure and the latter for souls.
In Rome St. Peter's was rising like the body of the Renaissance. What was the Rome of the time? Ranke says of it that it was a splendid city, indeed. "Here," he says, "the mechanic found employment, the artist honor, and safety was assured to all."
Julius II effected many changes : it was a different community from that in which Caesar Borgia had swaggered with his tiger strength and tiger spirit, his sword and dagger and poison, so short a time before. A wise and just government, a market for the wares and a field for the talent of every man, security for his person and property and encouragement for his genius—such a city Pope Leo X received from the hands of his warlike predecessor.
John de' Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, boyhood friend of Ariosto, a brave soldier under Julius before he was ordained a priest, a courtly, learned, gracious man—such was the new pope. Ranke says he was full of kindness and ready sympathies. One ambassador writes home to his sovereign that Leo is "a good man, avoiding disorders"; another says in his despatches, "He is a scholar and a lover of learning; a good priest, if he enjoys life." His election could not but increase the prestige of the Holy City. Men of science and artists flocked there, sure of the patronage of this enlightened pope. He was passionately fond of music, and the poets and composers of the day found no prince as generous as the head of the church.
Meanwhile, as even monarchs must die, there are new names in the royal directory of Europe. Henry VIII has ascended the English throne. Maximilian still rules the German empire, but in a short year he is to give place to the great emperor Charles V of the house of Austria, whose sceptre is to be supreme in Austria, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Naples, conquest and fortunate marriages having brought all these crowns to one head. The chivalrous Francis I is on the throne of France, in Denmark and Sweden there rules a butcher and tyrant, Christian II, who rids himself of his Swedish enemies by having them slain at a banquet, an incident execrated in Swedish history under the title of "The Bloody Bath." Gustavus Vasa is preparing to free Sweden from his thrall. One of the great lords of the German Empire is the elector Frederick of Saxony, the patron and friend of a daring and eloquent Augustinian monk, Martin Luther.
Enterprising gentlemen are these princes, all of them. Not a single royal breast in Europe but holds a boundless ambition. Not a single monarch of the lot who is not proud, imperious, impatient of check. Among them a Julius II might hold his own politically, but not a Leo X.
In spite of his birth and training, I doubt if Leo understood the political spirit of his age. The learning and the art, what illuminated the mind and stirred the love of beauty—these he knew well; but the coarser emotions and impulses that moved the powers remote from Rome were not within the circumference of his knowledge. He was learned in the direction of his tastes, and his tastes were not for practical politics. Even to the day of his death he was blind to the significance of the Lutheran movement—he thought it but a mere monkish quarrel in Germany between the Augustinian and the Dominican orders.
But what Leo failed to see the ambitious princes did not fail to see. "Throughout the whole period of time that we are contemplating," Ranke declares, "there was no assistance so much desired by the temporal sovereigns in their disputes with the popes as that of a spiritual opposition to their decrees. . . . The mere fact that so fearless a foe to the popedom had made his appearance, the very existence of such a phenomenon, was highly significant, and imparted to the person of the reformer a decided political importance. It was thus that Maximilian, the German emperor, considered it; nor would he permit injury of any kind to be offered to this monk; he caused him to be specially recommended to the Elector of Saxony—there might come a time when he would be needed' and from that moment the influence of Luther increased day by day."
"The time when he would be needed" came, indeed; but Maximilian was dead : it was his successor Charles V who was to turn to political account the great reformer, although many a prince outside Germany and in Germany employed for his own purposes then and afterward the movement the doctor of Wittenberg shaped and launched. Leo devoted his life mainly to the encouragement of art and letters and the construction of St. Peter's. Political matters seem to have been a bother of which he rid himself with as little trouble as possible. He did drive the French out of Italy when his Swiss defeated the forces of Louis XII at Novara, but when the high-spirited Francis I swept back across the Alps and worsted the Swiss on the field of Marignano in 1515, the pope hastened to meet him at Bologna and to make that peace which gave to the French monarch the duchies of Parma and Placentia, and, what was more important, renewed the right of the nomination of French bishops. Toward the close of his pontificate Leo again took measures against the French, and it was in the midst of the celebration of the victory of the papal forces that a mortal sickness struck him down.
Meanwhile Luther's fierce protest against glaring abuses was rousing the German states. While the humanists hailed him gladly as a champion of intellectual freedom, and the churches in which he preached were crowded with the common people, who were thrilled by the thunderous eloquence which was in so great a degree his gift, the princes and nobles were taking advantage of the public opinion he created to divert to their own coffers the funds that had formerly gone to the church, and to add to their own domains the broad acres it had acquired. The nobility, and many priests and bishops, tasted absolute freedom and found it sweet: numbers of the Teutonic Knights followed the advice Luther gave them in his letter to the grand master of their monastic order, and took wives and church property at the same time. Where Luther's personal influence was felt, where that attribute which the phraseology of our day calls personal magnetism could exert its in-definable but mighty influence, there can be no doubt that the peasantry were also affected; but it is very doubtful if the Reformation made much progress at this time except among the princes, nobles, and schoolmen.
