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Communism in Central Europe 

in the Time of the 



Karl Kautsky 





' ETC. 

Translated by J. L. and E. G. MuUiken 



All rights reserved 
















I. The Papacy the Centre of the Attacks of Herettca 


NOTHING can be more erroneous than the widespread 
idea that communism is antagonistic to the existence 
of man — antagonistic indeed to human nature itself. This is 
not the case. Communism dates from the childhood of the 
race, and has been the social foundation of almost all nations, 
even to the present day. 

The history of communism bristles with far greater 
difficulties than those encountered by the historian of other 
phases of national growth. But, obscure as the subject is, 
owing to the lack of trustworthy sources of enlightenment, 
we believe that such knowledge as we possess will be 
sufficient to enable us to give some insight into its character 
and tendencies. As some assistance to our scanty informa- 
tion, we propose to glance over all the better-known 
evidences we can gather of the progress of communism 
during the period of the Reformation, and to consider its 
political effects, even though so little is known of the course 
of its inner development that all statements with regard to it 
must rest on conjecture alone. 

The great difficulties which confront us in our efforts to 
gain a more intimate knowledge of the growth of communism 
lie in the purely oral character of the teaching, and the 
secrecy with which heretical sects were forced to carry out 
their propaganda and organisation. Our information is 
derived, not from the literature of the communists themselves 
but solely from that of their opponents. Their mysticism 

2 ~~-~--<OA/ilf tW/SM IN CENTRAL EUROPE 

constitutes anoti^r difficulty, and there is yet a greater 
arising foom the want of distinct outward differences 
between the various heretical sects. Their persecutors took 
no pains to form an unprejudiced estimate of them, or to 
give an unbiassed statement of their doctrines, or even to 
make any distinction between them. The designations by 
which single sects were known were chiefly nicknames 
invented by their opponents and indicating the most 
opposite tendencies. In the present day, it would be an 
exaggeration to assert that all " Nihilists " must necessarily 
be socialists, and even more untrue to declare that no 
socialists exist among the Nihilists. Similarly, it cannot 
be said that the Waldenses, Beghards, Lollards, &c., were 
wholly and entirely communists. Nevertheless, we must not 
jump to the conclusion that these sects had never shown 
any communistic tendencies, for that would be to "empty 
the bath of water and child." Such tendencies are clearly 
enough evidenced, exhibiting no accidental, but rather a 
perfectly normal character — a character which repeatedly 
shows itself during the Middle Ages in all places where 
traces of communism became noticeable. 

The most salient feature of the communism of the twelfth 

I century is that antagonism to the Papal power, which lent to 

I the movement an ever-increasing heretical character. It was 

almost imperative for those who had the interest of the poor 

» at heart to rebel against the Papal Church, standing as it did 

I in the front rank of the propertied classes of the Middle 

I Ages. It was the wealthiest and the greatest among the 

exploiters, and held sway over the whole social life of the 

times, intellectually as well as economically. 

Its dominance might be compared to that of La Haute 
Finance^ or the Stock Exchange in the present century. In 
these days great banking institutions control social and 
political life, and in the Middle Ages the Papal hierarchy 
was, in a similar way, the mightiest of all the ruling powers, 
and, like the Stock Exchanges, decided the fate of Ministries 
— nay, even of Kings — founding and overturning kingdoms. 
The jurisdiction of the Papal power was quite as much 
disputed, however, as is that of La Haute Finance at the 


present time. Both have, in common, the faculty of exciting 
the enmity of all other ranks of society — not only of the 
exploited classes, but also of the exploiters. Both are 
compelled to relinquish much of their spoils to the greatest 
of all exploiters, and both view the treasures of the latter 
with eager, covetous eye. Nothing is more erroneous than 
the opinion that the obedience shown to the Papal power 
during the second half of the Middle Ages was either 
hearty or stupid. It was neither. It might rather be I 
designated as a sullen submission, always resentful, and/ 
rebellious whenever chance offered. But so long as the 
foundations of a new order of society and government were 
non-existent, the Papacy was quite as impregnable as La 
Haute Finance has hitherto proved itself to be. Every 
conflict — nay, every far-reaching social catastrophe, every war, 
every pestilence, every famine, every rebellion, served then, 
as in the present day, only to increase the opulence of the 
spoiler of spoilers. 

This condition of affairs was, on the whole, favourable to 
the propagation of communistic ideas, but highly unfavour- 
able to the development of the special class-conflict carried f 
on by the poor. To illustrate the comparison with La Haute 
Finance still further, we might say that the circumstances 
were similar to those existing during the ascendency of the 
French bourgeoisie (1830 to 1848). At that time, owing to 
its monetary power, and to a miserable electoral law, in 
conjunction with the political insignificance of the working 
classes, La Haute Finance held an almost unlimited sway by 
m.eans of Parliament and King. It roused the opposition 
not only of farmers and wage-earners, but also that of the 
industrial capitalists and shopkeepers. The struggle against 
the common enemy united these classes, and to a great 
extent effaced the antagonism between them. It was, 
therefore, difficult for the proletariat to acquire a special 
class-feeling, and, in consequence, it usually remained under 
the leadership of the petty townsmen, or, rather, of the 
bourgeoisie. Another result was the lulling of the distrust felt 
by the bourgeoisie for the proletariat. They were formerly 
disposed to forget that their riches depended on the poverty 


of the latter, and, their pity being roused for the poor and 
outcast, they felt encouraged to make efforts for the abolition 
of poverty. Many of them even coquetted with socialism, 
the most widely-read authors of that time being socialists, 
among whom we need mention only Eugene Sue and 
Georges Sand. 

Then followed the revolution of 1848. The kingdom of 
La Haute Finance was overthrown and deprived of its 
political privileges. Political power fell into the hands of 
industrial capitalists, petty bourgeois, small farmers, and 
labourers. The common enemy had scarcely been overcome, 
however, before the special interests and antagonisms of these 
classes became more or less prominent, or, at any rate, 
were brought vividly to their own consciousness. The 
most manifest and bitter opposition was that between the 
bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The revolution had shown 
the latter its power, and had, moreover, proved that socialism, 
far from being the dream of visionary literati which some 
imagined it to be, had, in fact, taken a strong hold of the most 
revolutionary class, and, ceasing to be a plaything, threatened 
to become a deadly weapon. 

Thenceforward the bourgeoisie resisted with all its energy 
not only each independent movement of the working class, 
but also everything that seemed to savour of socialism. In 
fact, their excited imagination pictured as a proof of socialism 
many a deed which was simply the expression of the most 
harmless philanthropy. Socialism was, in consequence, boy- 
cotted in bourgeois society, and its partisans were forced to 
decide between two alternatives. If they chose to remain 
loyal to their opinions, they were excluded from association 
with their compeers, and their names never more mentioned ; 
if they wished to avoid such a fate, they were obliged, once 
for all, to renounce any ideas that so much as savoured of 
socialism. From that moment socialism in a political and 
literary sense was dead ; dead, i.e., until the aspiring class had 
grown sufficiently strong to compel respect by its own might. 

Similar, but naturally much more protracted, was the 
development of socialism in the Middle Ages, in which 
the Reformation played the role taken by the representatives 


of labour in the year 1848. But, slow as this growth was, it 
can be distinctly traced in Germany during the fifteenth and 
in the first part of the sixteenth centuries, when circumstances 
were, in many respects, much more favourable to communistic 
tendencies throughout society than in the former half of our 
own century. 

II. T/ie Antagonism between Rich and Poor in the Middle 


The distinctions between rich and poor, though more openly 
and aggressively displayed, were not nearly so great during 
the Middle Ages and Reformation period as they have become 
in the present capitalised state of society. Then, as now, these 
distinctions were chiefly found in towns ; but, whereas modern 
towns count their millions of inhabitants, ajid the districts of 
the poor lie far removed from those of the wealthy, in the 
times of which we are treating a population of from 10,000 to 
20,000 constituted a large city, and men were drawn more 
closely together. Moreover, life was carried on to a far greater 
extent in public — work as well as pleasure — and the joys and 
sorrows of one clAss remained no secret to the others. Political 
life and festal life went on chiefly in open places — in the 
markets and squares, in churches and halls. The market- 
places were the scenes of trade, but, when possible, the 
work of the handicrafts was pursued in the streets, or, at 
least, with open doors. 

One feature of those times, however, stands out in marked 
contrast to our own. In these days the chief object which the 
capitalist sets before himself is the accumulation of wealth. 
Your modern capitalist can never have enough money. His 
great desire is to employ his whole income in amassing capital, 
expanding his business, undertaking fresh enterprises, or 
ruining his competitors. After acquiring his first million 
he strives for a second, for he fears being outstripped by 
some rival, and wishes to secure his possessions. The 
capitalist never employs his whole income for his personal 
consumption unless, indeed, he is a fool or a spendthrift, 
or unless his income is insufficient for his wants. 



Moreover, the wealthiest millionaire can lead the simplest 
of lives without diminishing the respect in which he is held. 
Whatever luxury he may permit himself, he keeps out of sight 
of the general public — in ball-rooms, chambres-separ^es^ in 
hunting-boxes, card-rooms, &c. Consequently, the millionaire 
is indistinguishable from the mass of his fellow-citizens when 
he is in the street. 

A very different state of things existed under the system of 
natural production and petty manufacture. The incomes of 
the rich and powerful, whether in natural products or money, 
could not be invested in shares or government bonds. The 
only use to which they could put their revenues was that of 
consumption, or — so far as they consisted in money — in the 
accumulation of valuable and imperishable things — precious 
metals and precious stones. The larger the incomes of 
temporal and spiritual princes and nobles, of patricians 
and merchants, the greater their luxury. Being by no 
means able to expend their wealth on themselves, they 
employed it in keeping up large establishments of servants, 
in the purchase of fine horses and dogs, in clothing themselves 
and their dependents in sumptuous apparel, in building lordly 
palaces and furnishing them as magnificently as possible. 
The craving for amassing treasure contributed only to the 
increase of luxury. The haughty lord of the Middle Ages 
did not, like the timorous Hindoo, bury his treasure in the 
ground ; nor did he deem it necessary to shield it from the 
sight of thieves and tax-collectors, as do our modern capitalists. 
His wealth was the sign and source of his power, and he 
displayed it proudly and ostentatiously in the sight of all men ; 
his garments, his equipages, his houses, glittering with gold 
and silver, with precious stones and pearls. That was indeed 
a golden age ; and a golden age for art as well. 

The misery of those times, however, made itself quite as 
conspicuous as the widespread opulence. The proletariat 
was only in the first stage of development ; though it was 
powerful enough to spur deep-thinking and sensitive men to 
meditate upon the ways and means by which want could be 
banished from the world, it was not sufficiently strong to count 
as a danger to state and society. 


Thus the primitive Christian doctrine which had found its 
chief supporters among a tatterdemalian proletariat, now fell 
on fertile soil ; the doctrine that poverty is no crime, but 
rather a providential, God-given condition, demanding earnest 
consideration. According to the teaching of the gospel the 
poor man was a representative of Christ who had said : 
" Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of 
these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me " (Matt. xxv. 40). 
In practice the proletarian did not benefit to any great extent 
by this precept, for " the representative of Christ " was some- 
times treated in a most unchristian manner. But society was 
still far from possessing those contrivances of the modern police 
system which are intended to sweep all social as well as other 
rubbish from the path of the rich, not for the purpose of 
preventing misery, but merely to hide it out of sight. During 
the Middle Ages the poor were not shut up in almshouses, 
workhouses, reformatories, and the like. Begging was an 
acknowledged right ; every church service, and especially 
every church festival, united the greatest splendour and the 
most abject want under the same roof — the roof of the Church. 

At that time, as at the present, society could be defined by 
the Platonic description, " the two nations." In the decline of 
the Middle Ages however, the " two nations " of the rich and 
the poor still remained, at least, two neighbourly ones, under- 
standing and knowing each other. In these latter days they 
have become such complete strangers, that when the " nation " 
of the wealthy desires to learn something about that of the 
proletarians a special expedition is required, as if it were a 
question of exploring the interior of Africa. 

In the Middle Ages the rich had no need to study the 
proletariat in order to understand it. Unveiled misery rhet 
the observer everywhere, in glaring contrast with wanton and 
excessive luxury. It is not surprising, therefore, that this 
contrast, besides arousing the anger of the lower classes, 
should have excited the nobler spirits of the higher ranks 
against it and in favour of tendencies towards the re-estab- 
lishment of equality. 


III. Tke Influence of Christian Tradition. 

The transmission by tradition of ideas originating in 
earlier conditions of society has an important influence on 
the march of events. It often retards the progress of new 
social tendencies, by increasing the difficulty of arriving at 
an apprehension of their true nature and requirements. At 
the close of the Middle Ages, on the contrary, it favoured 
their development. 

After the violent disturbances which took place during the 
general migrations of nations and the barbarism that followed 
it, and from the time of the Crusades, the peoples of occi- 
dental Christendom began to rise to a scale of civilisation 
which, in spite of its peculiar characteristics, accorded in 
many respects with the highest point attained by Attic and 
Roman society just before the decline. Literature, that 
^treasury of thought bequeathed by this society to succeeding 
[generations, harmonised fully with the needs of the newly 
rising classes at the close of the Middle Ages. 

The revival of ancient literature and learning fostered to 
an extraordinary degree the self-consciousness and self- 
knowledge of these classes, and in consequence became a 
powerful motive force in social progress. Under such cir- 
cumstances tradition, usually conservative in its influence, 
became a revolutionary factor. 

It was natural that each class should appropriate to itself 
from the treasury of tradition whatever best accorded with 
its condition. Burgesses and princes appealed to the Roman { 
law, because it appeared to them well adapted to the needs ) 
of simple production, trade, and the despotic power of the \ 
State. They rejoiced in pagan literature — a literature of the 1 
pleasures of life and even of wantonness. 

Neither the Roman law nor classic literature could please 
the proletariat and its sympathisers ; they found what they 
were seeking in another product of Roman society — the / 
Gospels. The traditional communism of primitive Christianity 
was well suited to their own necessities. As the foundations 
of a higher order of communistic production were not yet laid, 
theirs could only be an equalising communism ; which meant 


the division and distribution of the rich man's superfluity 
among the poor who were destitute of the necessaries of Hfe. 

The communistic doctrines of the Gospels and Acts of the 
Apostles did not create the analogous tendencies of the 
Middle Ages, but they favoured the growth and dissemina- 
tion of the latter quite as much as the Roman law aided the 
development of absolutism and the bourgeoisie. 

Hence the Christian and religious basis of the communistic I 
tendencies. Conflicts were inevitable with the Church, the 
richest among the rich, which had indeed for a long time 
denounced the demands of the prevailing communism as a 
devilish heresy, and had sought by all kinds of sophistries to 
distort and obscure the communistic purport of primitive 
Christian writings. 

If, however, the effort to establish a communistic order of 
society necessarily conduced to heresy, so, on the other hand, 
the struggle with the Church favoured the growth of com- 
munistic ideas. The time had not yet come when men could 
harbour the thought of dispensing with the Church. It is 
true that during the declining period of the Middle Ages 
there existed in the towns a culture far above that repre- 
sented by the hierarchy. The newly rising classes — the 
princes with their courtiers, the merchants, the Roman jurists 
— were at that time far from being Christian-minded, and 
were, indeed, still less so the nearer to Rome they resided. 
The metropolis of Christendom was itself the headquarters 
of unbelief. Any new form of government or secular 
bureaucracy which could step into the place of the spiritual 
organisation had scarcely begun to be fashioned, and the . 
Church as a supreme governing power remained indispens-jL^ 
able for the ruling, i.e.^ for the unbelieving classes. The task [ 
of the revolutionary portions of society was not to destroy; 
the Church, but to conquer it, and, by its means, to govern / 
the community and advance their own interests, just as, in; 
the present day, it is the work of the proletarians to conquer ' 
the state and make it subservient to their own ends. 

The increase of unbelief among the upper classes led them 
to concern themselves more than hitherto about the orthodoxy 
of the lower orders, and to use every means in their power 



to withhold from the latter every form of culture which could 
raise their views above the horizon of the Christian doctrines ; 
no very difficult task certainly, for the social condition of the 
peasants, handicraftsmen, and proletarians was such that it 
was impossible for them to attain to a higher culture. 

Nevertheless, the Papal Church gained very little by this 
circumstance ; for it did not prevent the development of 
great popular movements against the money-making hier- 
archy. Its only effect was to enable the participants in these 
movements to appeal with greater weight to religious argu- 
ments in confirmation of the reasonableness of their efforts. 

The literary productions of primitive Christianity offered 
Ian arsenal full of weapons to all those who, on any grounds 
1 whatsoever, might wish to confiscate the wealth of the 
[Church ; for it was fairly evident from these writings that 
[Jesus and His disciples were poor, and that they required 
voluntary poverty in their followers ; but the wealth of the 
Church belonged not to the priesthood, but to the com- 

The return to primitive Christianity, the restoration of 
" the pure Word of God " which the Papal Church had 
falsified and interpreted in a sense opposed to the true one 
— these were the objects striven for by all parties and classes 
who were enemies to the papacy. It must be confessed that 
each of these parties construed the " pure Word of God " 
differently and in a manner consonant with its own interests. 

iOnly on one point were they unanimous — the despoliation of 
the Church. It is true that the various Protestant parties 
diverged from each other widely with regard to the question 
whether that " pure Word " demanded the reorganisation of 
the Church government or the introduction of the community 
of goods. As, however, according to the evidence of tradi- 
tion, democratic organisation and community of goods had 
existed in primitive Christianity, any one who reverenced 
that form of Christianity must have had very large interests 
in the opposite state of things to enable him to find anything 
in the "pure Word of God" upholding different views. 
Hence every candid member of the propertied classes who 
took part in a heretical movement, and was in a position to 


raise himself mentally above the interests and prejudices of 
his particular faction, could with comparative ease be won 
over to democratic communism. This was especially the 
case so long as the Papal government was regarded by the 
wealthy classes opposing it as an overpowerful enemy, while 
at the same time communism seemed to be the harmless toy 
of eccentric idealists. Their partisanship of the communistic 
doctrine would, however, cease when they were confronted 
with the necessity of uniting all antagonistic elements in one 
phalanx. At first heretical communism showed itself to be 
dangerous only to the accumulation of wealth by the papacy, 
and hence easily acquired the tolerance of the upper classes, 
where these were heretically minded. 

Taking all these circumstances into consideration, it is 
comprehensible that, at the period when heretical movements 
had as their object the overthrow of the Papal power, com- 
munistic tendencies were able to acquire a force and vogue 
out of all proportion to the strength, extent, and self-con- 
sciousness of the proletariat. 

