ASTROLOGY and mystical prophesyings appeared in the times shortly preceding the great social upheaval, foretelling strange things which were to happen in the years 1524 and 1525.
One of the principal of these indicated a Noachic delude for the summer of 1524. This vaticination was based on an alleged combination of sixteen conjunctures in the sign of Aquarius. So seriously was the prophesy believed in that extensive preparations were made, in view of the approaching catastrophe. Many, however, explained the presage as indicating a social inundation — the levelling of social distinctions by the “common man”. Portents were alleged to have appeared; strange monsters to have been born. Illustrated broadsheets and pamphlets were in circulation, on the title pages of which might be seen portrayed pope, emperor, cardinals and prince-prelates trembling before the approach of a band of peasants armed with the implements of husbandry and led on by the planet Saturn. All these things testified to the excited state of the public mind and the direction in which popular thought was turned. Meanwhile, the thinkers of the movement were preparing to give definite form to the vague aspirations of the multitude.
In the uprising known as the “Peasants War,” as already stated, there is more than one strain to be observed, though all turns on the central ideas of equality, economic reform and political reorganisation. First of all, we have the immediate and practical side of the agrarian movement, on the lines of which the actual outbreak originated, and the special representatives of which were the peasants of South-Eastern Germany. This side of the movement is, of course, most prominently present everywhere, but in other parts of the country, notably in Franconia and Thuringia, it is accompanied by ideas of a more far-reaching kind as regards social reconstruction clothed in a mystical religious garb. Then again we have certain definite schemes of extensive political reform.
Behind these things lay the distinction between town and country, a distinction recently become so important. It need scarcely be said that most of those wider aspirations that entered into the movement had their origin in the new life of the towns, and, as regards their expression, in the more educated elements to be found within their walls. We will first cast a glance at the mainstay of the whole movement, the celebrated “Twelve Articles”.
In the last chapter we have already seen a specimen of the immediate demands put forward by the peasants of the Black Forest. In these there is no mention of religion. They aptly indicate the position of the cultivator of the soil, robbed often of his common pasture, of the right of hunting and fishing on his own account; compelled to perform all sorts of services for his lord at any time, were it haymaking, harvest, or vintage, even though it meant to him the loss of his crop; made to furnish dues of every description payable in kind and now often in money; prohibited from catching, destroying, or driving away animals of the chase, even though they might be doing irreparable damage to agricultural produce; compelled to permit the lord’s hunting dogs to devour his poultry at pleasure; Obliged to offer his live stock first of all to the castle before selling it elsewhere; forced to furnish the castle with firewood and timber and (a significant item) wood for the stake, on the occasion of executions. And what was the penalty for the neglect of these things? Imprisonment in the lord’s dungeon; the piercing out of eyes; or, in some cases, death itself. At first the remedying of such grievances was demanded in a different form on different manors, sometimes in a greater, sometimes in a lesser number of “Articles”. Thus, in one case we find sixteen, in another thirty-four, in another sixty-two “points “ in these several agrarian charters. In the month of March, 1525, however, they were all condensed into twelve main claims in a document entitled “The fundamental and just chief articles of all the peasantry and villeins of spiritual and temporal lordships by which they deem themselves opprest”. This document was accepted practically throughout Germany as the basis of the revolution. Owing to its importance, we give this charter of the German peasantry in full. It reads as follows:-
“To the Christian reader, peace and the grace of God through Christ! There are many anti-Christians who now seek occasion to despise the Gospel on account of the assembled peasantry, in that they say: these be the fruits of the new Gospel: to obey none; to resist in all places; to bind together with great power of arms to the end to reform, to root out, ay and maybe to slay spiritual and temporal authority. All such godless and wicked judgments are answered in the articles here written down as well that they remove this shame from the Word of God as also that they may excuse in a Christian manner this disobedience, yea, this rebellion of all peasants.
