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The witness of
BOOK 16 CHAPTER 4
J. H. Merle D'Aubigne
(Many long paragraphs have been modified for easier reading. The compilers of this site have added all the emphasis, as well as the entries in square brackets.)
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Zwingle and the Christian State — Zwingle's double Part — Zwingle and Luther in Relation to Politics — Philip of Hesse and the Free Cities — Projected Union between Zwingle and Luther — Zwingle's political Action — Project of Alliance against the Emperor — Zwingle advocates active Resistance — He destines the Imperial Crown for Philip — Faults of the Reformation — Embassy to Venice — Giddiness of the Reformation — Projected Alliance with France — Zwingle's Plan of Alliance — Approaching Ruin — Slanders in the Five Cantons — Violence — Mysterious Paper — Berne and Basle vote for Peace — General Diet at Baden — Evangelical Diet at Zurich — Political Reformation of Switzerland — Activity of Zurich.
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But it was too late to tread in this path which would have prevented so many disasters. The Reformation had already entered with all her sails set upon the stormy ocean of politics, and terrible misfortunes were gathering over her.
The impulse communicated to the Reform came from another than Oecolampadius. Zwingle's proud and piercing eyes, - his harsh features, - his bold step, - all proclaimed in him a resolute mind and the man of action. Nurtured in the exploits of the heroes of antiquity, he threw himself, to save Reform, in the footsteps of Demosthenes and Cato, rather than in those of St. John and St. Paul. His prompt and penetrating looks were turned to the right and to the left, — to the cabinets of kings and the councils of the people, whilst they should have been directed solely to God.
We have already seen, that as early as 1527, Zwingle, observing how all the powers were rising against the Reformation, had conceived the plan of a co-burghery or Christian State, which should unite all the friends of the Word of God in one holy and powerful league. This was so much the easier as Zwingle's reformation had won over Strasburg, Augsburg, Ulm, Reutlingen, Lindau, Memmingen, and other towns of Upper Germany. Constance in December 1527, Berne in June 1528, St. Gall in November of the same year, Bienne in January 1529, Mulhausen in February, Basle in March, Schaffhausen in September, and Strasburg in December, entered into this alliance.
This political phasis [part] of Zwingle's character is in the eyes of some persons his highest claim to glory; we do not hesitate to acknowledge it as his greatest fault.
The reformer, deserting the paths of the apostles, allowed himself to be led astray by the perverse example of Popery. The primitive Church never opposed their persecutors but [except] with the sentiments derived from the Gospel of peace. Faith was the only sword by which it vanquished the mighty ones of the earth.
Zwingle felt clearly that by entering into the ways of worldly politicians, he was leaving those of a minister of Christ; he therefore sought to justify himself. "No doubt, it is not by human strength," said he, "it is by the strength of God alone that the Word of the Lord should be upheld. But God often makes use of men as instruments to succour men. Let us therefore unite, and from the sources of the Rhine to Strasburg let us form but one people and one alliance."
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Zwingle played two parts at once - he was a reformer and a magistrate. But these are two characters that ought not more to be united than those of a minster and of a soldier. We will not altogether blame the soldiers and the magistrates; in forming leagues and drawing the sword, even for the sake of religion, they act according to their point of view, although it is not the same as ours; but we must decidedly blame the Christian minister who becomes a diplomatist or a general.
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In October 1529, as we have already observed, Zwingle repaired to Marburg, whither he had been invited by Philip of Hesse; and while neither of them had been able to come to an understanding with Luther, the landgrave and the Swiss reformer, animated by the same bold and enterprising spirit, soon agreed together.
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The two reformers differed not less in their political than in their religious system. Luther, brought up in the cloister and in monastic submission, was imbued in youth with the writings of the fathers of the Church; Zwingle, on the other hand, reared in the midst of Swiss liberty, had, during those early years which decide the course of all the rest, imbibed the history of the ancient/ republics.
Thus, while Luther was in favour of a passive obedience, Zwingle advocated resistance against tyrants.
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These two men were the faithful representatives of their respective nations. In the north of Germany, the princes and nobility were the essential part of the nation, and the people - strangers to all political liberty - had only to obey. Thus, at the epoch of the Reformation they were content to follow the voice of their doctors and chiefs.