But directly they made any attempt to assail the whole 
existing order of society, instead of uniting their efforts with 
those of the wealthy classes against the papacy only, the 
collapse of heretical communistic movements was, as a rule, 
sudden and inevitable, apparently leaving no trace behind it. 

The class-character of these movements from the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries to the era of the Reformation was 
much more effectually concealed by the veil of religion, 
under whose guise they first made their appearance, than was 
the case with the other popular agitations of that period. 
This resulted from the circumstances already enumerated, 
viz., the lack of class-feeling among the poor, a proportion- 
ately greater ' interest in communistic strivings among the 
wealthy (merchants, nobles, and particularly the ecclesiastics), 
and the powerful literary influence of the communistic records 
of primitive Christianity. 

Nevertheless, the spirit of the proletariat had already 
impressed itself upon communistic movements. The prole- 
tariat of the Middle Ages differed from the proletariat of 
Rome in the days of her degeneration, and also from that 


of modern times. Moreover, the communism which it upheld 
differed from that of primitive Christianity and from that of 
the nineteenth century. It constituted a transitional stage 
between the two. 

IV. Communism in Articles of Consumption. 

Modern communism or collectivism is built upon the 
economic revolution which capitalism has brought about by 
doing away with production on a small scale. In the Middle 
Ages petty production still prevailed. In every industrial 
establishment division of labour (except that between 
husband and wife) had scarcely developed, and even in 
general affairs was in its infancy. The greater part of the 
population belonged to the peasantry, who nearly all sup- 
plied their own needs. In such a primitive stage society 
demands private, not a collective, property in the means of 
production. Modern socialism wishes to make the nationali- 
sation of the means of production the basis of society, 
widely differing in this respect from the communism of the 
Middle Ages and from that of the Reformation period. In 
so far as the latter was not satisfied with simply denying the 
right to private property, and inscribing on its banner the 
equality of the " beggar's wallet " and universal poverty, and 
in so far as it attained to the formation of a social programme 
and organisation, it founded these on a communism of the 
consumers, not of the producers ; on communal housekeeping, i 
not on communal labour. Whenever we find co-operative 1 
production among communistic sects of the Middle Ages, | 
it is the effect, not the cause of housekeeping in common. 

A good insight into the nature of this communism is 
offered to us in the description of the origin of the Beghard 
Houses in Bruges, given by a certain Damhouder, in the 
thirteenth century. " Thirty years ago," he relates, " thirteen 
weaver^ lived here ; unmarried laymen, who earnestly en- 
deavoured to lead a life of piety and brotherhood. They 
hired from the Abbot Eckhuten a large and comfortable 
building with a piece of ground near the town wall, for a 
yearly rental of six pounds groschen {libris grossoruin\ and 


a certain amount of wax and pepper. It was not long before 
they began to carry on their trade, conducting their house- 
hold in common, and paying its expenses out of the proceeds 
of the common labour {ex coinmunibus laboiibus simul con- 
vivere coeperuni). They lived under no strict rule, nor were 
they bound by any vows, but all wore a brown costume, and 
formed themselves into a pious community of Christian 
freedom and brotherhood." ^ They bore the name of 
" Weaving Friars." Not until 1450 did the Beghards of 
Bruges give up their looms and join the Franciscan monks, 
and then only to protect themselves from persecution. 

The organisation of the society, termed the " Fraternity 
of Life in Common," is also characteristic. It was founded 
by Gerhard Groot van Deventer in the Netherlands in the 
fourteenth century. The members of the " Fraternity," 
though closely bound together, formed a free society. No 
vow for life was required on admission, and the Friars were 
not strict concerning the rules as were the monks. The 
ordinary disposition of the Fraternity was as follows. About 
twenty Friars lived together in one house, having money 
and food in common. The novice had a year's probation,, 
during which he underwent very severe treatment. He was 
expected to relinquish his private property for the common 
use. Florentius (a friend and pupil of Gerhard) says in his 
address : " Woe to him who, living in the community, sought 
his own interests, or said that anything was his." The duties 
of the Friars were equally divided. The various handicrafts 
necessary for the whole community were carried on by special 
persons. Among the laws of the Fraternity at Wesel, we find 
the regulations for the Friars as clothiers, barbers, bakers, 
cooks, gardeners, and cellarers, as well as teachers, secretaries, 
bookbinders, librarians, and readers. In spite of this division 
of labour, however, a certain interchange of duties was 
expected. The clerical and learned Friars undertook, as far 
as possible, every handicraft (the charge of the kitchen they 
were all obliged to take in turn), and the serving-men shared 
in all the work which was the province of the clergy ; so that, 

^ See Mosheim, De Beghdrdis et Beguinabu commenlarius, p. 177. 
Leipzig, 1790. 


in mutual assistance, the entire community always resembled 
a family of co-workers. Certain hours daily were fixed for 
writing, of which a specified number were devoted to the 
benefit of the poor." ^ 

This community bore the character of a monastic insti- 
tution, and we shall yet see that even the Anabaptists of the 
J sixteenth century could not completely avoid following in 
/ the same steps. In two essential points only did they differ 
from the monastery : first, in having no binding, life-long 
vow, and in remaining a free society out of which it was 
possible to withdraw ; and, secondly, in their independence 
of all ecclesiastical control. In fact, they usually became 
directly hostile to the Papacy, and we find that their 
animosity increases as we approach the end of the Middle 
Ages. ^ 

It is obvious, however, that public communistic association 

inimical to the Papacy could be formed only in those places 

where people were successful in overthrowing the Papal 

1 domination. In localities in which the communists first 

I declared war against the Pope, we can find no such 

' dissociations. 

•"" The earliest public organisation of heretical, revolutionary 

communism is met with in the country which was the first 

to throw off the Papal yoke and to carry out victoriously a 

reformation of the Church, viz., in Bohemia. But we shall 

n see that even this organisation was based upon the com- 

[ munity in articles of consumption. 

— ''^ This heretical communism presents the greatest contrast to 

that of the monks, in that the latter were the most determined 

|r defenders of the Papacy, with which they stood or fell. 

V Moreover the monks, having long ceased to be workers, had 

I become exploiters, their communism consisting merely in the 

common consumption of booty. But the economic basis 

of heretical communism is the same as that of the monastery, 

\ viz., a community of the household ; and this gave rise to a 

series of features common to both monastic and heretical 

communism, much as these were opposed in other points. 

' UUman, Reformatoren vor der Reformation, vol. ii. pp. 79-102. 
Hamburg, 1842. 


The monk and the communist were in agreement in one 
point only — in their aversion to marriage. 
This is a subject which merits closer examination. 

V. Aversion to Marriage. 

Communism in the means of production, after which the 
modern social democrat strives, is quite compatible with 
separate family life. Not so, however, common property in 
the articles of consumption. The private household — the 
private family — has always a tendency to demand a recog- 
nition of private property! IVhere" the right to private 
property has been abolished and separate family life has 
been permitted, communism of this particular kind has 
proved to be untenable. 

Communism in articles of consumption, therefore, leads to 
a Certain hostrlify to separate famHy "Itfej^'ahd iiecessa also 
'~t6~a certain disiiice to individual ma;rriage7 Thisis particularly 
the case where the conirhuniity Ts^'TTvmg" in the midst of a 
society in which the right of inheritance has already been 
established. The practice of individual marriage inevitably 
prepared the way for a reversion to private family life, for 
the separate interests of a man and wife were in natural 
opposition to the general interests of the communistic circle 

This hostility was, indeed, necessary so long as the 
production of the community was too limited for com- 
munism to be founded on the practice of holding property 
■ in common, and its aim continued to be, as at first, not 
a universal co-operative association, but an all-embracing 

This is no mere speculative conclusion. We find this 
aversion to family life and marriage in Plato, in the Essenes, 
in the cloister, and also in some communistic societies in the 
United States. 

These examples not only prove that aversion to marriage 
is necessarily connected with this primitive communism, but 
also that the feeling can be expressed in very different ways ; 
by the demand for celibacy on the one hand, and by the 
common possession of women on the other. The latter was 



required alike by Plato and by the Perfectionists of Oneida. 
Dislike to marriage by no means implies hostility to women. 
On the contrary, the emancipation of woman from separate 
households always has the tendency to raise her position in 
the community. This can be seen in Plato's description of 
i communism, and is still exemplified in the American com- 
munistic colonies. 

The general bias of mediaeval communism on the marriage 
question is easily understood, as well as its uncertainty on 
the point. The consequences of its tenets drove its partisans 
to require either complete continence, or the possession of 
women in common ; but their whole environment, their petty 
citizenship and small peasant households made separate 
families and separate marriages necessary. It is in the 
opinions held concerning the relation of the sexes that 
custom is an all-powerful factor ; it is here, too, that new 
ideas have continually to encounter the greatest difficulties, 
for, in the sexual sphere, the extraordinary always appears to 
be disgusting and repulsive. 

Mediaeval communists held very cJi verse -.opinions on 
macfnage : one marked characteristic,.. hpyife^^ 
thfet¥i air, viz., a determined hostility to the matrimonial 

state. '* -"*"' 

-"'This hostility appears among the oldest of mediaeval com- 
munistic sects — the Waldenses, which arose in the South of 
France in the second part of the twelfth century. They 
divided their adherents into two classes — the perfect {perfecti)^ 
and the novices idiscipult). For the first, communism and, 
perhaps, celibacy, also, was ordered ; at all events, the latter 
state was deemed desirable. The novices idiscipult), on the 
contrary, were allowed to marry, and also to have worldly 
possessions. In return, it was the duty of the novices to 
support the perfecti, who were to consider themselves dead to 
the vanities of this world. This sort of communism reminds 
us of the platonic theory on the one hand, and of the Beggar 
monks on the other. In the Platonic republic, people were 
also divided into two classes — the ordinary people and the 
guardians. Communism and the avoidance of marriage 
were prescribed for the latter only. Like Plato, the 


Waldenses proclaimed the equality of the sexes, one of their 
heretical opinions being that women could preach as well as 
men ; an opinion condemned by the Pope. Men and women 
went about together, giving umbrage to pious souls, who 
considered that, under such circumstances, celibacy was not 
synonymous with perpetual chastity.^ 

A similar account is given of the Apostolicajis, a sect 
founded by Gerardo Segarelli at Alzano, near Parma, about 
1260. They called each other brothers and sisters, after the 
manner of the early Christians. Living in strict poverty, 
they were not permitted to have either houses of their own, 
or provisions for the next morning, or anything that was 
comfortable or convenient. If hunger raged among them 
they begged for food from the first person they met, without 
specifying any article in particular, and ate without discrimi- 
nation whatever any one gave them. If a wealthy man 
entered the community, he was obliged to renounce the 
possession of his property, resigning it for the common use 
of the Brotherhood.2 Marriage was forbidden. " The Brothers 
who go into the world to preach repentance have power to 
take about with them a sister as an Apostle ; not as a wife, 
but as a helper. They call their female friends, who were 
allowed to accompany them, their sisters in Christ, and firmly 
denied that they lived with them in a conjugal or improper 
manner, although they shared the same bed.3 

' Hoc quoque probosum in eis videbatur, quod viri et mulieres simul 
ambulabant in via et plerumque simil manebant in una domo et de eis 
diceretur quod quandoque simul in lectulis accubabant. (Chron. Urspug 
ad ann., 1212. See in Gieseler, Kirchengeschichte, vol. ii., book 11, 

P- 325-) 

' Mosheim, Versuch ciner unparteiischen und grilndlicher Ketzerges-. 
chichte. Helmstadt, 1746, p. 224. 

^ Mosheim, op. cit., p. 226, also p. 321. The same thing is related of 
the Waldenses, and of the holy men during the first few centuries of 
Christendom. " Disdaining an ignominious flight, the virgins of the 
warm climate of Africa encountered the enemy in the closest engage- 
ment ; they permitted priests and deacons to share their bed, and 
gloried amidst the flames of their unsullied purity. But insulted nature 
sometimes vindicated her rights, and this new species of martyrdom 
only served to introduce new scandal into the Church." (Gibbon, 
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, p. 381.) 



Mosheim thinks (merely on the ground of probability, 
and unsupported by definite information) that this pro- 
hibition of marriage and possession of property referred 
only to the Apostles — t.e., to the " agitators," and not to 
the common Brothers. If this be so, they would resemble 
the Waldenses very closely. Certain it is, however, that they 
declare communism to be an indispensable antecedent to 

In the Netherlands and in Germany communistic sects 
were grouped together under the name of Beghards. This 
sect was at first, especially in the Netherlands, an association, 
or brotherhood, of unmarried craftsmen, living as we have 
seen, in common households. In the Beghard Houses celi- 
bacy was enforced. 

While, however, all these sects comprehended, under the 
term "celibacy," the restraint from every kind of sexual 
intercourse, the " brothers and sisters of the Free Spirit " 
(a sect which sprang up in France in the fifteenth century) 
found a bolder and plainer solution of the matrimonial 
problem. Next to communism they claimed full, unbridled 
liberty for mankind, their conception of celibacy being com- 
plete sexual freedom, although marriage was prohibited. 

VI. TAe Mystic and the Ascetic. 

We must now deal with another characteristic which 
mediaeval communism has in common with monasticism, 
and explain wherein both of these differ from modern 
socialism. We refer to its inclination to mysticism and 

One of the radical reasons for the tendencyjto\yards mysti- 
ciBSi was the ignOTance.of„the_|pceat_ masses of the people. 
'~:A5"pTt)dii"ction and trade developed, the ascendency of social 
over individual life increased, social relations became more 
secluded and secret, and mankind was visited by terrible 
social evils. The people remained ignorant and helpless 
before these misfortunes, and the lower the rank of the 
people, the greater their ignorance and helplessness. 

The ruling and rising classes, particularly the merchants 


and princes, found their level under the new conditions by 
means of the poh'tical wisdom of ancient Greece and Rome 
and the Roman law. It was difficult for the lower classes 
to acquire this knowledge ; more difficult than in the present 
day, for at that time it was confined to its own languages, 
differing from the speech of the people — i.e., Latin and Greek. I 

This was not, however, the chief reason why knowledge 
did not penetrate into the lower classes. The fact was that 
the people refused to receive it, because they thought it 
would be prejudicial to their interests. — ^ 

Development of knowledge is as little independent as the l 
development of art. That knowledge thrives is due not 
merely to definite previous conditions which scientific in- 
vestigation first renders possible, but also to certain wants 
which urge on scientific research. Not every community 
and social class feels the need for deeper investigation into 
the real connection between things in nature and society, 
even if the necessary previous conditions are present. A 
class or community which is in process of decline, or hope- 
lessly'Tr6a'deYi"-d'5Wfr'%'6tTlefS;'"iVlir to 

^the~kiw^wledf2e:3jfc3XQ^T;;:;It**'\viW itftetligence to 

define clearly that which ts, but will try to discover argu- 
ments by means of which it can pacify, console, and — deceive 
itself ; and this is quite apart from the necessity of deluding 
its opponents as to its strength and capabilities. In the 
society of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance, the 
future did not belong to the poor and oppressed, but to the 
rich and powerful, to the nobles and capitalists. The latter 
classes had every reason to promote learning, which favoured 
the possessors of power in proportion to their comprehension 
of the truth. Even where learning was quite free and in- ^ 
dependent of them, it promoted their power. ^J 

The time was yet far distant when the visible future was 
to belong to communism — to the proletariat. The more 
the poor and oppressed thought they understood what was 
the truth, the more wretched must they have deemed it. 
Only a miracle could completely overthrow the big lords, 
and bring prosperity and freedom to the famishing classes. 
But they longed for that miracle from the very bottom of 


their hearts, and were forced to believe in it, if they would 
not despair. They began to detest the newly dawning 
culture, which did their tormentors such good service, quite 
as much as they hated the beliefs of the Papal Church which 
they were attacking. They turned away from the miserable 
and comfortless reality, and sought to lose themselves in 
brooding meditation, in order to derive some consolation 
and assurance. Against the arguments of science and truth, 
they set the voice from within — *' God's voice," " Revelation," 
" Interior light " — expressions which mean, in reality, the 
% voice of their longing and their wants. This inner voice 
resounds the louder and more triumphantly the more the 
contemplator secludes himself from mankind, keeps at a 
distance all disturbances, and fires his fancy by the various 
methods of ecstasy, and especially by hunger and prayer. 
Thus these enthusiasts arrived at a belief in miracles which 
finally developed into a faith as firm as a rock : so firm, 
indeed, that they became able to communicate it to others 
whom the same wants and the same longings made only too 
ready to receive it. 

A characteristic example of this mode of thinking is 
presented to us in Thomas Miinzer's writings, particularly 
in his explanation of the second chapter of Daniel, which 
treats of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream (the image of iron 
and gold with feet of common clay, which a stone shattered) — 
a highly profitable dream for revolutionary interpretation. 

This is what Miinzer says about the dream which the 
king's astrologers could not explain : " They were godless 
hypocrites and flatterers, who only spoke what their rulers 
wished to hear, like the theologians of our own times, who 
sacrifice their convictions for the sake of the loaves and 
fishes. These learned men were led astray by the notion 
that they could separate good from evil without the advent 
of tjie Holy Spirit. But the Gospel comes down from God 
into the heart. St. Paul, therefore, repeats the testimony of 
Moses and Isaiah (Rom. x.), and speaks of the inner ' Word,' 
to be heard in the lowest depths of the soul through the 
Revelation of God ; and whosoever does not become con- 
scious of, and sensitive to, it through the living witness of 


God (Rom. viii.), has no well-founded knowledge of God, 
though he may have devoured a hundred thousand Bibles." 

" An elect who wishes to know whether a vision or dream 
comes from God, or from nature, or the devil, must also with 
his heart and soul and mind take leave of all the temporal 
comforts of his flesh." 

In the most extravagant and millenarian fashion, Miinzer 
pictured to himself the new society of the future as a para- 
dise on earth. " Yes," he cries, " the advent of belief must 
touch us all, and be held fast in order that we, fleshly, earthly 
men may become gods through the incarnation of Christ, 
and therefore with Him be children of God, taught and 
sanctified by Himself. Yes, indeed, far rather be wholly 
and entirely transformed in Him in order that the earthly 
life may be changed into the heavenly." ^ This is a small 
'specimen of Apocalyptic mysticism. In contrast to modern 
communism, asceticism was also a distinguishing feature of 
this period. 