“For the first time, the Gospel is not a cause of rebellion or uproar, since it is the word of Christ, the promised Messiah, whose word and life teaches naught save love, peace, patience and unity (Rom. xi.). Therefore, that all who believe in this Christ may be loving, peaceful, patient and united, such is the ground of all Articles of the peasants, and as may be clearly seen they are designed to the intent that men should have the Gospel and should live according thereto. How shall the anti-Christians then call the Gospel a cause of rebellion and of disobedience? But that certain anti-Christians and enemies of the Gospel should rise up against such requirements, of this is not the Gospel the cause, but the devil, the most hurtful enemy of the Gospel, who exciteth such by unbelief, in his own, that the Word of God which teacheth love, peace and unity may be trodden down and taken away.
“For the rest, it followeth clearly- and manifestly that the peasants who in their Articles require such Gospel as doctrine and as precept may not be called disobedient and rebellious. But should God hear those peasants who anxiously call upon Him that they may live according to his word; who shall gainsay the will of God? (Rom. xi.). Who shall Impeach His judgment? (Isa. xl.). Yea, who shall resist His Majesty? (Rom. viii.). Hath he heard the children of Israel and delivered them out of the hand of Pharoah, and shall He not to-day also save his own? Yea, He shall save them, and that speedily (Exod. iii 14; Luke xviii. 8). Therefore, Christian reader, read hereunder with care and thereafter judge.
“For the first, it is our humble prayer and desire, also the will and opinion of us all that henceforth the power to choose and elect a pastor shall lie with the whole community (1 Tim. iii.), that it shall also have the power to displace such an one, if he behaveth unseemly. The pastor that is chosen shall preach the Gospel plainly and manifestly, without any addition of man or the doctrine or ordinance of men (Acts xiv.). For that the true Faith is preached to us giveth us a cause to pray God for His grace that He implant within us the same living Faith and confirm us therein (Deut. xviii.; Exod. xxxi.). For if His grace be not implanted within us we remain flesh and blood which profiteth not (Deut. x.; John vi.). How plainly is it written in the Scripture that we can alone through the true Faith come to God and that alone through His mercy shall we be saved (Gal. i.). Therefore is such an ensample and pastor of need to us and in suchwise founded on the Scripture.
“Furthermore, notwithstanding that the just tithe was imposed in the Old Testament, and in the New was fulfilled, yet are we nothing loth to furnish the just tithe of corn, but only such as is meet, accordingly shall we give it to God and His servants (Heb.; also Ps. cix.). If it be the due of a pastor who clearly proclaimeth the Word of God, then it is our will that our church-overseers, such as are appointed by the community, shall collect and receive this tithe, and thereof shall give to the pastor who shall be chosen from a whole community suitable sufficient subsistence for him and his, as the whole community may deem just; and what remaineth over shall be furnished to the poor and the needy of the same village, according to the circumstance of the case and the judgment of the community (Deut. xxv.; 1 Tim. v.; Matt. x.; Cor. ix.). What further remaineth over shall be reserved for the event that the land being pressed, it should needs make war, and so that no general tax should be laid upon the poor, it shall be furnished from this surplusage. Should it be found that there were one or more villages that had sold the tithe itself because of need, he who can show respecting the same that he hath it in the form of a whole village shall not want for it but we will, as it beseemeth us, make an agreement with him, as the matter requireth (Luke vi.; Matt. v.) to the end that we may absolve the same in due manner and time. But to him who hath bought such from no village, and whose forefathers have usurped it for themselves, we will not, and we ought not to give him anything, and we owe no man further save as aforesaid that we maintain our elected pastors, that we absolve our just debts, or relieve the needy, as is ordained by the Holy Scripture. The small tithe will we not give, be it either to spiritual or to temporal lord; for the God the Lord bath created the beast freely for the use of man (Gen. i.). For we esteem this tithe for an unseemly tithe of man’s devising. Therefore will we no longer give it.