In Switzerland, in the south of Germany, and on the Rhine, on the contrary, many cities, after long and violent struggles, had won civil liberty; and hence we find in almost every place the people taking a decided part in the Reform of the Church. There was good in this; but evil was close at hand. The reformers, themselves men of the people, who dared not act upon princes, might be tempted to hurry away the people. It was easier for the Reformation to unite with republics than with kings. This facility nearly proved its ruin. The Gospel was thus to learn that its alliance is in heaven.
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There was, however, one prince with whom the reformed party of the free states desired to be in union: this was Philip of Hesse. It was he who in great measure prompted Zwingle's warlike projects. Zwingle desired to make him some return, and to introduce his new friend into the evangelical league. But Berne, watchful to avert any thing that might irritate the emperor and its ancient/ confederates, rejected this proposal, and thus excited a lively discontent in the "Christian State."
"What!" cried they, "do the Bernese refuse an alliance that would be honourable for us, acceptable to Jesus Christ, and terrible to our adversaries?" - - "The Bear," said the high-spirited Zwingle, "is jealous of the Lion (Zurich); but there will be an end to all these artifices, and victory will remain with the bold." It would appear, indeed, according to a letter in cipher, that the Bernese at last sided with Zwingle, requiring only that this alliance with a prince of the empire should not be made public.
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Still Oecolampadius had not given way, and his meekness contended, although modestly, with the boldness of his impetuous friend. He was convinced that faith was destined to triumph only by the cordial union of all believers. A valuable relief occurred to reanimate his exertions.
The deputies of the Christian co-burghery having assembled at Basle in 1530, the envoys from Strasburg endeavoured to reconcile Luther and Zwingle. Oecolampadius wrote to Zwingle on the subject, begging him to hasten to Basle, and not show himself too unyielding. "To say that the body and blood of Christ are really in the Lord's Supper, may appear to many too hard an expression," said he, "but is it not softened, when it is added - spiritually and not bodily?"
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Zwingle was immovable. "It is to flatter Luther that you hold such language, and not to defend the truth. Edere est credere. [To eat is to believe.]"
Nevertheless there were men present at the meeting, who were resolved upon energetic measures. Brotherly love was on the eve of triumphing: peace was to be obtained by union. The Elector of Saxony himself proposed a concord of all evangelical Christians, to which the Swiss cities were invited by the landgrave to accede. A report spread that Luther and Zwingle were about to make the same confession of faith.
Zwingle, calling to mind the early professions of the Saxon reformer, said one day at table before many witnesses, that Luther would not think so erroneously about the Eucharist, if he were not misled by Melancthon. The union of the whole of the Reformation seemed about to be concluded: it would have vanquished by its own weapons.
But Luther soon proved that Zwingle was mistaken in his expectations. He required a written engagement by which Zwingle and Oecolampadius should adhere to his sentiments [that Christ was bodily in the bread], and the negotiations were broken off in consequence. Concord having failed, there remained nothing but war. Oecolampadius must be silent, and Zwingle must act.
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And in truth from that hour Zwingle advanced more and more along that fatal path into which he was led by his character, his patriotism, and his early habits. Stunned by so many violent shocks, attacked by his enemies and by his brethren, he staggered, and his head grew dizzy. From this period the reformer almost entirely disappears, and we see in his place the politician, the great citizen, who beholding a formidable coalition preparing its chains for every nation, stands up energetically against it.
The emperor had just formed a close alliance with the pope. If his deadly schemes were not opposed it would be all over, in Zwingle's opinion, with the Reformation, with religious and political liberty, and even with the confederation itself. "The emperor," said he, "is stirring up friend against friend, enemy against enemy: and then he endeavours to raise out of this confusion the glory of the Papacy, and, above all, his own power. He excites the Chatelain of Musso against the Grisons - Duke George of Saxony against Duke John - the Bishop of Constance against the city - the Duke of Savoy against Berne - the Five Cantons against Zurich - and the bishops of the Rhine against the landgrave; then, when the confusion shall have become general, he will fall upon Germany, will offer himself as a mediator, and ensnare princes and cities by fine speeches, until he has them all under his feet. Alas! what discord, what disasters, under the pretence of re-establishing the empire and restoring religion!"