Production was not sufficiently developed to provide means 
for a refined enjoyment of life by the masses of the people. 
He, therefore, who desired equality among mankind, could 
see evils not only in luxury, but also in art and science, 
which, as a matter of fact, were often enough the hand- 1 
maids of luxury. Communists, as a rule, went further than! 
this. In the face of the vast amount of misery in the world, 
it seemed to them that not only were arrogance and frivolity 
sins, but that even the most harmless pleasures were sins also. 
Melancthon was very indignant over this mode of viewing 
things, and relates, in his History of Thomas Miinzer, that 
the latter taught : that " one must attain to a right and 
Christian godliness in the following manner: Firstly, open 
vices must be abandoned, such as adultery, murder, blas- 
phemy, &c. At the same time, the body must Ji^p mortified 
and subdued by fasting, bad clothing, speaking but little, 
looking morose, leaving the beard untrimmed. Such childish 
discipline as this he called mortification of the flesh and 
the cross as described in the Gospels. His whole preaching 

' Atissgestrickie emplossung des falschen Glaubens der ungeirewen Welt. 
Mulhaisen, 1524. 


was based upon this." This gloomy Puritanism brought 
the communists into opposition, not merely with the ruling, 
but frequently also with the labouring classes of the day, 
who were still strong in their ancient love of life, and full 
of cheerful good-humour. In many places communists were 
hated by the peasants and workmen as hypocrites. It was 
when the progress of the Reformation led to the oppres- 
sion and ill-treatment of the latter classes, and when the 
restoration of princely absolutism made their resistance 
appear hopeless, that the spirit of Puritanism began to take 
root among the peasants and petty traders. But this was 
after the rise of capitalist production, which made saving 
the favourite virtue of the small employers because it pro- 
mised them the quickest advancement into the ranks of the 
great profit-winners. 

Puritanism, however, differed in essential points from the 
asceticism of Christendom in the first centuries. The charac- 
ter of Christian asceticism in its beginning was chiefly 
determined by the ragged proletariat whose prominent 
peculiarities (moralists might call them vices) were idleness, 
dirt, and stupidity. Primitive Christian asceticism was nothing 
but a system of more refined methods to bring these 
peculiarities to the apex of perfection. It was the same 
with the Indian (Brahmin and Buddhist) asceticism, which, 
developed under similar conditions. 

The proletarians of mediaeval times were, in a great 
measure, workmen, and could not permit themselves the 
luxury of such self-abnegation ; they did not live on the 
liberality, i.e., the gains, of others as did the anchorites, 
but on their own exertions ; they were, therefore, obliged to 
bestir themselves in order to provide for their wants in the 
world, if they would not starve. Neither stupidity nor 
idleness was compatible with their existence ; they were 
not degraded enough, and, moreover, stood too near a 
thriving and well-to-do peasantry and tradespeople to be 
able to reconcile themselves to dirt. Neither stupidity, 
idleness, nor dirt offered any attractions to those who were 
superior enough to be capable of adopting communistic 
ideas. All accounts unite in asserting that the members 


of the communistic sects of mediaeval and Reformatio^, 
times were distinguished above their fellows by diligence 
respectability, and sobriety. By reason of these qualities they 
even received ready employment as workmen in some places. 

One well-authenticated proof of this is offered by the 
Anabaptists, in Moravia, where they had succeeded in 
establishing themselves in various localities, and founding 
a few colonies of peace-loving folk, who were as communistic 
as the surroundings in which they lived permitted. Gindely, 
who by no means sympathises with them, says : — 

"Among the various parties, Anabaptists were sporadic 
in Bohemia, but existed in great masses and in very many 
communes in Moravia. They had immigrated into the latter 
country before 1530 and had rapidly increased into more than 
seventy communities. The State persecuted them with more 
or less zeal, but they maintained themselves in spite of this, 
thanks to the protection of a few noble families, who had 
good grounds for what they did. 

" Such was the position in which Maximilian found them 
in Moravia, though they had previously been frequently and 
in vain proscribed. Following his father's custom, he made 
a proposal to the Diet, in 1 567, to expel this people within 
a short time. And now a new and entirely unexpected 
departure from old tradition took place on the part of the 
nobles. In union with the knights (the prelates and towns 
did not take part in this petition) they begged the emperor 
to allow the Anabaptists to remain in their own homes. Not 
. because the people were still unconvicted heretics, nor because 
any one had an interest in their conversion ; no, it was set on 
foot on far more practical grounds, namely, that the Ana- 
baptists were even more profitable subjects than the Jews, 
and could not be banished without great material injuries. 
Catholics, Utraquists, as well as Bohemian Brethren, bowed 
before the weight of their own argument. The Anabaptists 
were, in fact, everywhere extremely industrious, thrifty, and 
temperate, and, moreover, by far the cleverest workmen in 
Moravia." ^ 

' A. Gindely, Geschichte dcr bohmischen Brtider. Prag., 1857, vol. ii. 
p. 19. 


We hear of the same thing" in the primitive communistic 
colonies of America where Nordhoff found many instances 
of communistic industry and sobriety, and his testimony has 
been corroborated by Professor Ely, Mr. E. B. Smalley, and 
others. There is nothing more absurd than the idea that 
work is not carried on systematically in communistic associa- 
tions ; experience has long proved the contrary. 

VII. Internationalism and the Revolutionary Spirit. 

In one point early Christian, mediaeval, and modern com- 
munism are in accord, i.e., in their internationalism, in which 
they are quite distinct from Platonism, the latter being merely 
/local. Platonism was instituted for a few municipalities and 
their adjacent territories. Ever since the Christian era, on 
the contrary, every communist has worked for the good of 
mankind in general, or at all events for the universal national 
sphere of civilisation in which he happened to live. The local 
limitation of Plato's communism is in accord with the peculiar 
conditions of peasant and petty trade methods of produc- 

Capitalists and the proletarians overcome local limitations. 
The merchant does not live for his local customers alone, but 
principally to carry on business between home and foreign 
markets. The more intimate and easy this traffic, the greater 
his prosperity. Hence the merchant is international, or, to 
express it better, interlocal. Wherever he can make a profit, 
he is at home. 

The interlocalism of the merchant has its source in his 
commerce with foreign countries ; and his position in the 
foreign market depends on the power of the State to which 
he belongs (whether it be an ancient city or a modern 
nation). A strong governmental power is necessary to his 
prosperity, and, above all, a strong military power. Hence 
he is always a patriot either at home or abroad, and par- 
ticularly in the latter case. We see that he has been, ever 
since mediaeval days, on the side of princely power and 
Chauvinism in every place where the conditions are favour- 
able to absolutism. 


The interlocal feeling of the proletarian arises from other 
causes. He possesses nothing to chain him to the soil ; his 
home offers him nothing but oppression and a short purse, 
and these he can find anywhere. The smallest prospect of 
bettering his lot in some other place is sufficient to make 
him pluck up stakes and journey thither. Governmental 
power is the strongest protector of those who ill-treat and 
despoil him. From the fall of the Roman Republic to the 
first decade of our century, the proletarian had no hope of 
overcoming the government, or of making it useful to him, or 
of influencing it the least in his favour. The State has been 
the proletarian's greatest enemy. Not much wonder, then, 
that he has found it easy to draw the conclusions natural to 
this state of things. The special characteristics of all sects 
of communists, from the early Christians down to our own 
century, has been not only indifference but undisguised 
aversion to the government, to participation in politics, and 
the defence of the country. Anarchism is a posthumous 
child of these conditions of society. This aversion could 
only be subdued in times of revolution, when it seemed as 
if the power of the State were tumbling to pieces, thus 
putting the proletariat in a position to secure that power for 
itself In the time of reaction, however, a disgust for all 
politics would again set in with even greater force. We shall 
see that such was the case among the Bohemian Brethren 
after the downfall of Tabor, among the Anabaptists after the 
Peasant War, and among the Mennonites after the suppres- 
,sion of the Munster rising. 

But, since the time of the early Christians, the communists 
have always, and under all circumstances, laid stress on the 
duties of international and interlocal solidarity. 

In foreign lands the merchant steps forward as a com- 
petitor — as the opponent of the native born. He founds his 
aspirations not on their good-will, but on the power of his 
country to protect him. The proletarian on foreign soil 
shows himself as a struggler against the same spoliation as 
that from which he suffered at home. He cannot count 
upon the protection of his government, but he can very often 
rely on that of the proletarians in the regions into which he 


has wandered, and by whose side he is fighting a common 

It must be admitted that where the proletarian looks 
upon himself rather as a seller of his labour-powers than as 
a combatant, he is more inclined to regard his proletarian 
associates as rivals than as brothers-in-arms, and, in such a 
case, the disposition towards international solidarity is over- 
come without much difficulty. 
I This, however, does not apply to communists : they are in 
the first line of combatants against exploitation and oppres- 
sion, and, in every place, they encounter the same opponents, 
and suffer from the same persecution. This it is which welds 
them together. From the days of early Christendom there 
has always been one special peculiarity among communists, 
viz., that they form one all-embracing family, that the foreign 
comrade is just as much a brother as the native born ; and 
that, in whatever part of the world he may happen to be, if he 
finds comrades he is at home. Thanks to this peculiarity 
and to the lack of possessions, it was easy for their leaders, 
their agitators, to go from place to place. Poor they always 
were, for the man of property who joined them was obliged 
to distribute his means among the needy. The protagonists 
of the sect were constantly travelling, sometimes displaying 
a power of locomotion and covering an extent of ground in 
their journeys which would be quite respectable even in these 
days of railways. Thus, for example, the Waldenses of 

L Bohemia were by this means able to keep up a constant 
communication with those of Southern France. 

For this reason, communists became of the greatest import- 
ance in the conjoint revolutionary movements of the lower 
classes of their time. The greatest check to their progress 
was the local narrow-mindedness of the peasantry and petty 
citizens, which did them enormous injury in the face of their 
well-organised enemies. Wherever this narrow-mindedness 
was conquered and revolutionary risings in isolated localities 
were brought into communication with each other, it was 
essentially the work of the communist wandering preachers, 
and it was mainly due to their centralising influence that the 
peasant insurrection of 1381 in England and the Taborite 


movement in Bohemia were so successful. During the great 
Peasant War in Germany, in 1525, they were active in a simi- 
lar way, but German particularism was too strong for them ; 
apart from the fact that this rebellion was in a great measure 
thwarted by the want of cohesion among the peasantry. 

Here we must notice another important characteristic of ; 
heretical communism, the last which we desire to deal with 
in this connection — a characteristic which distinguishes it 
from early Christian communism, and makes it analogous jf 
with that of modern times : its revolutionary spirit. 

The people of the Middle Ages, the exploited classes, z>., 
the peasantry, petty traders, and proletariats, were different 
from the population of declining Rome. Capable of carry- 
ing arms and boorishly insolent, they had no comprehension 
of the teaching which commands men that " Whosoever 
shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other 
also ; " which interdicts the taking of the law into one's 
hands by " Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord," and " All 
they that take the sword shall perish with the sword ; " which 
advocates uncomplaining sorrow and suffering as a Christian 
duty. As soon as the populace in general could read the 
Bible for themselves (the Roman Catholic priesthood under- 
stood well why they wished to make the knowledge of this 
book their own privilege), they did not draw from the New 
Testament its lessons of humility and self-denial, but thos 
of hatred to the rich. The favourite portion of the" New 
Testament to the heretics of the lower classes was the ^1 
Apocalypse, that revolutionary and blood-curdling imagina- 1 
tion of an early Christian brain, in which the Apostle"^ 
exultingly predicts the downfall of existing society amidst 
deeds of horror compared with which everything hitherto 
exhibited in acts and threats by the most debased anarchism 
appears mild. In addition to the Apocalypse, they zealously 
studied the Old Testament, which is full of examples of 
peasant democracy, and teaches not only hatred of tyrants, 
but also active and restless opposition to them, as well as to 
the rich and powerful. The adherents of the communistic 
sects were, in general, too weak to entertain, in times of peace, 
the thought that they could overthrow existing society by 


their own power, in order to set up communism in its place. 
If they were not servile and submissive like the baser 
proletariat of declining Rome, they were still a universally 
peace-loving folk up to the time of the Reformation, and 
such evidence as we have unanimously bears out the fact 
that love of peace and patience were as much their charac- 
^r-istics as were industry and sobriety. 
y^ But when insurrectionary times came, when peasant and 
/ trader rose around them, then revolutionary enthusiasm 
I seized the communist also. It then appeared to them, or 
at least to a portion of them (for they were often divided 
over this question), that the time had come when God would 
show strength in weakness, and when no miracle seemed 
impossible. They threw themselves into the revolutionary 
movement to make it serve the purposes of communism, and 
having once cast in their lot with the rest, no compromise 
with the existing powers was possible. They soon obtained 
the upper hand over the vacillating and procrastinating 
factions, easily became leaders of movements (like the 
Taborites among the Hussites, Mlinzer and his adherents 
among the rebels of the Thiiringian Peasant War), and 
gave even these a communistic colouring, thus lending to 
communism the appearance of a strength which in reality 
it did not possess. As a result, a combination of all the 
propertied classes rose against it, furious with rage, and com- 
pletely shattered it. 
/ " It is this spirit of revolt in the communistic agitation of 
\ the lower classes which, in spite of many resemblances, most 
clearly distinguishes it from the communism of the early 
Christians, and bears the most important testimony to its 
kinship with modern proletarian-communistic movements. 

Early Christian communism was unpplitical^ and^ j^-assive. 
Proletarian communism,,, on _.the £ontrar^ ever since the 
"Middle Ages, has necessarily been politi cal a nd rebellious 
'when circumstances were^fayjooiraEIe. Like the social de- 
"mocracy of the present day, its aim has been the dictator- 
ship of the proletariat, as the most efficacious means of 
bringing about a communistic society. 


I. The Great Schism. 

Fl^vvaj in Bohemia that, t^^^ qarlieAt successful moYement 
of the Reformation occurred ; it was there that heretical 
coriTmunism found the first opportunity of clearly differentia- 
ting itself from the other heretical sects. The Bohemian 
movement was of great importance to the German com- 
munism of the Reformation asitwas the forerunner of the latter. 
Hence our attention must be first directed to the Hussites. 

How was it that the Reformation movement was first 
successful in Bohemia ? 

German historians maintain that only Germanic nations 
possess the inward fervour, the true sense of religion, 
necessary to produce an urgent desire for reform. 

As a matter of fact, however, we find that the first Reforma- 
tion movement took place among the Latin nations in Italy 
and the South of France. We need only mention Arnold of 
Brescia, and the Albigenses. If these movements were not 
equally successful with that of Wycliffe, it must be attributed 
to other circumstances than the lack of religious fervour. 

It is not within our province to explain how necessary the 
Papacy was for a long time to the nations of Christendom, 
and how many were the important functions which it fulfilled 
in their political life. These functions, however, became more 
and more superfluous from the beginning of the twelfth century, 
while, on the other hand, the Church of Rome was gaining 
more and more experience as to the ways and means by 
which it could tax the Christian nations, and render them 
contributors to its treasury. 


The Church had become the largest landowner in all 
Western Christendom, nearly one third of all the land in 
Germany, France, and England belonging to her. But she 
did not derive her revenues from landed property only. She 
knew how to prey upon the faithful in every way. In pro- 
portion to the Church's growth in wealth, her centralisation 
and dependence on the Pope had increased. The greater the 
treasure she amassed, the larger was the portion which found 
its way to Rome. 

But the opposition which raised its head in various 
Christian countries against the Papacy grew stronger, not 
only in the ranks of the working-classes producing the 
treasures the Romish Church attracted to itself, but also 
among all grades of the ruling classes, who looked covetously 
at the wealth which they would have liked to pocket them- 
selves. Under these circumstances the desire for Church 
reform became more pronounced ; i.e., the desire for the 
abolition of Papal domination and the Church's power of 
taxation, and also for the secularisation of Church property. 
But it did not everywhere lead to a violent breach with Rome, 
or to the foundation of a separate Church. It was not to 
the interest of the ruling classes in every country to counten- 
ance so revolutionary an act against existing powers ; a 
proceeding which might perhaps have endangered their own 

In Italy, no opposition to the Church arose. The large 
sums which the Popes extorted from Christendom flowed 
into that country, and became a means of advancing its 
commerce and industry. The Papal power was looked upon 
as a rampart against the enemies of the nation, preventing its 
neighbours, France and Germany, from making plundering 
raids ; for these nations eagerly coveted its wealth. Thus the 
decline of Papal power portended the beginning of foreign 
rule. How could Italy, therefore, be expected to throw off 
the Papal yoke? 

The kings of France were likewise not interested in such a 
movement. They had become much more powerful than the 
Pope himself, and were able to make tools of their former 
masters. To such an extent did the power of the French 


monarchs transcend that of the Popes, that in the fourteenth 
century they were able to force the latter to transfer their 
residence from Rome to Avignon. 

Scarcely, however, had the Papacy fallen under French 
domination, when France was drawn into the great Hundred 
Years' War with England. In the latter country the King and 
Parliament had about this time become strong enough to 
resist Papal presumption ; and the fact that the Pope allowed 
himself to be made the tool of her national enemy was 
another reason which strengthened the anti-papal feelings 
in England. A fruitful soil was thus prepared for Wycliffe, 
who was constantly striving for the separation of England 
from the Roman Church, and for the secularisation of Church 

Matters, however, did not reach this point, a compromise 
being effected between the Pope and the English upper 
classes. These became alarmed at the rising of the peasantry 
in 1 38 1, and at the gradual strengthening of the Lollard 
movement, which contained in itself numerous communistic 
elements. With such a rebellious population threatening 
them, it appeared rather dangerous to both king and 
nobility to enter on any revolutionary action with the in^ 
tention of rendering themselves independent of the Pope, 
and confiscating Church property. A compromise with the 
Papal See was all the more easily arrived at, as the latter was 
just then ceasing to be the tool of French policy ; having 
been warned by the rise of Wycliffeism that a continuance of 
its present subservience would inevitably jeopardise its posi- 
tion throughout Europe. Hence the longing of the Papal 
Court for a return to Rome, where it would be further 
removed from French influence. 

The Wycliffe movement also showed the Papal authorities 
the danger threatening their position as Princes of the Church. 
It pointed out to them the necessity of seeking a firm support 
in their secular estates. The continued loss to the Papacy of 
its dominance and powers of exploitation in England, France, 
and the provinces of Castile and Aragon, reduced it to greater 
dependence upon the power and wealth of the Princes. All 
the more important, therefore, became the control of its own 


territories in conjunction with its spiritual dominion of the 
world at large, and all the more imperative the necessity of a 
return to its native soil. 

If the Papal Court had every reason to yearn for Rome, the 
Italians had equal cause for desiring its return. The " Baby- 
lonian Captivity " (as it was called) of the Pope in Avignon 
had clearly proved how essential to their country was the 
presence in Rome of the Head of the Church, the city of Rome 
itself being the chief sufferer. 