“Thirdly, the custom hath hitherto been that we have been held for villeins; which is to be deplored, since Christ hath purchased and redeemed us all with His precious blood (Isa.lii; I Peter i.; I Cor. vii.; Rom. xiii.), the poor hind as well as the highest, none excepted. Therefore do we find in the Scripture that we are free; and we will be free (Eccles. vi.; I Peter ii.). Not that we would be wholly free as having no authority over us, for this God cloth not teach us. We shall live in obedience and not in the freedom of our fleshly pride (Deut. vi.; St. Matt. v.); shall love God as our Lord; shall esteem our neighbours as brothers; and do to them as we would have them do to us, as God hath commanded at the Last Supper (Luke iv. 6; Matt. v.; John xiii.). Therefore shall we live according to His ordinance. This ordinance in no wise sheweth us that we should not obey authority. Not alone should we humble ourselves before authority, but before every man (Rom. xiii.) as we also are gladly obedient in all just and Christian matters to such authority as is elected and set over us, so it be by God set over us (Acts v.). We are also in no doubt but that ye will as true and just Christians relieve us from villeinage, or will show us, out of the Gospel, that we are villeins.
“Fourthly, was it hitherto a custom that no poor man hath the right to capture ground game, fowls or fish in flowing water, which to us seemeth unbecoming and unbrotherly, churlish and not according to the Word of God. Moreover, in some places the authority letteth the game grow up to our despite and to our mighty undoing, since we must suffer that our own which God hath caused to grow for the use of man should be unavailingly devoured by beasts without reason, and that we should hold our peace concerning this, which is against God and our neighbours. For when God the Lord created man, he gave him power over all creatures, over the fowl in the air, and over the fish in the water (Gen. i.; Acts xix.; 1 Tim. iv.; Cor. x.; Coloss. xi.). Therefore it is our desire when one possess a water that he may prove it with sufficient writing as,unwittingly purchased. We do not desire to take such by force, but we must needs have a Christian understanding in the matter, because of brotherly love. But he who cannot bring sufficient proof thereof shall give it back to the community as beseemeth.
“Fifthly, we are troubled concerning the woods; for our lords have taken unto themselves all the woods, and if the poor man requireth ought he must buy it with double money. Our opinion is as touching the woods, be they possessed by spiritual or temporal lords, whichsoever they be that have them and that have not purchased them, they shall fall again to the whole community, and that each one from out the community shall he free as is fitting to take therefrom into his house so much as he may need. Even for carpentering, if he require it, shall he take wood for nothing; yet with the knowledge of them who are chosen by the community to this end, whereby the destruction of the wood may be hindered; but where there is no wood but such as hath been honestly purchased, a brotherly and Christian agreement with the buyers shall be come to. But when one hath first of all taken to himself the land and hath afterwards sold it, then shall an agreement be entered into with the buyers according to the circumstance of the matter and with regard to brotherly love and Holy Writ.
“Sixthly, our grievous complaint is as concerning the services which are heaped up from day to day and daily increased. We desire that these should be earnestly considered, and that we be not so heavily burdened withal; but that we, should be mercifully dealt with herein; that we may serve as our fathers have served and only according to the Word of God.
“Seventhly, will we henceforth no longer be opprest by a lordship, but in such wise as a lordship. Hath granted the land, so shall it be held according to the agreement between the lord and the peasant. The lord shall no longer compel him and press him, nor require of him new services or aught else for naught (Luke iii.; Thess. vi.). Thus shall the peasant enjoy and use such land in peace, and undisturbed. But when the lord hath need of the peasant’s services, the peasant shall be willing, and obedient to him before others; but it shall be at the hour and the time when it shall not be to the hurt of the peasant, who shall do his lord service for a befitting price.
“Eighthly, there are many among us who are opprest in that they hold lands and in that these lands will not bear the price on them, so that the peasants must sacrifice that which belongeth to them, to their undoing. We desire that the lordship will let such lands be seen by honourable men, and will fix a price as may be just in such wise that the peasant may not have his labour in vain, for every labourer is worthy of his hire (Matt. x. ).
