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§ 114. A War Panic, 1528.

On the "Packische Händel," see Walch (XVI. 444), Gieseler (III. 1, 229), Ranke (III. 26), Janssen (III. 109), Rommel’s, and Wille’s monographs on Philip of Hesse; and St. Ehses: Geschichte der Packschen Händel, Freiburg i. B. 1881.

The action of the Diet of 1526, and the quarrel between the Emperor and the Pope, were highly favorable to the progress of the Reformation. But the good effect was in great part neutralized by a stupendous fraud which brought Germany to the brink of a civil war.

Philip of Hesse, an ardent, passionate, impulsive, ambitious prince, and patron of Protestantism, was deceived by an unprincipled and avaricious politician, Otto von Pack, provisional chancellor of the Duchy of Saxony, into the belief that Ferdinand of Austria, the Electors of Mainz and Brandenburg, the Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria, and other Roman Catholic rulers had concluded a league at Breslau, May 15, 1527, for the extermination of Protestantism. He procured at Dresden a sealed copy of the forged document, for which he paid Pack four thousand guilders. He persuaded the Elector John of Saxony of its genuineness, and concluded with him, in all haste, a counter-league, March 9, 1528. They secured aid from other princes, and made expensive military preparations, to anticipate by a masterstroke an attack of the enemy.

Fortunately, the Reformers of Wittenberg were consulted, and prevented an open outbreak by their advice. Luther deemed the papists had enough for any thing, but was from principle opposed to aggressive war;941941    See his letters on this subject in De Wette, III. 314 sqq. Melanchthon saw through the forgery, and felt keenly mortified. When the fictitious document was published, the Roman Catholic princes indignantly denied it. Duke George denounced Pack as a traitor.942942    After a fugitive life, Pack was beheaded as a forger in the Netherlands, 1536, at the solicitation of Duke George. Archduke Ferdinand declared that he never dreamed of such a league.

The rash conduct of Philip put the Protestant princes in the position of aggressors and disturbers of the public peace, and the whole affair brought shame and disgrace upon their cause.

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