This passionate desire for the return of the Pope found its 
grandest exponent in Petrarch. In his letters and poems he 
paints in vivid colours the misery and filth to which the 
palaces and altars of the saints in Rome had sunk since the 
removal of the Holy See, and how the Eternal City was fall- 
ing to ruin, like a wife abandoned by her spouse. The 
presence of the righteous ruler would disperse the cloud 
hanging over the seven hills. It would redound to the ever- 
lasting fame of the Papal power, to the prosperity of Rome, 
and to the peace of Italy, if a Pope had the courage to cut 
himself loose from the enthralment of France. In Avignon 
the Papacy must, from the very nature of things, be stifled in 
luxury and vice, and incur the hatred and contempt of the 
whole world. No one has more sharply criticised the Papal 
power than Petrarch ; but his object in doing so was not to 
weaken or destroy it, but to lure it back to Italy. In his 
opinion the depravity of the Curia did not lie in its shameless 
spoliation, but in the fact that it spent the proceeds of its 
cupidity in Avignon instead of Rome. The climate of the 
former was destructive to the moral health of the Papacy. 
Once back in Rome its recovery would be immediate. 

In addition to the economic reasons which influenced the 
Italians there were others of a political character. 

The awakening of a feeling of nationality is most intimately 
connected with the development of industry. If industry has 
attained to the level of capitalisation, its interests, and above 
all the interests of capitalists, demand a national, centralised 
government with a monarch at its head ; a government which 
can secure to capitalists the home market, and give them 
sufficient scope and freedom of movement in the markets of 


the world. This was first clearly shown in the seventeenth 
century; but the first germs of the modern feelings of 
nationality can be traced back to the fourteenth century, 
when it had its rise under peculiar conditions, and did not 
for a long period acquire the strength of a self-evident 

This feeling first manifested itself in the highly developed 
nation of Italy, which, in the fourteenth century, had, more 
than any other nation, the most pressing need of a union of 
its powers under one government. Such a union was abso- 
lutely necessary, if an end was to be put to the ceaseless 
internecine wars among its petty states, if quiet and order 
were to be restored, and if the country was not to remain 
a prey to foreigners, as in fact it had then become and con- 
tinued to be until the second half of this century. 

The only power seemingly in a position to give unity to Italy 
and to acquire ascendency over its different sovereigns was the 
Papacy, and hence on the first appearance of Wycliffeism the 
Pope began seriously to meditate a return to Rome. The time 
was opportune for such a step, as the war with England had 
terminated fatally for France, making her opposition appear 
less dangerous. 

The first attempt to fly from Avignon was made by Urban 
V. In spite of the protest of Charles V. of France and the 
cardinals (for the most part creatures of the French throne), 
this Pope embarked at Marseilles and went vid Genoa to 
Rome, where he was received with acclamations. But soon 
after, in 1370, the French cardinals, who had found more 
to amuse them in France, again became paramount, and 
Urban returned to Avignon. (Gibbon maintains that it was 
chiefly a question of Burgundy wine, which could not be pro- 
cured in Italy.) 

The second attempt was made in 1376, by Gregory XI., who 
remamed in Rome until his death (1378). Fearing that the 
French cardinals would again elect a Pope friendly to France, 
the people of Rome rose in arms, surrounded the Conclave* 
and with a cry "Death, or an Italian Pope!" forced the 
cardmals to elect an Italian, Urban VI. As soon as they 
were able, however, the French cardinals withdrew from 



Rome, declared the election extorted and invalid, and chose 
another Pope, Clement VII. 

This was the origin of the great schism in the Church ; 
and we have dealt thus fully with its causes, on account 
of its importance both in the history of the Papacy and of 
the heretical sects. 

Two co-existent Popes were not an unheard-of thing, but 
it was a novelty that each Pope should exhibit a distinct 
national character. One was supported by France and 
Spain, the other by Italy, Germany, and England. A third 
subsequently appeared upon the scene, who was acknow- 
ledged almost solely by the Spaniards. Hence the disruption 
of Catholic Christendom at a later date into separate national 
Churches, found its prelude in this ecclesiastical schism. 
This was not a case of dogma, nor of purely personal effort, 
but of national and political antagonism. 

A furious conflict ensued between the several Popes, in 
which neither of them, nor of their respective adherents, 
gained the upper hand. The whole Church was out of joint, 
and society bade fair to share the same fate. Society was 
indeed menaced by the bitterest antagonisms, as had been 
shown by the Jacquerie in France and the revolt of the ■ 
peasantry in England. Hence it became a question of put- 
ting an end to this dislocation and of re-organising the Church, 
or as was said, of " reforming it in its head and in its limbs." 
As the Papacy was wholly incapable of such a task, it had to 
be carried out by other powers. A series of international 
Congresses were convened — Councils of the Church — at 
which, however, the delegates of the secular princes had quite 
as much to say as those of the ecclesiastical organisations. 

The Papacy resulting from these Councils stood far below 
that which had once vanquished the Hohenstaufens. It is 
true that thenceforward the Popes were less under the in- 
fluence of an individual nation than those of Avignon, but 
national churches had been formed virtually subject to the 
respective sovereigns. The Pope was thereafter compelled to 
share his rule and spoils, if he would not lose them altogether, 
and his share was limited and strictly defined by special 
treaties (concordats or pragmatic sanctions). 


This was the condition of things in France, England, and 
Spain. In Italy the Romish Church was from the outset the 
national one. 

Germany was the only country in which no national 
Church was formed at the period of the Councils. It was too 
much disrupted to be able to control and limit the spoliation 
and government of the German Church by the Pope. P>om 
that time Germany became the primary object of the Papal 
greed for power and wealth. 

One member of the German Empire, however, formed an 
exception — the kingdom of Bohemia. 

II. Social Conditions in Bohemia before the Hussite Wars. 

,^ilL^..1^5...^^£^.P^i^^^^ perhaps, no country 

^™l^^^^^.-^°J.^P^^ ^" economic development during t,he four- 
teenth century as Bohemia. In England this was specially 
favoured'b'y the wool trade, and by successful predatory 
incursions into France ; in Bohemia by its silver mines, in 
which that of Kuttenberg ranked foremost. Opened up' in 
1237, it continued until into the fifteenth century to be by far 
the richest silver mine of Europe, its annual yield, at the 
beginning of the fourteenth century, amounting to about 
100,000 marks of silver (a mark=i lb.). 

The rapid development of Bohemia's power at that time, 
and the splendour of the reigns of Ottocar II. (i 253-1278) 
and Charles I. (Charles IV. of Germany, 1346- 1378) depended 
chiefly on those mines. Moreover, though they were 
supported by the Pope, both the latter king and his son 
Wenzel owed their succession to the imperial throne of 
Germany principally to the Kuttenberg mines, which supplied 
them with the means necessary for the purchase of electoral 
votes — a method often resorted to at that period. 

Thanks to Kuttenberg's capacity of production, trade and 
industry, as well as the arts and sciences, flourished in 
Bohemia, and above all in Prague, which at that period had 
become "golden Prague," covered with splendid buildings 
and the seat of the first University of the German Empire 
(founded 1348). Nor did the Church go empty-handed 


Its greed great, its scent keenrAit knew where there was 
anything to get, and moreover how to get it. Hence 
monasteries and churches in Bohemia were exceptionally- 
wealthy, especially under Charles IV. 

^neas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II., who was well 
informed concerning the possessions of the Church, writes in 
his History of the Bohemiaus : " I believe that in our age 
there was in all Europe no country in which so many and 
such magnificent and richly adorned places of worship 
were to be found as in Bohemia. The churches were heaven 
inspiring ; . . . their high altars loaded with gold and silver, 
enclosed the relics of the saints ; the priestly vestments 
richly ornamented and embroidered with pearls, and the 
vessels of the most costly description ; ... it was astonish- 
ing not only in the cities and market-towns, but even in the 

But the exceptional opulence of the Church in Bohemia 
only served to increase its spoliation by the Pope. 

Next to the Church and the King and his courtiers, the 
shareholders of the Kuttenberg mines derived the greatest 
profits from land. In the fourteenth century these share- 
holders were no longer simple mine labourers, but merchants 
of Prague and Kuttenberg, and capitalists who employed 

It was natural that the development of manufacture and 
trade should give rise to the same phenomena in Bohemia as 
elsewhere. Together with the great antagonism between the 
Papal Church and the bulk of the population, there existed 
an antagonism between traders and consumers, between 
masters and journeymen, between capitalists and those 
engaged in house industries ; while that between the large 
landed proprietors and small tenants was continually 
becoming more acute. It was not inconsistent with this 
antagonism that the universal tendency of that period 
should be towards raising the peasantry from serfdom by 
commuting labour-rents into money-rents, which existed even 
in Bohemia. 

This phenomenon demands a more detailed examination. 
To make it comprehensible we must glance at the change in 



the condition of the peasantry which had been brought about 
by the development of the municipal system and of industry 
in Bohemia, as well as throughout Europe. 

The growth of cities created a market not only for 
industrial but also for agricultural products. As towns 
increased in size, tradesmen and craftsmen became less able 
to produce all the necessary means of subsistence and raw 
materials. They purchased from the neighbouring farmers 
whatever these produced in excess of their own requirements, 
and in exchange gave their own or imported manufactures, 
or money. Thus the peasants became possessed of money. 
The natural result of this was an effort to convert their 
rents, which had hitherto been paid in produce and labour 
into money-rents, a change which would make them free 
men having complete control over their own possessions. 
The landowners themselves must often have wished for this 
change, as they also began to be in want of money. 

It might be thought that this effort of the two classes 
towards the same goal would have produced only harmony 
and contentment. 

Nothing can be less true. Under the system of payment 
in kind, farmers had no great incentive to increase their . . 
produce, as it was limited by the personal needs of the land- \ 
lords and their retainers. The greed for money, on the 
contrary, is limitless, since it is impossible ever to have too 
much of it. From that time we find a far stronger impulse 
among the owners of property to increase the burdens of the f ,',■? 
peasantry, while a counter pressure sprang up simultaneously 
on the part of the oppressed. So long as the peasants could 
not sell the excess of their natural produce, it was a small 
sacrifice for them to give it up ; but when there existed a 
market for it, the relinquishment of it to the landlord, or the 
giving up of the proceeds of its sale, meant a renunciation of 
pleasures which soon became necessaries. 

There was another conflicting element between the two 
classes. Before the development of the town, the peasant 
had no asylum to which he could flee from an oppressor. 
Now the town offered a place of refuge of which many a one 
availed himself. Well-to-do farmers contrived to profit by 


the pecuniary embarrassment of their landlords, and in this 
way free themselves completely from their burdens. Thus 
the number of forced labourers became smaller, and the 
business of the manorial farms often suffered in consequence. 
Hence when the peasants, under the segis of the rising 
towns, increased their efforts to throw off or diminish their 
burdens, the landlords simultaneously exerted themselves 
strenuously to bind their serfs more firmly to the manor, and 
to augment their compulsory service. 

There was still a third element of antagonism. The 
J imoment agricultural produce acquired a market value, all 
land, whether under cultivation at the moment or not, pos- 
sessed a market value. As soon as the towns had attained 
to power and importance, the time had gone by when the 
population was so sparsely scattered that the land was 
looked upon as practically boundless, and every one wishing 
to possess it — were he simply peasant, or mighty landlord 
with his tenants, or an association of monks — could easily 
obtain as much as he wanted, either from the lord of the 
manor, or from the Markgenossenschaft (the primitive society 
of the members of a commune holding land in common). 
Now, although the stage had not yet been reached at which 
every tract of arable land had been put under cultivation, 
yet the population had already become so dense that land no 
longer seemed inexhaustible. The possession of it began to 
be a privilege, and indeed a privilege so valuable that the 
most violent conflicts broke out concerning it. The Mark- 
genossenschaft now proclaimed their collective land to be the 
private joint property of the families constituting the 
corporation. Side by side with the members of the Mark- 
genossenschaft a class soon began to form itself, composed of 
the less privileged inhabitants of the commune. 

On the other hand, however, endeavours were made by the 
lords of the manor, whose power in the commune was indeed 
preponderant, to seize these lands and convert them into 
their own private property, at the same time graciously 
conceding usufructuary rights to the fellows of the Mark- 

The greater the strides made in economic development, 


the more intense became all these antagonisms, and the 
greater the embitterment between landlords and peasants. 
Conflicts were more easily excited between these two classes 
— conflicts which, in the majority of cases, were only local, but 
which in some cases broke forth simultaneously throughout 
whole provinces and even whole countries, growing finally 
into regular wars — peasant wars. 

The fortunes of war sometimes favoured one side and 
sometimes the other. In general, however, it may be said 
that in spite of isolated defeats, the peasantry of the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (earlier still in Italy) had 
permanently bettered their position. 

The causes of this improvement may be understood in part 
from what has already been said. Legal methods, and even 
physical compulsion, were of little use when the towns lent 
their protection and shelter to the fugitive peasants. In 
order to retain for their own benefit the labour power of the 
peasantry, the lords of the soil were compelled, therefore, to 
treat them better, and make their existence endurable. 

The financial embarrassment of the landlords also 
frequently aided the peasants. In the twelfth century 
Christendom had grown sufficiently strong, not only to defend 
itself against its enemies, but even to assume the offensive 
against the Orientals, whose wealth and high culture had 
excited the greed for plunder of the military and priestly 
' castes of the Christian world. The Crusades began with the 
most vigorous union of the feudal lords of all lands, those 
adventure-seeking and booty-craving members of the higher 
classes. But initiated amidst great illusions, these wars ended 
lamentably, their results bearing no fit ratio to the sacrifices 
they entailed. They enriched many towns, especially in 

I Italy, but they caused the ruin of a large part of the 
European nobility, and instilled into the rest of the higher 
classes those longings for the productions of a higher culture, 
which in Europe were not to be obtained without great expen- 
diture. It is not surprising, therefore, that the financial embar- 
rassment of the nobility rapidly increased. If in some cases 
this led to an effort to extort still more from the peasant, it 
often burdened the landlord also with a load of debt, and 


forced him to agree to absolve the peasant from his burdens 
upon the payment of a round sum. The higher nobility 
suffered comparatively little from these conditions, but the 
inferior ranks were rapidly ruined, and to all intents and 
purposes lost their independence. 

One more circumstance must finally be noticed. While the 
population was increasing, the closing of the land-corporations 
and their absorption by the lords of the manor made it 
exceedingly difficult to find room for new settlers. The 
surplus population was, in consequence, compelled to seek 
a livelihood outside of agricultural pursuits, and especially 
in urban handicrafts, or in war-service. Together with the 
ruined lower nobility, sturdy country youths, whose services 
were not required at home, gave themselves up to the trade 
of soldiering, and flocked to the well-to-do towns, or to those 
nobles who paid them well and held out the prospect of rich 
booty. They sought service under princes, or such fortunate 
army-leaders as were beginning to make a business of war, 
and to contract for troops. ^ 

Side by side with the army of the feudal caste (the mounted 
men, or knights), another was now formed consisting of paid 
peasants, and foot-bands once more assumed a military 

But these levied peasants had not as yet become 
proletarians. They were farmers' sons who, after completing 
their war-service, returned home to take part in the labours 
of the family, or to set up their own firesides. They brought 
with them the implements and weapons of war, and the 
veteran's skill in the use of them. French knights of the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries often enough had a taste 
of the quality of the English bow and the Swiss pike. 

At the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth 
centuries serfdom had in fact ceased in Bohemia as well as irii 
England, but attempts were not wanting among the landlords 

' Mercenary armies existed in Italy as early as the thirteenth centuryj 
According to Sismondi, the first paid troops consisted of men who had! 
been banished and proscribed ; of which the urban party-strifes supplied 
a large number. (Sismonde de Sismondi, Hisioirc des republiques^ 
italiennes du moyeii age. Paris, 182, vol. iii. p. 260.) 


to re-inaugurate the system ; attempts which were a fruitful 
source of social discontent' 

But the greatest discontent must have been among the 
members of the inferior nobility who, themselves not much 
above the higher class of peasants, possessed very limited 
sources of revenue and could not, like the great barons, 
squeeze anything of importance out of their tenants, but 
who, unfortunately, had formed their standard of life on 
the pattern of the great barons and wealthy merchants. 
At the end of the fourteenth century this class went 
rapidly to ruin. The royal power was already too strong 
in Bohemia to permit the formation of a body of robber- 
knights, although many earnest attempts were made to 
that end. 

As Bohemia was a part of the German Empire, a profitable 
national war was impossible, hence the members of the 
Bohemian knighthood were driven almost exclusively to 
mercenary war-service as a means of retrieving their fortunes. 

The development of silver mining was not only a potent 
factor in the encouragement of manufacture and trade, and, 
through these, in the growth of the above-mentioned antagon- 
isms, but it produced, as a necessary consequence, a revolution 
in prices, by which they were especially embittered. 

The discovery and working of the rich silver mines of 
Bohemia must have brought about a rise in the prices of 
all goods. It must have had the same effect in that 
country as was caused in Germany at the end of the 
fifteenth century by the rich yield of the Saxon and 
Tyrolese mines, and has been produced throughout Europe 
since the middle of the sixteenth century by the discovery 
and development of the gold and silver deposits in America. 
We have not been able to find proofs of this in the various 
histories of Bohemia, but if in this matter, as in others, the 
axiom holds good, that under the same conditions like causes 
produce like effects, there can be no doubt that in the 
fourteenth century there was a complete revolution of prices 
in Bohemia. 

It was inevitable that the different classes should be affected 

' Palacky, Geschichie von Bohtnen, i. 2 p. 34, sqq. ; ii. 2 p. 30 ; iii. 2 p. 38. 


in various ways by this revolution. Some were injured, others 
benefited ; some were merely touched by it, others completely 
shattered ; but in every circumstance of social intercourse 
in which a money payment was the medium, the social 
antagonism comprised in it could not fail to be intensified by 
this rise in prices. The greatest sufferers must have been 
those classes who received their incomes in money and did 
not possess the power to increase those incomes proportionately 
to its decreased value. In the towns these classes formed the 
lowest strata of the wage-earning population ; in the country 
they were the petty nobility. 