“Ninthly, do we suffer greatly- concerning misdemeanours in that new punishments are laid upon us. They punish us not according to the circumstance of the matter, but sometimes from great envy, from the unrighteous favouring of others. We would be punished according to ancient written law, and according to the thing transgressed, and not according to respect of persons (Isa. x.; Eph. vi.; Luke iii.; Jer. xvi..
“Tenthly, we suffer in that some have taken to themselves meadows and arable land, which belong to a community. We will take the same once more into the hands of our communities wheresoever it hath not been honestly purchased. But hath it been purchased in an unjust manner, then shall the case be agreed upon in peace and brotherly love according to the circumstance of the matter.
“Eleventhly, would we have the custom called the death-due utterly abolished, and will never suffer or permit that widows and orphans shall be shamefacedly robbed of their own, contrary to God and honour, as happeneth in many places and in divers manners. They have cut us short of what we possessed and should protect, and they have taken all. God will no longer suffer this, but it must be wholly ended. No man shall, henceforth, be compelled to give aught, be it little or much, as death-due (Deut. xiii.; Matt. viii.; Isa. x. 23).
“Twelfthly, it is our conclusion and final opinion, if one or more of the Articles here set up be not according to the word of God, we will, where the same articles are proved as against the Word of God, withdraw therefrom, so soon as this is declared to us by reason and Scripture; yea, even though certain Articles were now granted to us, and it should hereafter be found that they were unjust, they shall he deemed from that hour null and void and of none effect. The same shall happen if there should be with truth found in the Scripture yet more Articles which were against God and a stumbling-block to our neighbour, even though we should have determined to preserve such for ourselves, and we practice and use ourselves in all Christian doctrine, to which end we pray God the Lord who can vouchsafe us the same and none other. The peace of Christ be with us all.”
Such are the celebrated “Twelve Articles”. Such was the form in which they made the round of the countryside throughout Germany. They are moderate enough in all conscience, it must be admitted. It will be noticed that they embody the main demands of the Black Forest peasants, already quoted. The same may be said of other formulations of peasant requirements. As I have said, they are supposed to have been drawn up, with all the Biblical phraseology and references as here given, at the small imperial town of Memmngen, in March, 1525, and it is further supposed, though this is somewhat uncertain, that they are at least mainly from the pen of the Swiss pastor, Schappeler, who is known to have been present at the conference at Memmingen, and who was one of the most prominent advocates of the peasant cause in south Germany. But .although this was the usual form and content of the “Twelve Articles,” and a form which seems to have been everywhere the most popular, it may be mentioned that it was supplemented, and perhaps in one or two cases superseded, in certain districts by other versions. As among the most important of these variations we may note the twelve demands formulated by the peasants of Elsass-Lothringen. They have the merit of being short and to the point, and divested of all sermonising, and are as follows:
1. Gospel shall be preached according to the true faith.
2. No tithes shall be given — neither great nor small.
3. There shall be no longer interest and no longer dues, more than one gulden in twenty [five per cent.]
4. All waters shall be free.
5. All woods and forests shall be free.
6. All game shall be free.
7. None shall any longer be in a state of villeinage.
5. None shall obey any longer any prince or lord, but such as pleaseth him, and that shall be the emperor.
9. Justice and right shall be as of old time.
10. Should there be one having authority who displeaseth us, we would have the power to set up in his place another as it pleaseth us.
11. There shall be no more death-dues.
12. The common lands which the lords have taken to themselves shall again become common lands.
The idea of there being no lord but the emperor, at the time very popular amongst constitutional reformers, here finds direct expression. The articles, it will be noticed, are also more drastic than those given in the classical version.
The movement was frequently inaugurated in a village by the reading of the “Twelve Articles” in the ale-house or wine-room, or it might be in the open air. They were everywhere received with acclamation, and the able-bodied among the villagers usually formed themselves straightway into a fighting contingent of the “Evangelical Brotherhood”.