Macaulay says that its fiftieth year saw Protestant-ism at high tide, but it is plain that he was considering only its political extension, the area covered by those states in which it controlled the ruling powers. My own opinion is that its actual numerical strength among the common people was greater at a later period. Much has been said of the influence of the printing-press in stimulating the revolt, of the influence of that hurricane of pamphlets which the reformers let loose upon Europe; but it must be remembered that the illiterate were then the great majority, upon whom the printing-press could not have much influence. It was example and coercion that did the work in the lower ranks, the example of pastors to whom the people were accustomed to look for spiritual guidance, and the pressure of the secular powers whom they were accustomed to see enforcing the observance of religion.
Macaulay is right, however, with regard to the political power of the Protestant movement. The spoil of the church had created a new interest, and that interest was in the ruling class. It was that influence that now gave to Protestantism a very considerable political power. Charles V, although he never professed other than the Catholic faith, did not hesitate to use the conditions created by the Reformation as a club in his political complications with the Roman State. After the death of Leo, the cardinals elected as pope a bishop of the Netherlands who was famed all over Christendom for his intense piety and personal purity of life. His brief pontificate was saddened by the political difficulties of the Roman State and the successes of the Turkish arms. In France, Francis I was preparing to descend again upon Italy, and the Crescent achieved bloody triumphs at Belgrade and Rhodes. In the shadow of the coming storm he ended his days.
Giulio de' Medici, a nephew of Leo X, succeeded Adrian as pope. He assumed the name of Clement VII, and it was about his mitred head that the storm broke in all its fury. Although he had been a warm friend of Charles V, the plans of the latter with regard to the extension of the imperial power over Italy soon grieved the heart of the pontiff. Italy was filled with the Spanish forces of the emperor, and the Spanish pride was then at its height : they were arrogant warriors, indeed, who represented the imperial power to the exasperated Italians. Venice was becoming alarmed at the proximity of a too powerful and enterprising neighbor; everywhere the Italian princes were resentful of the oppression under which they lay. With the murmuring princes Clement entered into an under-standing; the dream of a free Italy took possession of the Italian mind. General Pescara, the Italian-born Spaniard who commanded the forces of Charles, was approached, but he scornfully rejected the Italian advances and informed the emperor of the plans being matured. The revolt of Milan gave confirmation to his tidings, the imperial troops were driven back, Venice and Rome announced their combination, and from foreign states jealous of the power of Charles came promises of assistance. England, Switzerland, and France were to send their soldiers to the succor of Italy. Italian hope grew high and bright; it was believed that even without the aid of the friendly powers the object of the movement would be achieved; the reign of a second Julius was everywhere expected. Giberto expresses the feeling in Rome. "This war," he says, "is to decide whether Italy shall be free."
Meanwhile the princes of Germany are meeting at Spires. Ferdinand, duke of Austria, presides in the emperor's stead. Feeling against the pope runs high, the princes take advantage of it to bring forward the religious issue. Saxony, Hesse, and other principalities declare for Protestantism. In behalf of the emperor, Ferdinand signs a resolution decreeing that each prince shall decide for himself what the faith of his subjects shall be. Joyfully now the princes repay the imperial power; they give to Charles the troops and supplies he needs. Alva was afterward to let his Catholicity temper the rigor of warfare against a pope, but it was no such leader that Charles V sent forth against Clement VII. In November, 1526, George Frundberg crossed the Alps with a host of Lutheran lanzknechts who were to take their pay where they might find it, and the threat on Frundberg's lips was that when he got to Rome he would hang the pope.
The Italian resistance was but a mist the fiery hurricane blew away. Frundberg's progress through Italy was a series of easy successes. The promised aid from foreign sources was withheld, and only five hundred armed men awaited the charge of the fierce invaders outside the gates of the Holy City. Frundberg was stricken and helpless—a furious rage at some of his mutinous subordinates had burst a blood-vessel in his brain—and Bourbon led the Germans. The little band of defenders was overwhelmed in the first rushing charge of the Lutheran squadrons, who now pressed on to assail the poorly manned walls. With his foot on a scaling-ladder, Bourbon received his death-wound, and the leaderless horde, whose pay was to be the spoil of the richest city in the world, swept on to unchecked pillage in the great depository of all that was most splendid in art and most valuable in gold and gems. Treasure of incalculable worth fell into the hands of those rude invaders : the splendor of the Eternal City was submerged that day in an inundation from whose effects it took centuries to emerge. Thus died Pope Clement's dream of a free Italy bulwarking an unhampered church; thus did a German emperor use for his own purposes the physical force of the Reformation.