But above all these social antagonisms stood another 

1 still more potent — the national. In Bohemia the hatred of 

I Germany was combined with that felt for the Papal Church. 

f In the thirteenth century Bohemia was economically far behind 

the times. Its Western German neighbours were much in 

advance of it in social development. After the opening 

of the Kuttenberg mines, the marvellous progress in 

industry, trade, art, and science had been made possible in 

Bohemia only by the fact that its rulers attracted German 

emigrants thither. The two favourite monarchs of Bohemian 

patriots, Ottocar II. and Charles I., were the very ones 

who most encouraged the immigration of German peasants, 

craftsmen, and merchants, as well as German artists and 


Kuttenberg was a purely German town, and quite as much 
so were the other mining towns, such as Deutschbrod and Iglau. 
Together with these, however, numerous other towns had 
been either founded by Germans, or were so largely peopled 
by them, that the municipal authority fell into their hands, 
and this the more readily as they represented the well-to-do 
classes — the merchants and prominent handicraftsmen. The 
petty craftsmen, the mass of day-labourers, and other of the 
lower urban population, were native-born Czechs. 

The University was also under the control of the Germans. 
It was a self-governing institution, modelled after the 
University of Paris, and divided into four "nations," each 
of which had a vote in the management. The Bohemians, 
however, were always in a hopeless minority, as they were 


Opposed by the Bavarian, Saxon, and Polish " nations," the 
last named being composed chiefly of Germans (Silesians, &c.). 
This is not an insignificant fact. In those times a university 
was a scientific and political power of the first rank, and had 
an importance equal to that possessed by the press and 
universities combined at the present day. Externally, also, 
it was a mighty organisation. Like those of Paris, the 
buildings of the University of Prague, together with the 
residences of the professors and students, formed a distinct 
quarter of the town, having probably its own surrounding 
walls,! and as early as the beginning of the fifteenth century 
the number of students amounted to many thousands. yEneas 
Sylvius tells us in his History of the Bohemians that when, 
in 1409, the German students quitted the town, two thousand 
left in one day. Three thousand followed a few days later, 
and founded the University of Leipzig. It can be safely 
assumed, therefore, that the total number of students at that 
time in the university was not less than ten thousand. 

There were also numerous establishments connected with 
the university, such as lands and buildings endowed for the 
use and enjoyment of the professors and poorer students ; 
and all this wealth and power was in the hands of the 
Germans. Bitterly did the Czech professors complain that 
they were forced to starve as country schoolmasters, while 
their German colleagues obtained all the fat appointments 
in the University ; and that whenever the interests of the 
Czech " nation " clashed with those of the German, the 
authorities invariably sided watli the latter. 

To all this was added the fact that the Church had become \ 
an institution of spoliation for the benefit of the Germans. 
The poor livings were, it is true, turned over to the Czechs ; 
but the monasteries were for the most part in the possession '< 
of the Germans, as well as the higher appointments of the 
secular clergy. 

Thus the animosity to the Church conspired with the hatred i 
of the Germans in uniting the whole Czech nation in solid \ 
phalanx against those two spoilers. 

This gave rise to the national feeling which suddenly 
' Maurer, Siadledeifassung, ii. p. 37. 


appeared in Bohemia in the fourteenth century. But in 
its beginnings this feeling assumed the most diverse forms 
in different countries/being determined in each case by the 
special circumstances which called it forth. In Italy and 
Germany it sprang chiefly from a longing for political unity. 
Among the patriots of the former country it led to an 
adulation of the Papacy ; in those of Germany to an 
enthusiasm for a powerful empire. In France and England 
the most prominent national feeling was a reciprocal hatred 
between the two countries. In Bohemia, on the contrary, it 
made its appearance as a special kind of class antagonism. 

The peculiar form assumed by this antagonism can be easily 
understood from what has been said. The Germans expected 
and received the most lucrative appointments among the 
secular clergy, in the monasteries and in the University, 
the latter at that time an essentially theological institution. 
If the Czechs had every reason for rearing a barrier against 
the spoliation carried on by the Church, and for craving its 
possession, the Germans had quite as good grounds for resisting 
their efforts. 

' Such was the atmosphere in which the movement against 
the Pope and the Germans had its birth, a movement which 
has received the name of the Hussite War from its most 
prominent literary advocate, Johannes Huss. 

III. Tke Beginning of the Hussite Movement. 

In its beginnings the Hussite movement borrowed the most 
weighty of its arguments and claims from Wycliffeism, for 
as soon as the doctrines of the English reformer reached 
Bohemia they were eagerly seized upon and propagated. 
But while Huss adhered closely to Wycliffe's teachings, it is 
a gross exaggeration to assert that those teachings produced 
the Hussite movement. They supplied the Hussites with 
arguments of the greatest utility, and influenced the formula- 
tion of the demands put forward by them ; but the cause, 
strength, and aim of the movement had their roots deep in 
circumstances which were wholly indigenous to Bohemia. In 
the reign of Charles I. they had already found expression 


in Milic of Kremsier and Mathias of Janow, long before 
Wycliffeistic writings had penetrated to Bohemia, which did 
not take place till about 1380, in the last years of the curate 
of Lutterworth. 

Wenzel, son of Charles I., and the fourth Bohemian king 
of that name (i 378-1419), endeavoured as far as possible 
to suppress existing antagonisms. As he was repugnant to 
accepting the German crown on account of his powerlessness, 
it was not necessary for him to be a " parson-king " like his 
father. Although he endeavoured to subjugate the Church 
to his own control, and was thus put in touch with the efforts 
of the Czech patriots and Church reformers, he was forced 
to recognise the fact that Bohemia's flourishing economic 
condition, and with it the greater part of his power, depended 
on Germans. While favouring the strivings of the Czechs, 
he did not wish the Germans to be injured thereby. To this 
highly contradictory situation we must ascribe the vacillating 
policy of Wenzel, who one day encouraged the Czechs and 
the friends of reform (e.g:, in the question of the University), 
and the next day endeavoured to repress them — sometimes 
in vain. Although the Germanic spirit and influence declined 
in power and importance under his rule, his wavering, con- 
tradictory, and frequently capricious policy succeeded almost 
to the end of his life in preventing any violent encounter 
between the antagonistic parties. 

The explosion came only when Bohemian affairs were 
interfered with by foreign powers, who, instead of a policy 
of vacillation and compromise, preferred that of a strong hand, 
and, by their attempt to stamp out the brand with a firm, foot, 
caused the whole structure to burst into flame. 

Johannes Huss (from 1398 professor in Prague University, 
and from 1402 pastor of Bethlehem Chapel), the most pro- 
minent literary representative of the anti-Papal and anti- 
German movement, enjoyed the favour of Wenzel, who 
appointed him father-confessor to Queen Sophia. The 
University, which was at that time in the hands of the 
Germans, turned at first against Huss and Wycliffe, whose 
doctrines Huss propagated, and pronounced forty-five of 
Wycliffe's Theses to be heretical. The quarrel of the 


University became more and more a national one, in which 
the Czechs and the friends of reform were in the minority. 
Wenzel finally interposed and gave three of the four votes 
of the University to the Bohemian " nation," and the re- 
maining one to the other nations combined, whereupon the 
majority of German professors and students left the country. 
The University now declared for Huss, and appointed him 

Huss had then to deal with the Archbishop of Prague, and, 
lastly, with the Pope himself Fiercer and fiercer grew the 
struggle, and wider and wider the gulf between Huss and the 
Church. The conflict became especially sharp when, in 141 1, 
Pope John XXHI., being in want of money, again made 
preparations for the sale of Indulgences, which took place 
in Prague i h 1 41-2. 

Huss raised the most violent opposition to this sale, as well 
as to the money-seeking Pope, whom he denounced as anti- 
Christ. It soon culminated in a severe encounter between 
the Catholic Germans and the Hussite Czechs, the latter of 
whom burnt the Papal Bull, and even threatened the priest- 

It seemed, indeed, at that time, as if these bitter antagonisms 
were about to measure their strength in open conflict ; but 
Wenzel was once again able to preserve peace by a cold- 
blooded neutrality. In December, 141 2, he expelled Huss 
from Prague, and soon afterwards prepared the same fate 
for four papistically-minded theologians ; he simultaneously 
destroyed the preponderance of the Germans in Prague by 
decreeing that in future half of the town-councillors should 
be Czechs. 

In 1414, the great Church Council assembled in Constance. 
Its mission was to reunite and reorganise the Papal Church — 
a task which involved not only the setting aside of the three 
existing Popes and the installation of a new one, but also the 
suppression of Bohemian heresy. Wenzel had been deprived 
of the imperial crown by the German Electors in 1400, and 
his brother Sigismund (who, since 1410, had been Emperor 
of Germany and was heir presumptive to the throne of 
Bohemia) had special interest in the suppression of Hussism, 


as this sect threatened the defection of bohemia not only 
from the Church but also from his Empire. 

Huss was cited before the Council. Full of confidence, 
he set out on the journey to Constance, relying, not on the 
letter of safe-conduct given him by Sigismund, but on his 
good cause. Like so many idealists before and after him, he 
saw only differences of opinion and misapprehension where 
there were actually irreconcilable antagonisms. If he could 
only clear up these misapprehensions and refute these 
opinions, the irresistible strength of his ideas would, he 
thought, be manifest. But he failed to convince the pious 
fathers, either that Apostolic poverty was enjoined upon 
the followers of Christ, or of the truth of his dictum that a 
spiritual or secular ruler, be he Pope or King, ceases to be 
lawful the moment he incurs the guilt of a deadly sin. 

This democratic principle seriously offended Sigismund as 
well as the Council. 

That Bohemia arose in its might in favour of Huss only 
bore witness to his dangerous power, and was one more 
reason why the Council should render him harmless. After it 
had vainly sought by threats and long imprisonment to 
induce him to recant, it condemned the reformer and his 
doctrines on July 6, 141 5, and handed him over to the secular 
judges. Sigismund was sufficiently devoid of character to 
break his word ; and, in spite of the letter of safe-conduct, 
Huss was sentenced to the stake. 

This reduced the Bohemians to the alternative of rebellion, 
•or subjection to the Church and the Germans. They chose 

A few of the more resolute among the followers of Huss 
had already openly renounced the Church. They upheld 
the claim previously raised by Mathias of Janow, that the 
Holy Sacrament should be administered to the people in 
both kinds. The use of the chalice had hitherto been con- 
fined to the priests. It was quite in accordance with their 
doctrine which had, as one of its aims, the abolition of the 
privileges of the priesthood, that it should also declaim 
against the external sign of their privileged condition. The 
chalice, i.e., the lay chalice, became from that time the symbol 


of the Hussites. According to the usual popular representa- 
tion of history, the only question at issue during the gigantic 
struggles of the Hussite war, was essentially whether or not 
the Holy Communion ought to be administered in both 
kinds ; and in this connection " enlightened minds " never 
tire of pointing out, with much self-satisfaction, how narrow- 
minded the people of that time were, and how luminous, on 
the contrary, are the free-thinkers of the present day. 

This picture of the Hussite movement is about as true 
and well founded as would be a representation in coming 
centuries of the revolutionary conflicts of our times, in which 
it should be made to appear that the people of the nineteenth 
century were so ignorant as to attribute a superstitious im- 
portance to particular colours, so that the bloodiest battles 
raged over the questions whether the French colours should 
be white, red white and blue, or red ; those of Hungary 
black and yellow, or red white and green ; and that for a 
long time a wearer of a black red and gold ribbon was 
punished by severe imprisonment in Germany. 

What the various flags are to the nations of to-day, the 
"^ chalice was to the Hussites. It was their standard, round 
which they rallied, and which they defended to the last ; but 
it was not an object of strife. 

It was precisely the same with the different forms of the 
Holy Communion which made their appearance in the Re- 
formation of the sixteenth century. 

The casting off of the fetters of the Catholic Church — 
an act of whicHtKe symbol was the acceptance of the lay 
chalice — became universal after the execution of Johannes 
Huss. The ice was broken, and the practical consequences 
of renouncing the Church soon ensued — those consequences 
which were fundamentally the object of the whole conflict. 
Masses of the lower population in Prague now began to rise 
from time to time, not merely in demonstrations, but some- 
times to expel the secular clergy and monks, and plunder the 
churches and monasteries ; the greatest gainers by these up- 
risings being the nobility. Not in vain had they become the 
most zealous advocates of Hussite doctrines. To revenge 
the death of Huss, and, of course, out of pure enthusiasm 


for the faith (?), they now sent challenges to bishops and 
monasteries, and began, wherever possible, to seize the 
possessions of the Church. 

Wenzel was powerless in the face of the storm. In vain 
did Sigismund and the Pope endeavour to goad him into 
energetic measures against the rebels. The Bohemian king 
deemed it most prudent to act as if he saw nothing. Matters 
finally went so far that Sigismund threatened his brother 
with war if he did not interpose in the Hussite revolt. The 
threat was effective : Wenzel turned against the Hussites, 
and tried to bring back the exiled clergy. Thereupon a 
tumult arose in Prague, during which the masses of the 
lower population, led by Johann Ziska, seized the town on 
July 30, 1419. 

The king had fled before the threatening catastrophe to 

his stronghold in Wenzelstein, and when the dire news was 

brought to him fell into the most ungovernable rage. This 

,was the probable cause of the attack of apoplexy which 

followed and from which he died a few days afterwards. 

Bohemia was left without a king, a prey to the Hussite 

IV. The Internal Parties of the Hussite Movement. 

So long as the heresy in Bohemia was kept under by 
Church and State, it displayeH* only its national' ariiJ ecclesias- 
ticaTTEaTaHensHc"'T'oF"ffie'''n^^ the people tKehatibnal 

enemjTand tlie clerical enemy were 9 and the same person, 
lipB^'aTcomttton" hatred had united the differeHr social strata. 
"" N o w that the ' eneffiy ' had been repelled, aindtlili "pure 
Word of God " was triumphant, it soon became evident that 
this Word, though equally applicable to all, was viewed in 
the most diverse lights by the various classes, according to 
their respective interests. 

Hussism divided itself, in general, into two great parties, 
each of which had its centre in a town, viz., Prague and 
Tabor ; while Kuttenberg became the head-quarters of the 
scanty remnant of Catholicism. 

Next to Prague, Kuttenberg was at that time the largest 
and most powerful town in Bohemia, and the German share- 



holders and labourers in its mines had every reason for 
remaining Catholic, as no one had more to lose by the 
success of the Hussites. Nowhere else, therefore, did the 
Catholics display so much fanaticism. They put to death 
every Hussite who fell into their power — and their victims 
were numerous. Indeed, the Bohemians affirmed that the 
Kuttenbergers had established a prize fund for the capture 
of Hussites, sixty Prague groschen being paid for an ordinary 
heretic, and three hundred for a heretic priest. 

In addition to Kuttenberg, there were a few small towns 
in which the Germans had succeeded in maintaining them- 
selves and which remained true to the Catholic cause. In 
the course of the Hussite wars, however, the greater number 
of these towns, and even Kuttenberg itself, fell into the 
hands of the Hussites, and became Bohemianised. After 
Kuttenberg had been definitely lost to Catholicism, the 
centre of the party gravitated to Pilsen. 

Together with these few towns, a small fraction of the 
nobility still remained true to the old faith, partly because 
they hoped to fare better with the monarchical court, and 
partly through disgust_for_the.. democratic ten dencies w hich 
were developing in Hussism. 

'-'Th'e "majority of the n^ility, however, held fast to the 
Hussite cause, being induced to do so by the Church posses- 
sions which they seized. Their ideal government (especially 
among the higher ranks) was an aristocratic republic, with a 
mock king at its head. As Sigismund was not available 
for that purpose, they sought a substitute in Poland and 
Lithuania ; but no prince of any importance cared to put 
his head into the wasp's nest. 

The larger portion of the population of Prague sided with 
the aristocratic party. In a series of revolts in that town, 
the lower classes had taken the reins of government into 
their own hands, after having expelled the German priests 
and aristocrats. In addition to the Council, there now 
existed the assembly of the entire commune, in which 
every man had a vote who carried on an independent 
business. The Councillors were probably chosen from this 


A new municipal aristocracy, however, soon came into 
existence. Like the nobility, this powerful town naturally 
profited by the opportunity to seize the property of the 
Church. Men of a speculative turn of mind found a good 
instrument for raising themselves above the masses, in such 
of the confiscated property as was sold, divided, or squan- 
dered, and in the spoils of churches and monasteries. After 
the capture of Kuttenberg, the profits of its mines fell to the 
lot of the Praguers, and formed a considerable part of their 
incomes, a circumstance which must also have been favour- 
able to cunning speculators. Thus a new urban aristocracy 
was formed composed of Czechs, which soon sympathised 
with the nobility, and most unwillingly submitted to the 
domination of the "great assembly" of the town. 

There was still another reason for the growth of aristo- 
cratic sympathies among craftsmen and even among the 
very lowest classes in Prague. Their industries and trade 
flourished, so long as the Court and the upper nobility 
dissipated what they squeezed out of the whole country. 
The Praguers consequently began to look upon a monarchy 
stnTspoiiatirig Tirobiiitytes-the' rtio^^ 

'^^ciety^^ThirlJemocratie -ekmeiltfsTnlHe'c^ommurii^^^^ con- 
ng\i(gg,,jtp lose^tren^m^ 'whne the ari stocra tic sentiment, as 
continually, gained in power. Revolts, intrigues, and foreign 
iriterventlon~sl:re1ngEIiened first one and then the other of 
these elements ; but Prague as a friend to the democrats 
was always untrustworthy, while as their enemy it was most 
determined. In the second half of the Hussite wars it was 
unceasingly opposed to them. 

The Praguers and nobility (especially the upper ranks) 
united in forming the " moderate party," apparently so 
called because their confiscation of Church property was 
most immoderate. This party went under the name of the 
Calixtines or Utraquists.^ 

Opposed to these was another movement, which in its 
composition and general tendencies may well be designated 
as democratic. 

' " Calixtines," from Calix — the Chalice ; " Utraquists," because they 
received the Holy Communion in both kinds — sub utraque specie. 


It found its most numerous adherents among the peasantry 
m Bohemia, and formed by far the largest class of the popu- 

The Hussite revolution caused a violent outburst of 
antagonism between the peasantry and the lords of the soil. 
The confiscated lands of the Church were useless to the 
nobility without the peopk of the Church, who supplied 
rent and forced labour. These toilers, however, had not 
risen against the Church, merely to exchange one master 
for another still harsher. They wished to become free 
peasants and owners of property; and the same desire for 
freedom prevailed among other classes. The revolution from 
above necessarily called for a revolution from below. All 
barriers were swept away which had hitherto in a measure 
prevented the violent collision between the opposing elements. 
Custom, which had subjected employer and employed to rigid 
rules, was cast to the winds, and the throne set aside, which 
had to some extent controlled the barons and peasants. The 
latter felt that if they did not succeed in making govern- 
ment by the nobility impossible, and in wholly destroying its 
power, they would be crushed by its unlimited mastery. 
They now had to choose between complete freedom and 
abject servitude. 