Zwingle went farther. The reformer of a small town in Switzerland, rising to the most astonishing political conceptions, called for a European alliance against such fatal designs. The son of a peasant of the Tockenburg held up his head against the heir of so many crowns. "That man must either be a traitor or a coward," wrote he to a senator of Constance, "who is content to stretch and yawn, when he ought to be collecting men and arms on every side, to convince the emperor that in vain he strives to re-establish the Romish faith, to enslave the free cities, and to subdue the Helvetians. He showed us only six months ago how he would proceed. Today he will take one city in hand, tomorrow another; and so, step by step, until they are all reduced. Then their arms will be taken away, their treasures, their machines of war, and all their power......
"Arouse Lindau and all your neighbours; if they do not awake, public liberty will perish under the pretext of religion. We must place no confidence in the friendship of tyrants. Demosthenes teaches us that there is nothing so hateful in their eyes as "ten ton poleon eleudexian" ["freedom of the cities" - the words are in Greek script in the original]. The emperor with one hand offers us bread, but in the other he conceals a stone." And a few months later Zwingle wrote to his friends in Constance: "Be bold; fear not the schemes of Charles. The razor will cut him who is sharpening it."
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Away, then, with delay! Should they wait until Charles the Fifth claimed the ancient/ castle of Hapsburg? The papacy and the empire, it was said at Zurich, are so confounded together, that one cannot exist or perish without the other. Whoever rejects Popery should reject the empire, and whoever rejects the emperor should reject the pope.
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It appears that Zwingle's thoughts even went beyond a simple resistance. When once the Gospel had ceased to be his principal study, there was nothing that could arrest him. "A single individual," said he, "must not take it into his head to dethrone a tyrant; this would be a revolt, and the kingdom of God commands peace, righteousness, and joy. But if a whole people with common accord, or if the majority at least, rejects him, without committing any excess, it is God himself who acts." [A corporate decision is OK!] Charles V was at that time a tyrant in Zwingle's eyes; and the reformer hoped that Europe, awakening at length from its long slumber, would be the hand of God to hurl him from his throne.
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Never since the time of Demosthenes and of the two Catos had the world seen a more energetic resistance to the power of its oppressors. Zwingle in a political point of view is one of the greatest characters of modern times: we must pay him this honour, which is, perhaps, for a minister of God, the greatest reproach.
Everything was prepared in his mind to bring about a revolution that would have changed the history of Europe. He knew what he desired to substitute in place of the power he wished to overthrow. He had already cast his eyes upon the prince who was to wear the imperial crown instead of Charles. It was his friend the landgrave. "Most gracious prince," wrote he on the 2nd November 1529, "if I write to you as a child to a father, it is because I hope that God has chosen you for great events......I dare think, but I dare not speak of them......However, we must bell the cat at last......All that I can do with my feeble means to manifest the truth, to save the universal Church, to augment your power and the power of those who love God - with God's help, I will do."
Thus was this great man led astray. It is the will of God that there be spots even in those who shine brightest in the eyes of the world, and that only one upon earth shall say - "Which of you convinceth me of sin?"
We are now viewing the faults of the Reformation: they arise from the union of religion with politics. I could not take upon myself to pass them by; the recollection of the errors of our predecessors is perhaps the most useful legacy they have bequeathed to us.
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It appears that already at Marburg, Zwingle and the landgrave had drawn out the first sketch of a general alliance against Charles V. The landgrave had undertaken to bring over the princes, Zwingle the free cities of Southern Germany and Switzerland. He went still further, and formed a plan of gaining over to this league the republics of Italy - the powerful Venice at least - that she might detain the emperor beyond the Alps, and prevent him from leading all his forces into Germany.
Zwingle, who had earnestly pleaded against all foreign alliances, and proclaimed on so many occasions that the only ally of the Swiss should be the arm of the Almighty, began now to look around for what he had condemned, and thus prepared the way for the terrible judgment that was about to strike his family, his country, and his Church.