The “Twelve Articles” proper, as will be seen, were exclusively agrarian in character; they dealt with the grievances of the peasant against his lord, lay or ecclesiastic, but had nothing to say on the social problems and the ideas of political reconstruction agitating the mind of the landless proletarian or the impoverished handicraftsman within the walls of the towns. The many small, and, according to our notions, even diminutive, townships spread over central and southern Germany had, it is true, many points of contact with the agrarian revolution, but they none the less had their own special point of view, which was also in the main that of the larger towns. As we already know, every town had its Ehrbarkeit or patriciate, which often monopolised the seats of the council (Rath) and all the higher municipal offices. Many towns, even among the small ones above referred to, had a discontented section of poor guildsmen, and most had a proportionately larger or smaller contingent of precariously employed proletarians, who had either no municipal status at all, or who had at best to content themselves with that form of bare citizenship which conferred on them and theirs no more than the mere right of residence. The fact of living within fortified town walls, however small the area they enclosed, seemed itself to have the effect of creating a distinction between the townsman and the dweller in the open country, who in time of war had at best to secure his family and possessions in the fortified churchyard of his village. Hence, in spite of the strong bond of sympathy and common interest between the poor townsman and the peasant — a sympathy which as soon as the agrarian movement had begun to make headway showed solid fruits — it is clear that a programme that might suffice for the latter would not for the former. No sooner, therefore, did the towns begin to play a serious part in the revolutionary movement that the peasantry had inaugurated, than we find entering into it the new elements of a political, and, in some cases, of a religious-utopian character, elements which we fail to observe in the great peasant charter, the “Twelve Articles” itself, and only sporadically in the other subsidiary and local agrarian programmes.
Among the projects of political revolution to which the year 1525 gave birth, the foremost place is occupied by the “Evangelical Divine Reformation” of the empire, sketched out by two men, both of them townsmen of position and education, by name Wendel Hipler and Friedrich Weigand. These men embodied in their scheme, in definite form, the average aspirations of the revolutionary classes of the towns. As we have seen, the idea of centralisation and of an equality based on a bureaucratic constitution was present in the spurious reformation of Friedrich III., as in all the new political tendencies of the tine. As was only to be expected, it entered into the general revolutionary scheme drawn up by the two men above named and designed to be laid before the projected congress of peasant and town delegates to be held at Heilbronn. They both of them had held office at feudal courts. Wendel Hipler had been chancellor and secretary to the Count of Hohenlohe and chief clerk to the Palatinate. Friedrich Weigand had been a prominent court functionary of the archbishop of Mainz. They both threw themselves energetically into the new movement. Their marked intellectual superiority and practical knowledge of tactics is shown by their endeavours to effect a union on the basis of a definite plan of action between the various peasant encampments, as also in their conceptions of the proper position to take up towards their princely and ecclesiastical adversaries. The aim of Hipler and Weigand, as of most contemporary political reformers, was to strengthen the power of the emperor at the expense of the feudal estates. Weigand, whilst supporting the general view of compelling princes and lords to humble themselves to become simple members of the Evangelical League, conceived the idea of specially enlisting the lower nobility- and the towns against the princes. It is probable enough that this project was debuted in the standing committee of the movement, which sat during the greater part of its course at the imperial town of Heilbronn, and of which Hipler and Weigand were members, but respecting the proceedings of which we have little information. Weigand appears also to have broached the idea of an agreement being arrived at by a remodelled Reichregiment, manned by representatives of the lower nobility, of the towns, and of the peasantry.