A part of the petty citizens and proletarians of Prague 
sided with the peasants ; but the number of their partisans 
was greater in the small towns, in which those classes had 
succeeded in getting rid of the German " honourables," who 
formed the higher ranks of citizens. All these towns were 
far behind Prague in power. They were not, like the capital, 
in a position to resist the superior power of the greedy 
barons single-handed. Like the towns of Germany, whom 
the weakness of the throne had at an earlier date forced to 
unite in leagues in order to resist the robber knights, the 
towns of Bohemia now combined against their enemies, with 
the exception of the few still remaining Catholic. 

-m^?„]9.VY.?r.-.llQbility at that time occupied an economic 
position between the peasantry and...the^^higher nobility, 
similar to that now held by 'the small tradesmen, who stand 
between the capitalist class and the proletariat. They were 


quite as vacillating and untrustworthy as their representa- 
tives of the present day. The lower nobles, who were hardly 
more than large free farmers, had something to lose and 
something to gain on both sides. TKe liberation of the 
peasartt^' threatened thern with a further diminution of their 
income from rent and forced labour ; but, on the other 
hand, the overthrow of the upper nobility would rid them of 
dangerous competitdrs arid' oppohehts, who were continually 
pressing tHerii Turther^doWrlt'TTenc^^^ spoliation of the 

higher nobility must have been quite as much desired by 
the knights as by the peasants. Some of the inferior 
nobility made common cause with the aristocratic party, 
some with the democratic ; while the larger part oscillated 
hither and thither, inclining in the direction whence at the 
moment victory and booty appeared most certain. 

Among the knights who remained inviolably true to the 
democratic party, the most prominent was Ziska von 
Trocnow, who had fought as a mercenary against the Poles 
and Turks, and in the service of the English against the 
French. He placed his military experience at the disposal 
of the democrats, and became their most dreaded and noted 
leader. But however firmly he may have held to them, he 
was their partisan only iji,.,thLe.„capacity of soldier and not of 
'folitician. As a soldier, he was the organiser and leader""6T 
an army without its equal. As a politician, he stood niid- 
Wa^^etween the democrats and Calixtines, Ifke many other 
knights and a large part of the humbler citizens of Prague. 

After Ziska's death his special adherents separated them- 
selves from the democrats, and formed a distinct middle 
party, calling itself "The Orphans," because its members 
had lost their father, Ziska. 

The democrats, on the contrary, were named Taborites, 
after their political and military centre, the communist town 
of Tabor. These communists were the vanguard of the 
democratic movement. 

V. The Communists in Tabor. 
In Bohemia, as elsewhere, the development of industry and 


trade necessarily produced a growth of communistic ideas. 
The inception and dissemination of these ideas must have 
been specially encouraged by the extension in the fourteenth 
century of woollen manufacture, which in Bohemia began 
in the towns of Prague, Iglau, and Pilsen.i 
j\ The close connection of the woollen trade with com- 
Imunistic ideas is a remarkable fact which can be traced 
i through the course of the Middle Ages. The woollen craft 
in the towns of that time was the one in which the features 
of capitalism were first and most sharply developed, while in 
many places in Italy, the Netherlands, France, and Germany 
it expanded into an export industry. Capital was needed to 
carry it on, and hence the woollen worker became either a 
sweated workman, receiving the raw material from the dealer 
and delivering to him the manufactured article, or a cloth 
producer turned capitalist himself, and employing a large 
number of journeymen. 

It is a remarkable coincidence that the same industry 
became the very hearthstone of the social revolutionary 
struggle of the Reformation period ; that in every conflict 
with the then existing municipal and State powers the 
weavers fought in the front ranks, and that they were 
inclined to welcome any new departure which proclaimed 
war against the whole reigning order of society. " Not 
without good reason," says Schmoller, "has language, 
identifying the weaver and conspirator, drawn from the 
warp of a loom (Zettel) the idea of the way in which 
disturbances are plotted or warped {angezettelt)." ^ 

" In the eyes of many contemporaries," says Professor 
Hildebrand, " the guild of clothmakers occupied a position 

^ As early as 1337 we find workmen in cloths who manufactured 1 
them entirely unaided. There must therefore have existed larger ■ 
manufacturers employing journeymen as houseworkers. (Hildebrand, 
Zur geschichte der deiUschcn Wollenindustrie. Hildebrand's Jahrbiichcr, 
vii. p. 104.) 

^ Schmoller, Die Strassburger Tuclicr- und Webcrzun. Strassburg, 1879, 
p. 460. The word " warp " had the same meaning in Old Enghsh as in 
German. Thomas Sternhold (died 1549) wrote in his Psalmes, 7, "While 
he doth mischief warp." Psa. 52, "Such wicked wiles to warp." 


similar to that which some parties in 1848 sought to confer 

on the privileged (!) class of working men." ^ j 

The oldest heretical sect (^^^ brought into | 

unison with communistic tendencies was, as has already been \ 
liaid, that of the Waldenses. About the year 12^0 one of \ 
their enemies, " pseudo Reiner," a Roman Inquisitor, gave 1 
a description of the Waldenses in the book, De Catharis et \ 
Leonistis. To make them appear contemptible, he emphasises | 
the fact that their leaders were workmen in crafts, such as \ 
shoemakers and weavers. Weavers were also frequently 
mentioned elsewhere as members of the sect.^ 

In Northern France the Apostolicans (a sect allied to the 
Waldenses) also had communistic tendencies, or at least 
primitive Christian principles, which among proletarians 
amounted to the same thing. Their aim was to re- 
establish the apostolic manner of life. " They were already 
well known in the twelfth century, in the time of St. 
Bernard, who sharply refuted them in two of his discourses 
on the Song of Solo7non. . . . They worked hard and gained 
their bread by the labour of their hands. They were craft- 
workers, chiefly weavers, as can be seen from St. Bernard." 3 

In the Netherlands and in Germany, communistic ideas 
were developed among the Beghards. Their association was 
composed chiefly of weavers, and acquired such importance 
in some towns that the master-weavers waged war against 
the " weaver-brothers." Mosheim ^ informs us that in conse- 
quence of the pressure brought to bear upon them by the 
guilds of weavers, the authorities at Ghent and other towns 
were often forced to " check the industry of the Beghards." 

In England, mediaeval, sectarian communism found its 
representatives among the Lollards. It has already occurred 
to Thorold Rogers that Norfolk, the centre of the woollen 
industry, was also the centre of Lollardism. Weavers were 
the protectors and the trustiest adherents of the poor priests. 

• Op.cit.,p. 115. 

- Compare L. Keller, Die Reformation tmd die lilteren Refoitnparteien, 
Leipzig, 1885, pp. 18, 33, 120. 
3 Mosheim, Ketzergeschichte, p. 380. 

* De Beghardis et Beguinabus Commentarius, Leipzig, 1790, p. 182. 


We think it, therefore, no mere accident that weavers 
were also found in the front rank of the communistic 
movement in Bohemia. 

In addition to the economic condition of Bohemia itself, 
there were external influences that helped the spread of 
communistic ideas. Beghards made their appearance in the 
land, where they were called Picards. The immigration of 
German craftsman, so much encouraged by the kings of 
Bohemia, was also not without its effect on the penetration 
of Beghardism to that country. 

Waldenses are said to haye fled frpm Southern France to 
Bohemia at the time of the first persecution, and to have 
found" an" asyruft; keepi themselves hidden and propa- 
gating their doctrines secretly. ^ 

While the antagbnism between the Bohemians and the 
Church was gaining strength, and the opponents of the 
latter were not only tolerated, but received encouragement, 
the communistic heresy naturally reared its head, and pro- 
scribed communists from adjacent countries sought safety in 
Bohemia. Communism could be the more easily developed, 
as, in its arguments, and even in many of its claims, it was 
in sympathy with the other heretical movements. They were 
unanimous in wishing for a return to primitive Christianity, 
and the restoration of pure Christian doctrine. Disagree- 
ments regarding the manner in which this was to be 
consummated did not begin until later. 

The declaration of war by the Church and the German 
Empire against Bohemia, brought about by the burning of 
Johannes Huss, led to the overthrow of the traditional 
rules regulating property and society, by the confiscation 
and robbery of the Church's possessions. This was the 
golden moment for the communistic sects, who now openly 
declared themselves. Hitherto they had dragged on their 
existence in secrecy and without recognition, and only now 
and then had the world heard of them through the treachery 
of some member,2 but the relatively wide extension they had 

' F. Bender, Geschichte der Waldenser, Ulm, 1850, p. 46, sqq. 
" At the close of the fourteenth century two preachers came to visit 
the Waldenses of Bohemia from the valleys of Piedmont, where that 


acquired became evident as soon as they were able openly to 
avow themselves. 

The communists^,^iQ..,JP.r^^ were too weak, or their 
opponents were too strong, to allow of their free develop- 
ment, whereas in smaller towns they had more scope. 

had come. Prague was to be consumed by fire from heaven, 
but the elect would find protection and safety in other towns. 
Christ would descend in power, and establish a kingdom in 
which there should be no masters or servants, no sin or J 
penury, nor any other law than that given by the free 
Spirit. The survivors of that time, translated to a condition 
of Paradisaical innocence, should know no more bodily 
suffering and want, and no longer need the sacraments of 
the Church for their salvation.^ 

Matters progressed so far that communistic associations 
were organised which, in the absence of evidence to the 
contrary, were presumably limited to the towns, the most 
important of these being Pisek, Wodrian, and Tabor ; in 
the last of which the communists succeeded in obtaining 
complete mastery. 

Tabor was founded in the neighbourhood of the small town 
of Austi, on the Luznic River, famous for its gold washings. 
The abundance of gold may well have exercised an important 
influence on the development of trade and industry, as well 
as on the antagonisms connected with these. It is certain 
that from the year 141 5 communist agitators found protection 

and shelter J;i,ji|sr^l;inpi^ 

tHe agency of Pytel, a rich cloth manufacturer and merchant, 

and the^employejr^^ of journeymen weavers. 

sect still maintained itself. In his History of the Waldenses, from which 
we derive this information, Bender gives no definite date ; but it was 
certainly during the reign of Charles I. of Bohemia. The two Italians 
proved traitors, for they disclosed to the Catholic clergy the spot where 
the Waldenses used to assemble, and thereby caused a rigorous 
persecution of their fellow-associates. 

' Compare Palacky, op. cit., iii. 2, p. 81. The chief source from which 
Palacky draws his information concerning the communism of the 
Taborites is J. Pribram's Proti knezin Taborskyn, a disputation against 
the Taborite priests, unfortunately existing only in manuscript. 


According to a letter of JEneas Sylvius, the later inhabitants 
of the town were for the greater part weavers. During the 
few reactionary attempts made by Wenzel in 141 9, these 
communist agitators were driven out of Austi, where there 
was a strong Catholic party. They established themselves 
in the neighbourhood, on a broad hill overlooking the 
Luznic River and forming a peninsula with steep declivities, 
which was connected with the bank by a very narrow neck of 
land. Here they made their stronghold, and named it Tabor, 
in the style of the Old Testament, for which, like the later 
Anabaptists and Puritans, they showed a great predilection. 

Communists streamed there from all sides in order to hold 
their meetings undisturbed. On July 22, 141 9, no less than 
42,000 persons from Bohemia and Moravia took part in one 
of these assemblages. This indicated a remarkable dissemi- 
nation of communistic ideas. 

"The whole incident was depicted even by their opponents 
as a great popular festival of a religio-idyllic character, 
elevating both to the soul and heart. Perfect quiet and 
order reigned throughout. The throngs of pilgrims marching 
thitherwards in procession with banners flying, and preceded 
by the Holy Sacrament, were quite as festally welcomed by 
those living on the spot, who received them with jubilations, 
and directed them to their proper places on the hill. Every 
one who came was ' brother ' or ' sister,' as all social distinctions 
were unrecognised. The priests shared the work among 
themselves ; some preaching in designated places (men and 
women being kept apart), others hearing confessions, while a 
third part communicated in both kinds. Thus it went on till 
noon. Then came the consumption in common of the food 
brought by the guests, which was divided among them, the 
want of one being made good by the superabundance of 
another ; for the brothers and sisters of Mount Tabor knew 
no difference between mine and tkzne. As the emotions of 
the entire assembly were of a religious character, there was 
no violation of the strictest modesty and propriety ; all music, 
dancing, and play being unthought of." ^ 

Eight days after this gathering, the riot broke out in Prague 
' Palacky, op. cit., iii. 1, p. 417, sqq. 


which put an end to the Catholic reaction, caused Wenzel's 
death, and led to the Hussite War. It was no longer a 
question of mere demonstrations and communist picnics. 

The fundamental principles of the Taborites are compre- 
hensively set forth in a document drawn up by the Prague 
University. After the fashion of the day, a disputation 
was held December 10, 1420, when it was hoped that the 
antagonism between the Praguers and that sect would be 
smoothed away. To this end the professors had made a 
schedule of not less than seventy-six points, in which, 
according to their opinions, Taborite doctrines were either 
heretical or, at least, erroneous. In conformity with the 
tastes of the professors and the tone of thought of the age, 
the majority of these points were of a theological nature ; 
but two of them contained the germs of republicanism and 
communism. The Taborites taught — — —-. 

" In these days there shall be no king, ruler, or subject on \ 
the earth, and all imposts and taxes shall cease ; no one shall * 
force another to do anything, for all shall be equal brothers 
and sisters. 

" As in the town of Tabor there is no mine or thine, but all \ 
is held in common, so shall everything be common to all, and \ 
no one own anything for himself alone. Whoever does so 
commits a deadly sin." .. * 

As a consequence of these propositions, the Taborites 
concluded that it was no longer seemly to have a king, 
but that _God Himself should" Be king over mankind, and 
"^he government be put into the hands of the people. All 
princes, nobles, and knights were to be uprooted as weeds ., 
and utterly exterminated. Imposts, taxes, and payments ^-^^ 
were to cease, and all laws of princes, nations, towns, and 
peasants be abrogated as iriveritioris of men and not of 

God.: ■^-^-..-^- 

The purely ecclesiastical points relate, among other things, 
to a summons to the razing of alT the cHurcKes7fR"e'^rohrbition 
of Divine. \Korship in a church, and making or reverencing 
sacred pictures, &c. The Taborites also inveighed against 
erudition (or perhaps science). " Nothing shall be believed \ 
or held concerning Christ but that which is expressly said 


I or written in the Bible ; and besides the Bible no writings 
iof doctors of divinity, professors, or learned men of any 
jkind shall ever be read, taught, or propagated. Whosoever, 
(therefore, shall devote himself to the study of the seven 
(sciences, or accept, or cause himself to be appointed to a 
1 professorship in them, resembles the heathen ; he is a vain- 
glorious person, and commits a deadly sin." This doctrine 
must have been especially obnoxious to the professors of 
Prague. The opposition among Christian communities to 
science has been treated of in a former chapter (p. 19, sqq). 
It was natural that in its realisation communism should 
assume the forms handed down by tradition from primitive 
Christianity, and that it should accord with the existing 
conditions of production. 

Each community had a common box called "coop," to 
which every one brought what he called his own. There 
were three such boxes, one in each of the towns of Pisek, 
Tabor, and Wonian. The brothers and sisters sold all their 
possessions and laid them at the feet of the comptrollers 
of these coops. 

Pibram writes in his work against the sect (1429): "The 
Taborites contrived another monstrous trick, in that they 
enjoined and commanded all the people of Pisek, who had 
betaken themselves to the hill, to bring each one all that he 
possessed, and thus almost completely filled one or two coops 
which they had set up. The comptroller of these coops was 
the dishonest Mathias Lauda of Pisek, and he, with the other 
managers as well as the priests, suffered no loss from this 
arrangement. This dastardly proceeding shows how dis- 
gracefully the people were robbed of their possessions and 
earnings, and how the managers enriched and fattened 
themselves." ^ 

Palacky was himself forced to admit that this was a 
despicable calumniation. 

Meanwhile, however honest and unselfish the comptrollers 

of the coops might be, this kind of communism could not 

be carried on for any considerable length of time. Labour 

would become impossible if every one were to sell his means 

' Quoted by Palacky, op. ciL, iii. 2, p. 297. 


of production and carry the proceeds to the common coop, 
in order that articles of consumption might be bought with 
money from the common treasury. We do not believe that 
this procedure was at any time universal among the Taborite 
communists. It is certain, at all events^ that it was soon 
abandoxi&d.-- Prac1;icaily, communism fashioned itself as'^ 
iollows — Each family worked for itself in its own private 
house and private field, with its own means of production,! 
and kept for itself all that was necessary for its own wantsl 
The superfluity alone belonged to the community. ] 

This change was not brought about without earnest pro- 
test from the more zealous and pronounced faction. Under 
existing circumstances corrirhuriiSm merely in articles of con- 
sumption was realisable only in the form just mentioned. 
For this reason the extremists demanded the introduction 
of pure communism and' the abolition of the farnfly^^^ 
Ts possible in tvyo ways : through celibacy, or through the 
' siispension of strict monogamy, i.e., by the so-called community 
iff ' wtves. Ultra-communists arfidhg the Taborites chose the 
tatterTofm'j'bHng mHuceci to do so partly by their determined 
opposition to the Catholic Church and monasticism, which led 
toTa condemnation of priests' celibacy. 

The efforts of the stricter party found their clearest and 
most decided expression in the sect of the brothers and sisters 
of the Free-Spirit. They had found entrance into Bohemia, 
and when in that country Picards (Beghards) were spoken of, 
it was always understood that reference was made to this 
community. The Hussitic variety of the brothers and sisters 
of the _Xrfte-$pirit we also called Nicolaitans, after the 
peasant Nicholas, who was the chief expounder of their 
doctrines ; But they were best known under the name of 
Adamites, because they regarded the Adamitic state (the 
"^tate of nature as it was called in the eighteenth century), 
as the only one of sinless innocence. In their places of 
assembly, which they named Paradises, they are said to 
have gone about naked, but we are unable to determine 
whether this statement is based on rumour only, or on 
malevolent calumny. 