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He had hardly returned from Marburg, and had made no official communication to the Great Council, when he obtained from the senate the nomination of an ambassador to Venice. Great men, after their first success, easily imagine that they can do everything.
It was not a statesman who was charged with this mission, but one of Zwingle's friends, who had accompanied him into Germany, to the court of the future chief of the new empire - the Greek professor, Rodolph Collins, a bold and skilful man, and who knew Italian. Thus the Reform stretched its hands to the Doge and the Procurator of St. Marc.
The Bible was not enough for it - it must have the Golden Book: never did a greater humiliation befall God's work.
The opinion which Protestants then entertained of Venice may, however, partly excuse Zwingle. There was in that city more independence of the pope, more freedom of thought, than in all the rest of Italy. Luther himself about this time wrote to Gabriel Zwilling, pastor at Torgau: "With what joy do I learn what you write to me concerning the Venetians. God be praised and glorified, for that they have received his Word!"
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Collins was admitted, on the 26th December, to an audience with the doge and senate, who looked with an air of astonishment at this schoolmaster, this strange ambassador, without attendants and without parade. They could not even understand his credentials, in so singular a style were they drawn up, and Collins was forced to explain their meaning. "I am come to you," said he, "in the name of the council of Zurich and of the cities of the Christian co-burghery - free cities like Venice, and to which common interests should unite you. The power of the emperor is formidable to republics; he is aiming at a universal monarchy in Europe; if he succeeds, all the free states will perish. We must therefore check him."
The doge replied that the republic had just concluded an alliance with the emperor, and betrayed the distrust that so mysterious a mission excited in the Venetian senate. But afterwards, in a private conference, the doge, wishing to preserve a retreat on both sides, added, that Venice gratefully received the message from Zurich, and that a Venetian regiment, armed and paid by the republic itself, should be always ready to support the evangelical Swiss. The chancellor, covered with his purple robe, attended Collins to the door, and, at the very gates of the ducal palace, confirmed the promise of support.
The moment the Reformation passed the magnificent porticos of St. Marc it was seized with giddiness; it could but stagger onwards to the abyss. They dismissed poor Collins by placing in his hands a present of twenty crowns. The rumour of these negotiations soon spread abroad, and the less suspicious, Capito for example, shook their heads, and could see in this pretended agreement nothing but the accustomed perfidy [dishonesty] of Venice.
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This was not enough. The cause of the Reform was fated to drink the cup of degradation to the very dregs. Zwingle, seeing that his adversaries in the empire increased daily in numbers and in power, gradually lost his ancient/ aversion for France; and, although there was now a greater obstacle than before between him and Francis I, - the blood of his brethren shed by that monarch, - he showed himself favourably disposed to a union that he had once so forcibly condemned.
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Lambert Maigret, a French general, who appears to have had some leaning to the Gospel - which is a slight excuse for Zwingle - entered into correspondence with the reformer, giving him to understand that the secret designs of Charles V called for an alliance between the King of France and the Swiss republics. "Apply yourself," said this diplomatist to him in 1530, "to a work so agreeable to our Creator, and which, by God's grace, will be very easy to your mightiness."
Zwingle was at first astonished at these overtures. "The King of France," thought he, "cannot know which way to turn." Twice he took no heed of this prayer; but the envoy of Francis I insisted that the reformer should communicate to him a plan of alliance. At the third attempt of the ambassador, the simple child of the Tockenburg mountains could no longer resist his advances. If Charles V must fall, it cannot be without French assistance; and why should not the Reformation contract an alliance with Francis I, the object of which would be to establish a power in the empire that should in its turn oblige the king to tolerate the Reform in his own dominions?
Everything seemed to meet the wishes of Zwingle; the fall of the tyrant was at hand, and he would drag the pope along with him. He communicated the general's overtures to the secret council, and Collins set out, commissioned to bear the required project to the French ambassador. "In ancient/ times," it ran, "no kings or people ever resisted the Roman empire with such firmness as those of France and Switzerland. Let us not degenerate from the virtues of our ancestors. His most Christian Majesty - all whose wishes are that the purity of the Gospel may remain undefiled - engages therefore to conclude an alliance with the Christian co-burghery that shall be in accordance with the Divine law, and that shall be submitted to the censure of the evangelical theologians of Switzerland." Then followed an outline of the different articles of the treaty.