The actual scheme of reconstruction drawn up by these two men was based upon the “Reformation of Kaiser Friedrich III.” The language in which it is couched is studiously moderate, but the Biblical and pietistic phraseology of the “Twelve Articles” is almost entirely wanting. Whilst it embraces the agrarian demands of the peasants, these are merely incorporated as an element in the general scheme of reform. The stress is laid on the political side of things — on the notions of equality before the law, of reformed administration, and of national or imperial unity. The secularisation of the empire is insisted on; the ecclesiastical property is to be confiscated to the benefit of all needy men and of the common good. Priests or pastors are to be chosen by the community. They are to receive a seemly stipend, but are to be excluded from all political or juridical functions. Princes and lords are to be reformed in the sense that the poor man should be no longer oppressed by them. At the same time, a distinction between the estates was not to be entirely abolished. In this case, as in that of the “Twelve Articles,” the moderation or opportunism of the official document is noteworthy when contrasted with the more sweeping and radical measures which were demanded in definite form by certain of the men and sections of the revolutionary party, and which, especially in northern and central Germany, seemed at times to animate the whole movement. In the Wendel Hipler project, indeed, a fourfold social division of the empire is proposed, consisting of (1) princes, counts and barons; (2) knights and squires; (3) townships; (4) rural communities. Equal justice is to be meted out to all. But princes and barons, while retaining their nominal rank, shall cease to possess independent power and shall hold their positions merely as functionaries and servants of the emperor, the medieval representative of German unity. As a necessary consequence, all rights of treaty, of jurisdiction, of coinage, or of levying tolls, appertaining to the separate estates, as such, shall cease to exist. An imperial coinage is to be established, with separate mints in different parts of the empire, bearing, in all cases, on the obverse the imperial eagle, and only on the reverse the armorial bearings of the prince or town within whose territory the particular mint happens to be situated. Customs dues, passage dues, direct and indirect taxes of every description are to cease. The emperor alone shall every ten years have the right of taxation. Justice is to be thoroughly reformed throughout the empire. Below the supreme court of the empire, the Kammergericht, are to be four subordinate courts; below these, four territorial courts; below these again four so-called “free courts, the administrative basis of the whole being the courts or open tribunals of the township and of the village-community. Whilst the higher judicial functions are allowed to be retained by the nobility and their assessors, every tribunal, from the highest to the lowest, is to be maimed by sixteen persons, judges and jurors. Doctors of the Roman law are to be rigidly excluded from judicial functions and restricted to lecturing on their science at the universities. A thorough reform, in a democratic sense, of township and communal government is postulated. All mortgages on land are to be redeemable on a payment down of a sum amounting to twenty years’ interest.
Such are the leading features of the reform project drawn up by Wendcl Hipler and Friedrich Weigand for the consideration of the delegates from the townships and villages which should have come together in the month of June at Heilbronn. The congress in question was destined never to take place. The whole movement was, at the time it should have been held, in a state of imminent collapse, even in those districts where it had not already been crushed.
More agrarian and far more drastic in its revolutionary character was the plan of reform put forward by Michael Gaismayr, the intellectual leader of the revolt in Tyrol, in the Archbishopric of Salzburg, and in the Austrian hereditary territories generally. Michael Gaismayr, who was the son of a squire of Sterzing, had been secretary to the Bishop of Brixen. As soon as matters began to stir in the regions of the Eastern Alps, Gaismayr threw himself into the movement and ultimately became its chief. But it is noteworthy that, radical as were the demands he put forward, neither his activity nor his scheme of reform extended far outside the Tyrol and the neighhbouring territories. This being the case, it is only natural that his revolutionary plans should be mainly of an agrarian type. All castles and all town-walls and fortifications were to be levelled with the ground, and henceforth there were to be no more towns, but only villages, to the end that no man should think himself better than his neighbour. A strong central government was to administer public affairs. There was to be one university at the seat of government, which was to devote itself exclusively to Biblical studies. The calling of the merchant was to be forbidden, so that none might besmirch themselves with the sin of usury. On the other hind, cattle-breeding, husbandry, vine-culture, the draining of marshes, and the reclaiming of waste lands were to be encouraged; nay, were to constitute the exclusive occupations of the inhabitants of the countries concerned. All this is to a large extent an outcome of the general tendency of medieval communistic thought, with its Biblical colouring, and would-be resuscitation of primitive Christian conditions, or what were believed to have been such. It is the true development of the tradition of the English Lollards, and still more directly of the Bohemian Taborites.