.^neas Sylvius tells us that the Adamites lived on an island 


in the River Luznic, and went about in a state of nudity. 
" They held their wives in common {connubia eis promiscua 
fuere) ; but no one could have a wife without the consent of 
their chief elder, Adam. When, seized with ardent desire, a 
brother burned for a sister, he took her by the hand and went 
with her to the chief elder, to whom he said : * My soul is 

I aflame with love for her.' Thereupon the elder answered 
\ him : ' Go, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the 
/ earth.' " ^ 

n This kind of avoidance of marriage was too much opposed 
to the moral views of a period when monogamy and the 
separate family life (institutions handed down from antiquity, 
and deeply rooted in the popular feeling) were most impera- 
tively demanded both by the needs of society and of the 
\ existing methods of production. The abolition of marriage 
\ \ was, it is true, a logical consequence of the communism of the 
; j time, but this very fact shows that this cornrnunism was not 
I in accordance with the wants of a society in which monogamy 
r was a necessity, and itself proves that the communism of the 

I I tJay" was" condemned to be confined to small associations and 
' ! communities. The bulk of the Taborites offered a most 

determined resistance to the efforts of the extreme party. 
In the spring of 142 1 an open conflict broke out between 
y the two factions. Priest Martinck Hauska, one of the head 
' elders of the more advanced enthusiasts, had been taken 

prisoner by a knight, but at the intercession of many friends 
he was released. He afterwards preached his doctrines with 
all the more zeal, and his partisans became so threatening 
that the Taborite bishop, Nicholas, appealed for help to 
Prague, where communistic heresy had gained a foothold. 
The Town Council immediately recommended severe mea- 
sures and, in accordance with the pleasant custom of that 
period, two burgesses were condemned to death and burnt. 
Simultaneously, an open rupture took place between the two 
parties at Tabor ; the ultra-communists were driven out, and, 
to the number of three hundred, sought safety in the woods 
bordering on the Luznic (March, 1421). 

Priest Martinck soon broke loose from them and renounced 
' ^neas Sylvius, Dc oriu et historia Bohemorum. Opera omnia, p. 109. 


his " heresies " ; but his associates remained firm. Ziska, who 
was at heart inclined towards the Praguers, and to whom the 
'* Picard heresy " must have been an abomination, marched 
out against the refugees, surprised them in the forest, and 
took a number of prisoners, of whom fifty were burnt at 
the stake by his orders as they absolutely refused to 
recant. '"" """^" 

^o longer feeling at ease among the Taborites, Martinck 
resolved to betake himself to Moravia. On his way thither he 
was taken prisoner at Chrudim, together with his companion, 
Prolop the one-eyed, and handed over to Archbishop Conrad 
in Raudnitz. Ziska demanded of the Praguers that they 
should have these dangerous persons brought to Prague, 
and there burnt alive as an example ; but the Town Council 
feared the lower classes, among whom Martinck's views were 
strurigly^'sTdTvocated, and accordingly sent an executioner to 
Kaudnitz^"Hy whom tlie prisoners were so long tortured that 
they^ betrayed the names of some of their associates in 
Prague. Thereupon they were placed in barrels and burnt 
(August 21, 1 421). 

But the Picard heresy was not yet wholly suppressed. A 
band of Adamites had established themselves on an island 
in the River„.Hezarka, an affluent of the Luznia, against 
'whom Ziska sent four hundred armed men, with orders for 
their complete extermination. Although talcen by surprise, 
tlie heretics defended themselves with desperation, and slew 
a large number of their enemies, but finally had to yield to 
superior force. Those whom the sword had spared, the fire 
consumed (October 21, 142 1). 

The more advanced faction of communism was now com- 
pletely crushed, and the small fighting power necessary to 
subdue it shows that its tenets had not been widely adopted. 
In fact, only a few particularly bold, or particularly one-sided 
men, prejudiced in favour of communism, dared at that time 
to so far overstep the limitations of their age. They are in- 
teresting to the history of communistic thought, but acquired 
no importance to general history. 

The Adamites were crushed and rendered powerless, but 
Ziska, who persecuted them with singular animosity, did not 



succeed in wholly destroying them, as remnants of the sect 
continued to drag on an existence among the Taborites. In 
the last decade of the fifteenth century they reappeared, and 
'endeavoured to amalgamate with the Bohemian Brethren, of 
wiiom we shall treat further on. 
..-After the overthrow of the Adamites, there was no other 
noteworthy effort to establish the more radical form of 
communism ; but the milder kind (communistic more in 
t intention than in reality) maintained itself in Tabor for 
{ nearly a generation. 

[',., What use, it may be asked, was made of the revenues of 

the common coops (or rather storehouses, since the contribu- 
tions were chiefly in kind) ? 

In the early Christian community, the superfluity of one 
I served to lessen the deficiencies of another. There was no 
occasion for this in Tabor, where a nearly complete equality 
in the conditions of life existed among all members of the 
community. This equality was easily brought about by spoils 
from the Church and from the properties of opposing nobles 
and towns, which proved sufficient to enable each person to 
establish himself comfortably. 

The Taborites did not need to expend anything for the 

care of the poor ; but the wants of the clergy had to be 

supplied, as they had no priestly aristocracy with its own 

possessions. Any layman might become a priest. The 

members of that order were chosen frorh the community, 

and they in turn elected the bishops; but they were financially 

1 dependent on the community. Their functions, like those of 

/ "the mediaeval priesthood in general, were in the main similar 

/ to those of the present state and municipal officials and 

teachers in Germany. Their duties were to organise and 

manage the various institutions of the Brotherhood, and 

^;^^ regulate the connection between the several communities, as 

-; well as the relations of these with the outer world. One of 

their chief vocations was the instruction of children. The 

Taborites set great store by a general and good popular 

education. This was one of their most striking characteristics, 

"and was to be found nowhere else at that time. In this 

respect they resembled the Brdthers-of-the-Life-in-Common 


more than any other sect ; but the monastic and Catholic 
tendencies of the latter fraternity gave quite a different 
charactef to their activity. Education among the Taborites 
must, of course, be measured by the standard prevailing at 
the time, and was chiefly theological in tone. 

yEneas Sylvius says in one place : " The Italian priests may 
well be ashamed of themselves, for it is certain that not one 
among them has even once read the New Testament, Among 
the Taborites, on the contrary, you will find hardly one young 
woman who is not versed in both the Old and New Testa- 
ment." He remarks elsewhere : " That malignant race has 
only one good trait, viz., their love of education " {literas). 

This solicitude with regard to popular education was in 
apparent, though only apparent, contradiction to the re- 
pugnance of the Taborites to erudition, which they evidenced 
not only" By the previously mentioned injunction, but by 
forcing all learned men who joined them to take up some? 
handicraft. The learning which they opposed was that from 
which the lower population was cut off, and which was 
inimical to their community; i.e., the culture which had become 
a privilege of the upper classes, but which, from the existing 
standpoint of production, was incompatible with universal equa- 
lity. The methods of production among the handicrafts and | 
small farmers laid too great demands on the strength and time \ 

of their workmen to allow these to acquire a higher education \ 
without stepping out of their class. On the other hand, 
however, the tenet of equality imposed the obligation of 
making every authorised means of self-culture ^ available to all. 
Their war system was, however, of far more importance 
to them than their educational arrangements. This tiny 
community, which declared war so boldly against the whole 

' It is worthy of remark that the Waldenses were also famed for 
their zeal in the cause of popular education. The Roman Inquisitor 
known under the name of Reiner, says of them : "All this people, without 
exception, men as well as women, are unceasingly engaged in teaching 
and learning. The labourer who works by day learns and teaches by 
night ; and as they study much, they pray but little. They teach with- 
out books. ... He who has been learning for seven days looks out for 
a pupil whom he in turn may teach." The last statement indicates that 
they had invented a peculiar method of instruction, 



existing order of society, could maintain its existence only 

so long as it remained unconquered in the field ; and it 

enjoyed no peace nor even a single truce, for it was in direct 

antagonism to the interests of the ruling powers. On the 

other hand, the community was never able to gain a single 

I decisive victory. It could defeat its enemies but not over- 

I throw them ; for the opinions of these enemies were in 

I jharmony with the existing conditions of production, while 

i ithe communism of the Taborites .. was^artjficial growth 

grafted on those^ conditions, .an.d.could never become the 

universal form of society of the age. 

rt» But if the perpetual war, in which the Taborites were 

engaged, redounded to their glory, it also led to their doom. 

Their entire organisation was modelled for the purposes 

of war. They divided themselves into two groups, of which 

one remained at home and laboured for the other whose 

i functions were exclusively military, and who were always 

under arms. With wife and child they marched out against 

the foe, like the ancient Germans ; whom they also emulated 

in savage fierceness and impetuosity. The two groups 

apparently alternated in their duties, the returning warriors 

taking up the handicrafts, while those who had been engaged 

i in the latter went forth to fight. This is only conjectural, 

I for on this, as on other points relating to the Taborites, we 

are unfortunately reduced to surmise, and however copious 

the information concerning their deeds of war, but little can 

;' \ / be ascertained about their internal affairs. 

From a military point of view the organisation of this 
war-community is of great historical moment. It is cus- 
tomary to trace the origin of standing armies in the 
declining years of the Middle Ages to Charles VII. of 
France, who, in the middle of the fifteenth century, kept 
up a permanent military force of fifteen companies of mer- 
cenaries. As a matter of fact, the first standing army was 
formed by the Taborites, who, moreover, had an advantage 
over the French in that they relied on a universal liability 
to war service, and not on paid levies. It was to this 
organisation that they owed their great military superiority 
over their enemies. 


Discipline and skill in manoeuvres were wholly wanting 
in the armies of that period ; for whence were these qualities 
to come in those disorderly crowds of vassals and mercenaries 
who to-day were summoned together and to-morrow were 
again dispersed if the war chest was empty, or anything else 
aroused their displeasure ? 

The Tjiborite,,.armY. y.^sthe„,iirs,t since the downfall of 
ancient Rome, which was regularly organised^ and did not 
consist of a mere mass of untrained warriors. It was 
dfvlded into differently' afrhecl Bodies, wliicti were well drilled 
in scientific manoeuvres, all systematically controlled from a 
centre and harmonising with each other. The Taborites 
were also the first to employ artillery to good purpose in 
the field, and, finally, to perfect the science of marching, 
their forced marches alone gaining them many a victory over 
the unwieldy armies of their opponents. 

In all these points they show themselves to have been the 
creators of a more modern army system so far as the Middle 
Ages were concerned. 

It may perhaps be with truth asserted that in the military, 
as in other spheres, all great advances have been brought 
about by social revolutions, and that the most successful 
military leaders of the last five centuries have been those 
who best knew how to recognise these advances and use 
them for their own advantage, e.£^., Ziska, Cromwell, and 

The military strength of the Taborites was enhanced by 
their enthusiasm and sooffi * oF 3eatft! ^For^Jhgjj),-..ttifi:f|£ was 
flO' tbrimromTse'-^ltlD^^iia^ once taken; they 
had only one choice — ^victory or death. Thus they became 
the most dreaded warriors of Europe, and through their 
fflitttary terrorism saved the^Hussite revolution ; as, in 1793, 
^~Xii{e 'sans-cu/oUes, by their terrorism, saved tfie" "bourgeois 
-revottttiOTf-'of '17851:'"' '^^ ...,;.;,> o.,.:,. 

VI. Tke Downfall of Tabor. 

After the death of Wenzel, the Calixtines, «>., the nobility 
and Praguers, entered into negotiations with Sigismund. 


They were not altogether pleased by the thought that they 
were about to take up the cudgels against Emperor and 
Pope, and, in fact, against all Europe ; hence the dangerous 
strength already acquired by the Taborites urged them to 
a compromise. Had it only been a question of the lay 
chalice, this compromise might easily have been effected, 
but it was more ; it was a question of the lands and money 

(of" the Church, and upon that point no agreement could be 
reached. The Church, however, and her servant Sigismund, 
showed themselves quite as implacable as the Taborites, and 
the rupture resulted in a fight to the deatliVm which the 
Calixtines, the robbers of the Church, driven by necessity, 
fought on the side of the Taborites, but only half-heartedly. 

This is not the place for a history of the Hussite wars. 
Suffice it to say that after Pope Martin V., in his Bull 
^'^ Omnium plasmatoris Domini^' of March i, 1420, had 
summoned united Christendom against the Hussites, one 
plunder-loving army of the Cross after another was formed 
to stamp out the heresy ; that in every one of the five 
Crusades, between 1420 and 143 1, the army of the Crusaders 
was wofully defeated ; that the fame of the invincibility of 
the Taborite hosts continued to increase, until finally (as in 
the fourth Crusade at Mies, 1427, and in the fifth at Tauss, 
143 1 ) large armies scattered merely at the news of the 
approach of the Hussites, flying in a panic without even 
having seen the enemy. Neither can we follow the internal 
conflicts between Calixtines and Taborites, which were 
fought out in the intervals between the wars against the 
crusading armies. 

After the great day at Tauss, there no longer seemed to 
be an enemy capable of resisting the Taborites. No foreign 
army dared again attack them, while at home the power of 
their opponents (the nobility and a few towns) was vanishing 
faster and faster, and was threatened with complete destruc- 
tion by the continuance of the Taborite reign of terror. 

It now became evident, however, how little military 
victories avail, if the aims of the conquerors are in con- 
I tradiction to those of economic development. 

A complete military overthrow of the Taborites would 


naturally have been followed by their extinction. But even 
their victories gave rise to elements which led to their ruin. 
Their greatest triumph was immediately followed by their 

tair -- — ' -~~-^-..^..- ■ ■ ■■ ■• - • 

THe greater the success of the Taborites, the more intoler- 
able became the position of their foes in Bohemia (the 
Calixtines), to say nothing of the Catholics. The nobility 
were reduced to a condition of absolute insignificance, and 
would long before have willingly made peace with the 
Church, if they, the robbers of the Church, had not feared 
its greed and thirst for revenge. After the victory at Tauss, 
they showed themselves to be more amenable than ever. 

Meanwhile t&e Pope and ' Eniperbr, together "with their 
adherents among the spiritual and secular princes, had been 
made more pliant by the Hussite victories. Their intrigues 
and conspiracies with the Calixtines had never totally ceased, 
and after the triumph at Tauss were carried on more ener- 
getically than ever. An agreement was finally arrived at, by 
which the Papal Church, in the persons of delegates from the 
Council of Bale, even consented to wink at the possession 
of Church property, and, instead of taking anything from 
the Bohemians, actually gave them something. It sent 
agents to Bohemia well supplied with money to enable its 
new allies, the Calixtines, to regain their power of with- 
standing the Taborites, When the nobility, who " had for 
many years disappeared from the scene " (Palacky), felt 
themselves backed up by the Emperor, and especially by the 
wealth and power of the Church, they began to pluck up 
heart for a war, for convening assemblies and organising 
themselves, in order to recover their lost power with the 
secular aid of the Praguers and the ecclesiastical, but 
exceedingly worldly, methods of Catholicism. 

The situation is well described by ^neas Sylvius in 
his History of Bohemia; but it must be remarked that 
the role ascribed by him to Prokop (the most important 
of the Taborite leaders after Ziska's death) is entirely 
unsubstantiated by facts, for Prokop never possessed the 
unlimited power assigned to him by Sylvius. Wherever, 
in what follows, Prokop's reign of terror is spoken of, it 


would be more correct to substitute the Taborite reign of 
terror. yEneas tells us that : " The Bohemian barons often 
met together and admitted the error they had committed and 
the danger they had incurred in casting off the dominion of 
their king, only to wear the heavy yoke of Prokop. They 
pondered facts ; and these told them that Prokop alone was 
master ; that he ruled and governed the land as best pleased 
him, levying tolls, imposing taxes and contributions, dragging 
the people to war, leading the troops whithersoever he liked, 
robbing and murdering, tolerating no opposition to his com- 
mands, and treating the highest as well as the lowest like 
slaves and servants. They saw that the Bohemians were the 
most unhappy people under heaven ; that they were always 
in the field, living summer and winter in tents, lying on 
the hard ground, and forced to constant military service. 
The people were worn out with home and foreign wars, 
which kept them for ever either fighting or anxiously 
awaiting a fight. The barons at length realised that it was 
time to shake off the cruel tyrant's yoke under which, after 
overcoming other nations, they now groaned. They re- 
solved to summon all barons, knights, and towns to a 
general Landtag, which should take into its consideration 
a suitable organisation of the whole kingdom. When this 
Landtag had assembled, Herr Meinhard drew a picture of 
the happiness of that kingdom which was neither addicted to 
sloth nor worn out by war. He set forth that Bohemia, on 
the contrary, had hitherto enjoyed no rest, and that their 
country, if not cared for in time, must, wasted by unceasing 
war, soon crumble into dust ; that the untilled fields were 
lying fallow, while men and beasts were in some places dying 
from starvation," &c., &c. ; all of which evils could, of course, 
be brought to an end only by a re-instatement of the nobility 
in their ancient power. 

While the different opponents of the Taborites were thus 
ignoring their individual interests in presence of the common 
antagonism to Taboritism, and uniting in a coalition against 
it, changes were in progress among the Taborites themselves 
which were much more threatening than the intrigues and 
conspiracies of their enemies! —--.'. 


The communists of Tabor had always formed only a 
fraction of the d^elS'ocfatrc 'party Hearing the name of 
Taborites, altfiougli tHey' constituted the most energetic, 
Trfiplacable, and in' every way most advaiiced portion, and 
vV^e'by jrar_^ffi in military affairs. The bulk 

of the adherents of that party were petty citizens of towns 
and peasants to whom the communistic programme was 
rather a 'matter- of rridlHerence, but wHose sufferings were 
being conidnujJlymci'ea^^ prolongation of the war. 

Although victorious, the Bohemians were for a long time 
too weak to keep the enemy far from their lands. At the 
outset, they confined themselves to the defensive, and it was 
only at a comparatively late date (1427) that they were able 
to devastate foreign countries in the manner prescribed by 
the mode of war at that time, its essential features being 
plunder and destruction — approximately the same as attend 
the spread of European civilisation in Africa to-day. But 
war on the offensive in no way secured Bohemia from being 
ravaged by neighbouring foreign enemies. Meanwhile the 
civil war continued, and the country became yearly more 
exhausted ; commerce, as well as agriculture and the handi- 
crafts, suffered, and the nobility and wealthy Praguers, 
together with the humbler citizens and peasants from all 
parts, were sinking into ruin. All classes of society ex- 
perienced a profound weariness of war and a yearning for 
peace; and in proportion as the implacable Taborites figured 
as the sole obstacle to peace, the number of their adherents 
dwindled away, and the voice of the people cried out against 
them. In order to maintain its power in the land the little 
band of Taborites was driven, therefore, to measures _gfl.. 
increased severity. The antagonism between them and the 
masses of the people grew more and more bitter, until at 
length the nobility were usually supported by the populace 
in their rising against the sect. 

Moreover, in the strict sense of the word, the Taborites 
were rio^ ■longer the Taborites of old. 