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Lanzerant, another of the king's envoys, replied the same day (27th February) to this astonishing project of alliance about to be concluded between the reformed Swiss and the persecutor of the French reformed, under reserve of the censure [watchful eye] of the theologians......This was not what France desired: it was Lombardy, and not the Gospel that the king wanted. For that purpose, he needed the support of all the Swiss. But an alliance which ranged the Roman-catholic cantons against him, would not suit him.
Being satisfied, therefore, for the present with knowing the sentiments of Zurich, the French envoys began to look coolly upon the reformer's scheme. "The matters you have submitted to us are admirably drawn up," said Lanzerant to the Swiss commissioner, "but I can scarcely understand them, no doubt because of the weakness of my mind......We must not put seed into the ground, unless the soil be properly prepared for it."
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Thus, the Reform acquired nothing but shame from these propositions. Since it had forgotten these precepts of the Word of God: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers!" how could it fail to meet with striking reverses? Already, Zwingle's friends began to abandon him. The landgrave, who had pushed him into this diplomatic career, drew towards Luther, and sought to check the Swiss reformer, particularly after this saying of Erasmus had sounded in the ears of the great: "They ask us to open our gates, crying aloud - the Gospel! the Gospel!......Raise the cloak, and under its mysterious folds you will find - democracy."
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While the Reform, by its culpable [sinful] proceedings, was calling down the chastisement of Heaven, the Five Cantons [the Roman Catholic Swiss], that were to be the instruments of its punishment, accelerated with all their might those fatal days of anger and of vengeance.
They were irritated at the progress of the Gospel throughout the confederation, while the peace they had signed became every day more irksome to them. "We shall have no repose," said they, "until we have broken these bonds and regained our former liberty." A general diet was convoked at Baden for the 8th January 1531. The Five Cantons then declared that if justice was not done to their grievances, particularly with respect to the abbey of St. Gall, they would no more appear in diet. "Confederates of Glaris, Schaffhausen, Friburg, Soleure, and Appenzell," cried they, "aid us in making our ancient/ alliances respected, or we will ourselves contrive the means of checking this guilty violence; and may the Holy Trinity assist us in this work!"
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They did not confine themselves to threats. The treaty of peace had expressly forbidden all insulting language - "for fear," it said, "that by insults and calumnies [slanders], discord should again be excited, and greater troubles than the former should arise."
Thus was concealed in the treaty itself the spark whence the conflagration was to proceed. In fact, to restrain the rude tongues of the Waldstettes was impossible. Two Zurichers, the aged prior Ravensbuhler, and the pensioner Gaspard Godli, who had been compelled to renounce, the one his convent, and the other his pension, especially aroused the anger of the people against their native city. They used to say every where in these valleys, and with impunity, that the Zurichers were heretics; that there was not one of them who did not indulge in unnatural sins, and who was not a robber at the very least; that Zwingle was a thief, a murderer, and an arch-heretic; and that, on one occasion at Paris (where he had never been), he had committed a horrible offence, in which Leo Juda had been his pander [agent].
"I shall have no rest," said a pensioner, "until I have thrust my sword up to the hilt in the heart of this impious wretch." Old commanders of troops, who were feared by all on account of their unruly character; the satellites who followed in their train; insolent young people, sons of the first persons in the state, who thought every thing lawful against miserable preachers and their stupid flocks; priests inflamed with hatred, and treading in the footsteps of these old captains and giddy young men, who seemed to take the pulpit of a church for the bench of a pot-house: all poured torrents of insults on the Reform and its adherents. "The townspeople," exclaimed with one accord these drunken soldiers and fanatic priests, "are heretics, soul-stealers, conscience-slayers, and Zwingle - that horrible man, who commits infamous sins - is the Lutheran God."