The classical expression, however, of the religious-utopian side of the Peasants War, and, indeed, of the closing period of the Middle ages generally, is to be found in the doctrines and social theory of Thomas Münzer, which played so great a part in the Thuringian revolt, especially in the town of Mühlhausen, and which subsequently formed the theoretical basis of the anabaptist rising, as exemplified in the “kingdom of God in Münster. Since, however, we shall devote a special chapter to the Thuringian episode of the Peasants War, with particular reference to Thomas Münzer and his career, it is unnecessary to deal at length with it here. It is sufficient to say that if in the political plan of constitution formulated by Hipler and Weigand we have more especially the revolution as it presented itself to the mind of the townsman — just as in the Twelve Articles we have its formulation from the moderate peasant point of view, and in the scheme of Gaismayr the more radical expression of peasant aspirations as voiced by a man of education and intellectual capacity — so in the doctrines of it Münzer we have both sides of the movement fused and presented in the guise of a religious utopia, on the traditional lines of mediaeval communism, but of a more thoroughgoing and systematic character, the elaboration of which, however, was reserved for Münzer’s anabaptist successors.
In the town-movement, as exemplified in the Hipler-Weigand scheme, the stress of which was political, the main ideas are on the lines of the then trend of historic evolution — i.e., towards centralisation and bureaucratic administration, equality before the law, etc. On the other hand. the distinctively peasant programme, as Lasalle has pointed out, was in the main reactionary, harking back as it did to the old village community with its primitive communistic basis, an institution which was destined to pass away in the natural course of economic development. The old group-holding of land, with communal property generally, was necessarily doomed to he gradually superseded by those individualistic rights of property that form the essential condition of the modern capitalist world.
In addition to the men who may be considered as the intellectual chiefs of the social revolt, we must not ignore the influence of those who were primarily religious reformers or sectaries, but who, notwithstanding, took sides with the social movement and formed a powerful stimulus throughout its course. The influence of the new religious doctrines, and of many of their preachers on the current of affairs is unmistakable to the most casual student of the period. As prominent types of this class of agitator, two names may be taken — that of Andreas Bodenstein, better known from his birthplace as Karlstadt, and that of Balthasar Hubmayer. The first-named was born at Karlstadt, Franconia, about 1483, was educated in Rome and became a Professor of Theology at Wittenberg. Drawn into the vortex of the Lutheran movement at an early age, he soon developed into a partisan of the extreme sects, and of the social doctrines which almost invariably accompanied them. Karlstadt, who was somewhat older than Luther, was twice rector of his university, besides being canon and archdeacon of the celebrated Stifskirche at Wittenberg. He it was who in his official capacity conferred the degree of doctor upon Luther. Karlstadt enjoyed general esteem in the university. Though at first he was closely identified with Luther, the objects of the two men were probably different even at the outset. Luther was only concerned with the freeing of the soul; the theological interest with him outweighed every other. Karlstadt, on the contrary, though primarily a theologian, was still more concerned for the bodily welfare of his fellow- Christians and for the establishment of a system of righteousness in this world. Luther had always regarded the authorities as his mainstay Karlstadt appealed to the people. In theology and ecclesiastical matters as in social views, Karlstadt was essentially revolutionary, while Luther was the mere reformer. Finally, the tendency of Luther was to become more conservative or opportunist with years, while, on the contrary, Karlstadt became more revolutionary. As Luther placed the Bible above Church tradition, Karlstadt placed the inner light of the soul above the Bible. Indeed, in his utterances respecting the latter, he anticipated many of the points of modern criticism.
While Luther was in the Wartburg, the mystics of Zwichau, the friends of Thomas Münzer came to Wittenberg. This was the turning-point with Karlstadt. Carried away by these enthusiasts, a new world seemed to open up before him. Theology lost its importance; life and political action became all in all. He now rejected all human learning as worthless and injurious; in the dress of a peasant or handicraftsman he went now among the people. That man should throw off all learning, all human authority, and should return to natural conditions, became henceforth his central teaching. In fact, his was the Rousseauite doctrine before its time. In fanatical iconoclasm he had scarcely an equal.