The physical church lay now in the mailed hand of a secular prince. Clement had stood siege in his castle awhile, but at last had surrendered to the emperor; and Charles rejoiced, as Philip the Fair of France had once rejoiced, in the prospect of shaping ecclesiastical policy to his personal ends. Clement was under no illusions, he felt the power and divined the purpose, and he resisted with all his strength the pressure Charles brought to bear on him to call a general council which under the circumstances must be wholly at the mercy of the victorious prince. Charles, on his side, was willing to make some concessions, particularly as they harmonized with his worldly policy. The Reformation had been used, but now the church was to be used; and if it was to be the instrument of imperial power—why, the stronger its influence the more effective an instrument would it make. Simultaneously, the peace with the pope was proclaimed and the outlawry of Luther decreed. Many thoughtful historians doubt the sincerity of Charles with regard to this last decree of the Diet of Worms. It is true that no effort was made by the imperial government to seek out Luther while the latter was concealed by powerful political friends whose under-standing with Charles was excellent. The pope was informed that Luther was dead, and the report, gaining general circulation, reached the Germans in the form of an accusation of assassination against the agents of Rome.
Meanwhile the perplexities of Clement were driving him into an alliance with Francis, the old enemy of his house. The French king, while adhering to the old religion, was deep in combinations with the political powers of the new. He hoped to make them his instruments in holding the house of Austria in check, and with his concurrence the formidable Protestant leader, the landgrave Philip of Hesse, restored his duchy to the Duke of Wittenberg, whom Ferdinand of Austria had dispossessed. The duke promptly made Wittenberg Protestant, and Ferdinand as promptly surrendered his claim to it and made an alliance with the landgrave, much to the chagrin of the French monarch.
The powers of the North, no less than those of the South, found the religious movement of value. Gustavus Vasa drove the tyrant Christian out of Sweden and used the royal power his successful rebellion gave him to seize the church lands and church treasures and introduce Lutheranism as the state religion, so that his possession thereof might be considered proper and legitimate. The bloody-minded Christian did no less : he laid his hand on ecclesiastical property and made the new religion the state religion of Den-mark with the bayonets of foreign mercenaries. Henry VIII of England, refused a divorce by Pope. Clement, decreed a separation of the English church from that of Rome and constituted an ecclesiastical tribunal which would legitimize his union with fair Anne Boleyn. The Palatinate followed the example of other German principalities and embraced the teachings of Luther.
Everywhere the change in creed was accompanied by the pillage of church properties. A new and easy road to wealth had been opened to an impoverished aristocracy, and they trod it joyfully.
If the common people thought the ruling class had any idea of the extension of the right of private judgment below the aristocratic order—and beyond doubt there were places where they did so believe—they were soon to suffer a bloody disillusionment. The resolution of the Diet of Spires permitted each prince to determine the religious complexion of his province : it was by no means intended that each peasant and burgher should think for himself. The political power of the day could endure neither authority above nor freedom below; for if the peasants could take from the nobles what the nobles took from the church, where would the profit be? Thomas Munzer, the Lutheran pastor of Zwickau, found that private judgment had its social limitations, indeed : Luther himself cried out for the extermination of the revolting serfs whom Münzer led in that merciless struggle written red in history as the Peasants' War; and when the last stronghold of the rebels had been taken and John of Leyden, the strange king of that strange kingdom, was in the hands of the Protestant powers, John and his associates in that Protestant movement were "killed with hot pincers" with full Protestant approval. Nor was it alone their own German nobles who thus sternly repressed the right of private judgment when those not of their order sought to exercise it. Wherever they went, the Protestant secular power killed them with cruelty : Henry VIII in England burned at the stake ten of the unfortunate Anabaptists.
Princes were guided with regard to religion al-most entirely by political considerations, and these often of the most personal and selfish nature. Philip II of Spain was an ardent Catholic monarch. Why? Hilaire Belloc points out that Spain was the only country of Europe where Protestantism was absolutely unknown, and he attributes this fact to the other fact that when the Reformation came Spain still had a throbbing memory of its tremendous struggle to expel the Moors. It could still feel the tingle of hand-grips with the Mohammedan; the old war-cries, "Jesu !" and "Maria!" for Spain, and "Allah il Allah !" for the Moors, still echoed over fields of national glory. The conflict had blended Catholic enthusiasm with the national spirit of the people. What chance would a monarch of an Austrian house have had with a martial people whose religion was indistinguishable from their patriotism, had he set his face against that religion? Charles V knew well what he was doing when he sent the German troops to war against the pope and left his splendid Spanish soldiers unemployed in that great enterprise.