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They went still further. Passing from words to deeds, the Five Cantons persecuted the poor people among them who loved the Word of God, flung them into prison, imposed fines upon them, brutally tormented them, and mercilessly expelled them from their country. The people of Schwytz did even worse. Not fearing to announce their sinister designs, they appeared at a landsgemeinde [council meeting] wearing pine-branches in their hats, in sign of war, and no one opposed them.
"The Abbot of St. Gall," said they, "is a prince of the empire, and holds his investiture from the emperor. Do they imagine that Charles V will not avenge him?" - "Have not these heretics," said others, "dared to form a Christian fraternity, as if old Switzerland was a heathen country?" Secret councils were continually held in one place or another. New alliances were sought with the Valais, the pope, and the emperor - blameable alliances, no doubt, but such as might at least be justified by the proverb: "Birds of a feather go together;" which Zurich and Venice could not say.
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The Valaisans at first refused their support: they preferred remaining neuter [neutral]; but on a sudden their fanaticism was inflamed. A sheet of paper was found on an altar - such at least was the report circulated in their valleys - in which Zurich and Berne were accused of preaching that to commit an offence against nature is a smaller crime than to hear mass! Who had placed this mysterious paper on the altar? Came it from man? Did it fall from heaven?......They know not; but however that might be, it was copied, circulated, and read every where; and the effects of this fable, invented by some villain, says Zwingle, was such that Valais immediately granted the support it had at first refused.
The Waldstettes, proud of their strength, then closed their ranks; their fierce eyes menaced the heretical cantons; and the winds bore from their mountains to their neighbours of the towns a formidable clang of arms.
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At the sight of these alarming manifestations the evangelical cities were in commotion. They first assembled at Basle in February 1531, then at Zurich in March. "What is to be done?" said the deputies from Zurich, after setting forth their grievances; "how can we punish these infamous calumnies [lies], and force these threatening arms to fall?" —
"We understand," replied Berne, "that you would have recourse to violence; but think of these secret and formidable alliances that are forming with the pope, the emperor, the King of France, with so many princes, in a word with all the priests' party, to accelerate our ruin; - think on the innocence of so many pious souls in the Five Cantons, who deplore these perfidious machinations; - think how easy it is to begin a war, but that no one can tell when it will end."
Sad foreboding! which a catastrophe, beyond all human foresight, accomplished but too soon. "Let us therefore send a deputation to the Five Cantons," continued Berne; "let us call upon them to punish these infamous calumnies in accordance with the treaty; and if they refuse, let us break off all intercourse with them." —
"What will be the use of this mission?" asked [replied] Basle. "Do we not know the brutality of this people? And is it not to be feared that the rough treatment to which our deputies will be exposed may make the matter worse? Let us rather convoke a general diet." Schaffhausen and St. Gall having concurred in this opinion, Berne summoned a diet at Baden for the 10th April, at which deputies from all the cantons were assembled.
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Many of the principal men among the Waldstettes [the Roman Catholics] disapproved of the violence of the retired soldiers and of the monks. They saw that these continually repeated insults would injure their cause. "The insults of which you complain," said they to the diet, "afflict us no less than you. We shall know how to punish them, and we have already done so. But there are violent men on both sides. The other day a man of Basle having met on the high road a person who was coming from Berne, and having learnt that he was going to Lucerne: - `To go from Berne to Lucerne,' exclaimed he, `is passing from a father to an arrant knave!'" The mediating cantons invited the two parties to banish every cause of discord.
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But the war of the Chatelain of Musso having then broken out, Zwingle and Zurich, who saw in it the first act of a vast conspiracy, destined to stifle the Reform in every place, called their allies together. "We must waver no longer," said Zwingle; "the rupture of the alliance on the part of the Five Cantons, and the unheard-of insults with which they load us, impose upon us the obligation of marching against our enemies, before the emperor, who is still detained by the Turks, shall have expelled the landgrave, seized upon Strasburg, and subjugated even ourselves."
All the blood of the ancient/ Swiss seemed to boil in this man's veins; and while Uri, Schwytz, and Unterwalden basely kissed the hand of Austria, this Zuricher - the greatest Helvetian of the age - faithful to the memory of old Switzerland, but not so to still holier traditions, followed in the glorious steps of Stauffacher and Winkelried.