At length he was compelled to leave Wittenberg. He repaired to the farm of his father-in-law and worked as a labourer. The life of the husbandman and the handicraftsman he proclaimed as the only worthy one. He demanded that all ecclesiastical goods should be confiscated for the benefit of the poor. This new departure naturally offended Luther, and the inevitable rupture between the two men occurred nn Luther’s return to Wittenlerg. Eventually, Karlstadt betook himself first to Orlamunda and then to Rothenburg on the Tauber, just as the revolutionary movement was beginning there, into which he energetically threw himself. He was subsequently compelled to conceal himself in the houses of friends in the town, escaping the hot pursuit of the reaction by letting himself down by a rope, at night from the city wall.
Balthasar Hubmayer, born in the Bavarian town of Friedberg, near Augsburg, in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, began as a learned theologian, and after teaching at the University of Friedberg become pro-rector of the University of Ingolstadt. He was then made chief preacher of the cathedral at Regensburg, where he initiated an anti-Jewish campaign, which resulted in the invasion of the Jewish quarter of the town and the total demolition of the synagogue. On the site of the latter a chapel was built in honour of the “fair Mary,” the image contained in which had the reputation of effecting miraculous cures. Popular excitement caused by this led to a scandal (see German Society, pp.268-271). This was in the year 1516. Shortly after the outbreak of the Reformation, being attracted by the latter, he left his post at Regensburg and became preacher in the little town of Waldshut on the borders of the Black Forest. About the same time, he made the acquaintance of Zwingli and the Swiss reformers, and soon assumed the character of an energetic apostle of the new doctrines. The citizens of Waldshut, together with the clergy of the town and surrounding districts, acclaimed him with enthusiasm. He became the hero and prophet of Waldshut. Such was his success in his new capacity that the Austrian authorities at Ensisheim, the seat of the Austrian Government in south-west Germany, became alarmed, and demanded the extradition of the popular preacher us a dangerous agitator. This was refused by the town. Hubmayer, however, insisted upon leaving “to the end that no man may be prejudiced or injured on my account, and that ye may preserve rest and peace “. Accordingly, on the 17th of August, 1524, accompanied by the blessings and plaudits of the townsfolk, he rode out of the eastern gate. A small body of armed men were in readiness to receive him from the hands of the Waldshuters, and to conduct him to the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, where he found safety and a favourable reception.
Meanwhile, as we have seen, Hans Müller von Bulgenbach, with his peasant bands, had fraternised with the people of Waldshut, and the Peasants War began to threaten. The result of the situation was that, notwithstanding hostile preparations, the Austrian Government found it prudent for a while to let Waldshut alone, more especially as the Swiss cantons of Schaffhausen and Zurich showed signs of moving in its favour. Emboldened by immunity, the Waldshuters recalled their favourite preacher. He was received, as an official document of the time states, “with drums, pipes and horns, and with such pomp as though he were the emperor himself”. A great feast was given him in the guildhall, and general rejoicing followed. About this time either Thomas Münzer himself or some of his followers who were agitating in the Black forest districts, appear to have visited Waldshut. Hubmayer now became an enthusiastic partisan and apostle of the new social doctrines of the realisation of the Kingdom of God upon earth, in the shape of a Christian commonwealth based on equality of status and community of goods. Hubmayer threw himself with renewed zeal into the agitation for the cause to which he had been won over by Münzer or his disciples.
The clergy more especially showed themselves receptive for the new doctrines. In fact, we have taken Karlstadt and Hubmayer as the most eminent types of a class of reforming priest — reforming in a social and political no less than in a theological sense — which at the time of which we write had numerous representatives throughout Germany. All developments of the social movement found their advocates among the revolted priesthood the moderate and immediate demands of the peasants as expressed in the official Twelve Articles, the political and administrative reformation of the empire upon which the Hipler-Weigand scheme lays so much stress, and, perhaps more than all, the religious-economic utopianism of which Thomas Münzer was the leading exponent.