In every land politics made use of religion. Philip found it convenient in Spain to be a Catholic champion. In England Henry had seized the church machinery to make it serve his headlong passion, but the passion and the means whereby he gratified it combined to produce political consequences of the gravest importance. It was not without difficulty that he and the school of politicians whose fortunes were based upon the service of his pleasures overthrew the old form of worship: Hallam tells us that foreign soldiers had to be employed to force the Protestant faith on the people of England. It was upon the death of Henry, however, that the matter took on a more definite political form. He had left three children—the princess Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon; the princess Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn; and Prince Edward, the son of Jane Seymour. Two of these, Elizabeth and Edward, the Catholic subjects considered illegitimate. But the band of courtiers and politicians who had enriched themselves at the expense of the ancient church had the most pressing reasons for keeping Mary from the throne; their wealth and even their personal safety depended upon the Protestant succession. Gathering around Lord Somerset, the brother of Jane Seymour and the uncle of her son, they elevated Edward VI to the throne. Against them the Catholic faction united, their hopes centred upon the princess Mary. They were ready when the boy king died, and before Elizabeth could be proclaimed, Mary had unfurled her banner and, sup-ported by the Catholic leaders and a popular army, had taken her crown. And now the Protestant faction, out of court favor, organized its forces and planned for the elevation of Elizabeth. Joyfully they hailed her accession, enthusiastically they prepared to avenge themselves on their political foes. There seemed at first some little difficulty with the queen herself : her hatred of married priests, and other predilections not in accord with the Protestant spirit, indicate that she was not at heart a very cordial lover of the new religion, and it is doubtful if she would have served the purpose of the Protestant faction could she have made peace with Rome on her own terms. She demanded of the pope an acknowledgment of her legitimacy. Her right to the crown depended on that, and, when it was refused to her, the political necessities of her case compelled her to accept the leadership of the Protestant party.
But now that party had become the national party. Elizabeth's illegitimacy presumed the succession to lie in Mary, queen of Scotland and allied by marriage and by blood to France. The national spirit had borne with some irritation the influence of the Spaniard Philip as the husband of the late queen Mary, and it was not inclined to have any but an English monarch. Thus came the patriotism of England to rein-force that faction whose interest lay in the Protestant succession.
And nothing was left undone to strengthen the combination; every effort was made to create a public abhorrence of Rome. The wildest calumnies were preached, the baldest forgeries perpetrated; sedulously did the politicians labor until there was created that spirit of hatred which could endure no beauty and no joy because these things were held to be Romish and therefore abhorrent. The Catholic politicians fought as bitterly to offset this agitation, but in vain; the circumstances of the time conspired to make their task impossible. Philip of Spain, who disliked the English as much as they disliked him, meditated the conquest of the insular kingdom. The people rallied to the support of the Protestant leaders, whose fortunes were now the fortunes of England. They were assured that the proposed invasion was due to the machinations of Rome. Now while it is true that the pope hailed with joy a project which would, if successful, restore England to the church, it is true also that Philip had personal and political motives which would have stirred him if there had been no religious consideration at all. No more haughty monarch wore a crown, and there had been insults while he was in England that left old scores to settle. Then there were Drake and those bold marauders who made piracy the calling of an English gentleman at the expense of Spanish commerce. How bitter must have been the irritation of a proud and mighty prince whose treasure-ships were plundered and sunk in the very seas that Spanish enterprise had opened to the navigators of the world ! The tongue we speak has carried down to us an admiration for those bold toll-takers of the wave, but in Spain at that time they were regarded as plain thieves and murderers, and the in sular kingdom that sent them forth as a nest of pirates no more respectable than the states of the Barbary coast. Europe shared the impression of them held by Spain; Ranke speaks of them as the "bold corsairs" who gathered in to defend their island home when the Armada threatened it.
But although the Protestant party had gained a great advantage, there was still a powerful Catholic party whose traditions and machinery were later to pass into the Jacobite party, as in this Republic the machinery and traditions of the old Whig party passed into the Republican party; and the bitterness of the political struggle between the two generated a bitter prejudice which has been bequeathed to our country and our generation. It was necessary for the dominant faction to keep the "raw head and bloody bones" ever before the eyes of the people in order to insure their devotion to the "Protestant succession.", When America was settled the battle was still on. French and Spanish America and English and Dutch America still had to fight it out.
But long before the Revolution the fight had ended; only the prejudice remained. The devotion of Catholic Maryland to the patriot cause, and the help of Catholic France, mitigated but did not eradicate it. Succeeding events have "softened" it, but it still remains. Although the storms of four centuries ago destroyed and dispersed "the Invincible Armada" in distant seas, the dread of it and the hate of it control the school policy of America today. The political rancor of the fifteenth century has power still to compel a nation believing in God and democracy to turn its youth over to materialism and Socialism. Between us and our best interests as a state rises the ghost of a Spanish king who died in 1598, and we cannot see through it.