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The warlike tone of Zurich alarmed its confederates. Basle proposed a summons, and then, in case of refusal, the rupture of the alliance. Schaffhausen and St. Gall were frightened even at this step: "The mountaineers, so proud, indomitable, and exasperated," said they, "will accept with joy the dissolution of the confederation, and then shall we be more advanced."
Such was the posture of affairs, when, to the great astonishment of all, deputies from Uri and Schwytz made their appearance. They were coldly received; the cup of honour was not offered to them; and they had to walk, according to their own account, in the midst of the insulting cries of the people. They unsuccessfully endeavoured to excuse their conduct.
"We have long been waiting," was the cold reply of the diet, "to see your actions and your words agree." The men of Schwytz and of Uri returned in sadness to their homes; and the assembly broke up, full of sorrow and distress.
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Zwingle beheld with pain the deputies of the evangelical towns separating without having come to any decision. He no longer desired only a reformation of the Church; he wished for a transformation in the confederacy; and it was this latter reform that he now was preaching from the pulpit, according to what we learn from Bullinger.
He was not the only person who desired it. For a long time the inhabitants of the most populous and powerful towns of Switzerland had complained that the Waldstettes, whose contingent of men and money was much below theirs, had an equal share in the deliberations of the diet, and in the fruits of their victories. This had been the cause of division after the Burgundian war. The Five Cantons, by means of their adherents, had the majority.
Now Zwingle thought that the reins of Switzerland should be placed in the hands of the great cities, and, above all, in those of the powerful cantons of Berne and Zurich. New times, in his opinion, called for new forms. It was not sufficient to dismiss from every public office the pensioners of foreign princes, and substitute pious men in their place; the federal compact must be remodelled, and settled upon a more equitable basis. A national constituent assembly would doubtless have responded to his wishes. These discourses, which were rather those of a tribune of the people than of a minister of Jesus Christ, hastened on the terrible catastrophe.
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And indeed the animated words of the patriot reformer passed from the church where they had been delivered into the councils and the halls of the guilds, into the streets and the fields. The burning words that fell from this man's lips kindled the hearts of his fellow-citizens. The electric spark, escaping with noise and commotion, was felt even in the most distant cottage. The ancient/ traditions of wisdom and prudence seemed forgotten.
Public opinion declared itself energetically. On the 29th and 30th April, a number of horsemen rode hastily out of Zurich; they were envoys from the council, commissioned to remind all the allied cities of the encroachment of the Five Cantons, and to call for a prompt and definitive decision. Reaching their several destinations, the messengers recapitulated the grievances. "Take care," said they in conclusion; "great dangers are impending over all of us. The emperor and King Ferdinand are making vast preparations; they are about to enter Switzerland with large sums of money, and with a numerous army."
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Zurich joined actions to words. This state, being resolved to make every exertion to establish the free preaching of the Gospel in those bailiwicks where it shared the sovereignty with the Roman-catholic cantons, desired to interfere by force wherever negotiations could not prevail.
The federal rights, it must be confessed, were trampled under foot at St. Gall, in Thurgovia, in the Rheinthal; and Zurich substituted arbitrary decisions in their place, that excited the indignation of the Waldstettes to the highest degree. Thus the number of enemies to the Reform kept increasing; the tone of the Five Cantons became daily more threatening, and the inhabitants of the canton of Zurich, whom business called into the mountains, were loaded with insults, and sometimes badly treated.
These violent proceedings excited in turn the anger of the reformed cantons. Zwingle traversed Thurgovia, St. Gall, and the Tockenburg, every where organizing synods, taking part in their proceedings, and preaching before excited and enthusiastic crowds. In all parts he met with confidence and respect. At St. Gall an immense crowd assembled under his windows, and a concert of voices and instruments expressed the public gratitude in harmonious songs. "Let us not abandon ourselves," he repeated continually, "and all will go well." It was resolved that a meeting should be held at Arau on the 12th May, to deliberate on a posture of affairs that daily became more critical.
This meeting was to be the beginning of sorrows.
On to Chapter Five.
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