The fate of Tabor is of the greatest interest ; for it shows 
what would have been the outcome of the Mlinzer move- 
ment in Muhlhausen, and of the Anabaptist movement in 



Munster, if they had remained unconquered by military 
j Taborite communism was based upon the needs of the 
poor, and not on those of production. The social democracy 
of to-day relies for its hope of success on the fact that the 
requirements of production and those of the proletariat He 
in the same direction. It was otherwise in the fifteenth 
century. While the needs of the poor engendered the 

(struggle for communism, those of production demanded the 
existence of private proprietorship. Hence communism could 
never become the universal form of society in those days, as 
the necessity for it among the poor must have ceased the 
moment they had established it, zV^., as "soon" as they ceased 
to be poor, especially if the only means by which its long 
continuance could be ensured were abandoned — at any rate 
for small communitiies— ^namely, the abolition of the separate 
family and of separate marriage. As we have seen, the 
Taborites did' relinquish this. They practically extermi- 
nated the Adamites, and in so doing again opened the path 
for the re-establishment of ^rivate_proprietorship in the com- 

fmunity. The rapid growth of competence and even wealth 
in their midst, due to the spoils they acquired, soon caused 
greed and envy to supplant the modes of thought essential 
to communism and brotherhood. Equality, in the^conditions 
of existence b^an to,ceasg^ there began to be richer and 
"poorer brothers in Taborj andJhefOTmjrjbe^ame cons^^ 
less willing to relinquish their overplus for the benefit of the 

Tattef: ■ " " ' """ 

The downfall of the Taborites was also hastened by the 
, incursion of foreign elements. The man who has so wholly 
given himself up to an idea that he is willing to risk his 
life in its defence will not readily prove untrue to it, even 
if he comes under conditions which tend to weaken its power 
over him. The original Taborities would have held fast to 
the faith for whose cause they had endured so many per- 
secutions and dangers. 
f But the many years of war of which the burden lay 
1 especially heavy on this community, must have fearfully 
1 thinned their ranks. From a military point of view, this 


was not noticeable, for the loss was quickly made good 
from among the communist enthusiasts from far and wide 
to whom Tabor had become a Mecca. Even the most 
distant nations, e.g:, England, were represented in the town. 
No great difficulty seems to have been made about admis- 
sion to the brotherhood, .^neas Sylvius, who visited the 
place, was surprised at the number of different sects living 
Together in peace.. ^' THey are not all of one faithj]' he tells, 
us, "fqr_eyery one in Tabor may believe as best pleases 
"Rim^ Nicolaitans, Arians, Manicheists, Arminians, Nestor- ( 
ians, Berengarians, and "Poor of Lyons are all to be found 1 
among .^ them. The_m,ost highly esteemed, however, are the ' 
Waldenses, those arch-enemies of tlie Jtoman See." 

Another increase which Tabor received was much more 
doubtful in its influence. The success of its armies had 
attracted thither a large number of adventure-loving folk, 
to whom the Taborite ideal was a matter of indifference, but 
who longed for fame and still more for booty. 

The armies of the Taborites would not at first have 
materially suffered in a military sense from this cause, 
though the elements of enthusiasm, devotion, and voluntary 
discipline must necessarily have gradually disai:5peared. 
They must, however, have largely lost in trustworthiness. 
The bankrupt nobility had placed themselves in the service . 
of this community for the same reason as the mercenaries, 
for the landlords had been able, in a measure, to maintain 
themselves only by becoming to a certain extent the vassals 
of the Taborites, to whom they paid imposts, and by whose 
side they were compelled to fight. (Compare on this point 
the complaint of the Bohemian barons concerning Prokop's 
tyranny, recounted by ^neas Sylvius.) 

As soon as the nobility rose against the sect and began 
to enlist mercenaries, to whom (thanks to the wealth of the 
Catholic Church) it was able to offer momentarily better 
conditions, treachery became rife in all nooks and corners of 
the Taborite armies. 

Hence it is comprehensible that when civil war once more 
broke out, and Calixtines and Taborites measured their 
strength in desperate conflict, the latter, deserted by pea- 


sants and townsmen, and betrayed by a part of their own 
troop, should succumb to their enemies, who, setting aside 
their own internal animosities, had formed an overpowering 
alliance against the remnant of the democratic party still 
true to the one remaining communistic brotherhood, more 
in obedience to necessity than to their own impulses. 

On May 30, 1434, a decisive battle was fought at the 
village of Lipau, near Brod, in Bohemia. The forces of the 
nobility outnumbered those of the Taborites, the former 
having 25,000 men, while the latter had about 18,000. For 
a long time the fight wavered doubtfully hither and thither, 
but at last victory inclined to the side of the nobility. This 
was much less due to their skill and bravery than to the 
treachery of the Taborite general, Johann Capek, command- 
ing the cavalry, who, in the midst of the battle, instead of 
cutting his way into the ranks of the enemy, took to flight. 
A frightful slaughter ensued, no quarter being given. Out of 
1 8,000 Taborite soldiers, 1 3,000 were cut down and killed ! 
This fearful defeat broke for ever the strength of the Taborites. 

Tabor ceased to rule Bohemia. Democracy was over- 
thrown, and the nobility, in union with the upper classes 
of trade, thereupon set about re-arranging for the exploita- 
tion of the country. After endless negotiations between the 
king and his " true subjects," among whom each faction 
feared (and rightly) that the other was only thinking out a 
way of betraying it, Sigismund was at last acknowledged 
"^ king in 1536. He had previously consented to a universal 
amnesty ; and as regards the property of the Church which 
had been stolen, had conceded to all nobles and com- 
munes the right to dispose of it as they might think best. 

The power of the Taborites, however, was not completely 
annihilated at the battle of Lipau. They continued the 
struggle a short time longer, but ever more feebly and 
ineffectually, until, in 1436, they were glad to obtain an 
agreement from Sigismund assuring them at least of the 
independence of their town. 

Tabor remained in this condition until after the beginning 
of the fifth decade of the fifteenth century. At that time 
iEneas Sylvius visited the place and reported on it in a letter 


to Cardinal Carvajal. This is one of the few extant com- 
munications from an eye-witness concerning the internal 
affairs of the sect. A few significant passages may be re- 
produced, as they give a very good characterisation of life in 
a Taborite community. According to ^neas, the houses in 
Tabor were built of wood or clay, and were placed without 
any regard to order. " This people possess abundant "and | 
costly household effects and extraordinary wealth, as they j 
have gathered into one place the spoils from many nations. 
They wished at one time to live in all things in conformity 
with the primitive Church, and held all their possessions in 
common ; each called the other brother, and what one lacked 
he received from the others. Now, however, each lives for 
himself alone, and some hunger while others revel [alius 
quidem, esurit, alius autem ebrius est\. Shortlived was the 
fire of neighbourly love, short the imitation [of the Apostolic 
community]. . . . The Taborites robbed strangers of their 
possessions, and what they had acquired by violence became 
common property \JtcBc tantuin in commune dederunt\. But 
they could not maintain this state of things. Nature gained 
the upper hand ; already they are all given over to greed ; 
and, as they can no longer rob as of yore, being enervated 
and in fear of their neighbours, they snatch what they can 
from the profits of trade \lucris inhiant m,ercaturce\ and give 
themselves up to the lowest pursuits. There are 4,ocx) men 
in the town capable of bearing arms, but they have become! 
craftsmen, and for the most part gain their living by the ( 
weaving of wool \lana ac tela ex magna parte victum quce- 
rentes], so that they are valueless in war." ^ 

It is worthy of remark that the majority of Taborites 
were wool-weavers. 

^neas Sylvius visited Tabor in 145 1. According to his 
description, the mjlitarj^ strength of th£^to\jm ha^^ 
vaHisHeH^ a^ well asjts^^^^^^^ But even the ruins of 

tfs' revolutionary past appeared to the rulers of Bohemia to 
be still dangerous. One year after the above-mentioned visit, 
Georg von Podiebrad, then administrator of Bohemia, appeared 

' ^neas Sylvius Piccolomini, opera omnia, p. 662. 


before the place, and demanded the surrender of the whole 
body of Taborite priests. After a delay of only three days 
the town yielded, and gave them up, those not " converted " 
being thrown in prison till their death. Thus the peculiar 
position of republican Tabor and every form of its inde- 
pendence came to an end. 

This pitiful termination of a once haughty communistic 
commonwealth, before which half Europe had trembled, 
makes it hardly possible to suppress the wish that, like 
Miinster, Tabor had fallen in the brilliancy of its com- 
munistic youth, and had not languished in the wretchedness 
of bourgeois senility. 

With the overthrow of Tabor the last asylum of democracy 
in Bohemia was destroyed. 

"^The fate-of-i^ Taboritesy-extiibiting as it does many 
analogies with that of the Jacobins, resembles the latter also 
m the circumstance that it was they who by their reckless 
heroism saved the revolution — not for themselves, but for 
the exploiters of that revolution. In France, these were the 
great capitalists and knights of industry ; in Bohemia they 
were the upper nobility, who acquired an almost unlimited 
mastery both in State and society. The petty nobility 
gained nothing by the Hussite wars, whichi"accelerated rather 
than checked their downfall, as the upper' nobles, to whom 
thre'lfon's share of the Churclv*s possessions fell, enriched 
themselves also at the cost of the lower ranks of their class 
by buying up their properties. 

The pea,sants and petty townsm en w ere, however, the chief 
sufferers by the; wars. The exhaustion of the country and the 
diminution of the population, reducing as they did the power 
of resistance among the peasants and small townsmen to the 
lowest point, became inducements to the lords of the soil to 
increase very largely their demands on the petty rent-paying 
citizens, and also the burdens imposed on the peasants. 
These burdens became heavier and heavier. The feeble 
attempts at resistance and revolt, here and there ventured on 
by the ill-used peasantry, were easily overcome. Where, 
however, in spite of the increase of forced labour, the supply 
of labour was insufficient, the landlord recouped himself by 


substituting for agriculture a branch of business requiring 
only a small number of labourers. In some instances the 
extension of this new industry not only counterbalanced the 
want of peasants, but even drove peasants away from their 
situations. In England, the want of labour (originating, it is 
true, from causes different from those active in Bohemia) 
gave an important impetus to the development of sheep- 
raising. This pursuit was finally so general in that country, 
that it became the chief means of expropriating the peasantry 
and creating a proletariat. A similar, though less influential 
part was played in many districts of Bohemia by the jfisk- 
ponds constructed by the landlords. If, as Thomas More 
said, the sheep ate up the peasants of England, those of 
Bohemia were equally devoured by carp. 

At the beginning of the fifteenth century serfdom had 
almost completely disappeared in Bohemia. At the close of 
that century it was already again the universal condition of 
the peasantry.. 

It is absurd to hold the Hussite Wars responsible for this. 
Whether social development be brought about by peaceful 
means or by violent struggles, is immaterial to the direction 
it takes, that being necessarily determined by the progress 
and needs of production. When the results of violent revolu- 
tionary conflicts are not in accordance with the intentions of 
the revolutionists, it is a proof that these intentions are in 
contradiction to the requirements of production. Violent 
revolutions can never give direction to social development ; 
they can, under definite conditions, only hasten it, at the 
same time, however, intensifying the evil for the defeated. 
This was one of the results of the Hussite Wars. From the 
fifteenth century onwards a deterioration in the condition of 
the peasantry set in throughout Europe, though later in some 
countries than in others. That Bohemia, notwithstanding its 
backward economic position, was one of the first. lands in 
which this deterioration appeared, and that it there made the 
most rapid progress, were consequences of the Hussite Wars. 
But for these the decisive change might not perhaps have 
occurred until a century later, after the German Peasant 



TABOR had fallen, but it did not disappear without 
leaving a trace of its existence. This communistic 
military town had been so brilliant in its achievements, and 
its operations had been so intimately connected with the 
wants of some classes of the lower population, that the 
principles on which it was based necessarily survived, though 
under changed conditions and in more suitable forms. 

The successors of the Taborites were the Bohemian Brethren. 

We have already remarked that the communists of the 
Middle Ages loved peace and abhorred violence ; sentiments 
which were quite as much in harmony with the helplessness 
of the poor in that age as with the traditions of primitive 
Christianity. At the beginning of the Hussite revolution, 
when the time-honoured authorities were overthrown and 
the lower classes arose in victorious insurrection, the mass of 
communists were hurled along with it ; and once it had 
gained momentum, the logic of facts necessarily forced to the 
summit of power those who were its most advanced and war- 
like partisans. 

But the peace-loving fraction of communists, who con- 
demned all war, violence, and force, did, not wholly cease to 
exist even during the brilliant triumpli.Qf the Taborite power. 
Their foremost representative was Peter of Chelcic — Peter 
Chelcicky. Born about the year 1390, and, as it would 
appear, an impoverished knight, he lived in quiet retirement 
in the village of Chelcic, near Wodnian, one of the Taborite 
towns, and there produced a series of writings which aroused 
universal attention. As early as 1420 he had maintained 



jthat jio violence should be emplo}/ed in religious jc^ia^tters ; 
and this conviction was strengthened during the wars of the 
revolution. He branded war as the most horrible of all evil, 
while in his opinion soldiers were not a hair better than 
mtifdefers. ■"•"'■■"' '••••'•"i"::.,:^....,-..,.^.-.-."^*"'^"--''"'' ^ 

"' Chelcicky was a communist in the primitive Christian 
sense. But not through war and ^nptjby State compulsion 
"should equality' Be Ibfced upon society ; it should be realised 
as it were behind the' bacTcoT'Sfafe arid society. The true 
betieveir inust have no .part in the State, for this is sinful 
and heathenish. Social inequalities such as wealth, standing, 
and rank were created by the State, and can only disappear 
with it. The sole Christian method of destroying the State, 
however, is to ignore it ; hence the true believer is forbidden 
rfSt only to accept a government office, but also to invoke the 
power of the State. For him police and judges are non- 
existent. The Christian strives after goodness of his own free 
will, and must not force others to be good, for God demands 
that goodness should be voluntary, and all compulsion is an 

outcome of evil., 

■""For the true Christian there is no place in the State and in 
society outside of the lowest social strata, who are allowed to 
obey and serve, but not to command and rule. As the 
Christian must not rule, so also he is forbidden to accumulate 
•wealth, and for this reason is prohilaited from engaging in 
trade, since this is allied with fraiid. Towns, the seats of 
trade/ are a product of evil devised by Cain. He it was who 
transformed the primitive simplicity of life into deceit, by 
devising measures and weights, people having previously 
bartered without measuring or weighing. Chelcicky's greatest 
rage, however, was directed against the nobility. ^ 

This anarchis^tc' though peaceable communism gained in 
adherents in proportion to the increase of the general weari- 
ness with war, and the defection of the lower classes from the 
Taborite regime. 

After the fall of Tabor the Chelcicky Brethren became the 

' Compare on this point Jaroslab Goll, Otiellen unci Untersuchungcn ztir 
Geschichte der Bohmischen Briider, II. Peter Chelcicky und seiner Lehrc. 
Prague, 1882. 


most important of all the sects existing in Bohemia, which 
were in part composed of the scattered Taboristic elements. 

Among the partisans of Peter Chelcicky the most promi- 
nent was Brother Qjegory, who, although a nobleman, was so 
impoverished that he was forced to support himself as a 
journeyman tailor. When some of the old Taborites estab- 
/lished a colony in the village of Kunwald, near Seftenberg (a 
/ district in which Taboristic views had maintained themselves), 
I they elected Gregory as their head and organiser (1457), to 
t whom it was due that the colonists adopted Chelcicky's prin- 
1 ciples, and lived up to them in all respects, 
t"-'" The nature of the first organisation of the Bohemian 
Brethren is not at all clear, as the later Brothers were 
ashamed of their communistic origin, and endeavoured to 
conceal it in every possible way. If, however, we examine 
the organisation of the later Brotherhood (made clearer by 
that of the well-known Herrnhuters, which is of cognate 
character), and if we take into consideration the internal 
conflicts from which that organisation resulted, we shall 
obtain the following facts.^ ^ 

Every member of the ^^otherhood was, of course, most 
strictly forbidden to participate in the State Government 
through the acceptance of any post either in the general or 
communal departments, or in military service, as well as by 
any appeal or complaint to the Government. 

Complete equality was to prevail in the community ; there 
'^ were to be no poor and no rich. Before being admitted 
to the community every wealthy person, or member of 
a privileged class, must relinquish his property and his 
privileges. No " Brother " was to engage in trade, lend 
money on interest, or keep an inn. On the other hand, the 
rules of the fraternity made it obligatory on each member to 
assist any Brother who might be in want. 

' A good insight into the later organisation of the Bohemian Brethren 
can be obtained from the work by J. U. Comenius on the Church 
history of the Brotherhood, from their Church ordinance of 1609, and 
from the confession of faith which they presented to King Ferdinand 
^^ 1535- These are all contained in the German edition of Kurzgcfassien 
Kirch cn-Historie der Bohmischen Bnidcr. Comenius, Schwabach, 1739. 


Private ^oprietorsh|g and the separate family were not 
prohibited. As regards family life, communism displayed 
itself chiefly in the accentuation of brotherly feeling, the 
"j?5y"6us' participation in alt things by the members, and in 
efforts to maintain equality so that no one should rise above, 
or sink below the others. If the right to private property 
were to be preserved, this state of things would be possible 
only in conjunction with the prevalence of the strictest dis- 
cipline, permeating the whole life of the community. Hence, 
even the most intimate circumstances of family life were not 
exempt from this discipline. 

In mar ked contrast to the anarchistic theories of Peter 
Chelcicky which repudiated every act of compulsion as un- 
christian and heathenTsh7 ffieT priests and elders exercised 
a disciplimjty powej jjvhich'll^^ would seem in- 

tolerable, and the more so as among the Bohemian Brethren 
there was a particularly prominent exhibition of that gloomy 
and sullen frame of mind, already pointed out by us as a 
universal peculiarity of mediaeval communism. This feature 
was a natural consequence of the unspeakable misery and 
wretchedness resulting from the Hussite Wars. 

Every kind of amusement and dance was forbidden as a 
snare laid for believers by the devil. To live, work, and 
suffer in silence were the sole duties imposed upon the pious 
Christian. In its observance of the Sabbath, the community 
was strictly puritanical. 

Although private proprietorship and the separate family 
were not prohibited, celibacy was regarded as a higher and 
holier state than that of marriage, while poverty and celibacy 
were. r cq tStred '51^ the clergy. The unmarried members lived 
in brother-houses and sister-houses (the sexes being kept 
apart), where they worked and lived in common. We may 
assume that these establishments were organised similarly to 
the Beghard houses. 

Like the Taborites, the Bohemian Brethren wp,u.ld not 
tolerate erudition, and regarded learned men as a ^jrivileged 
classr" XJp to the time of his death in 1473, Brother Gregory 
cautioned the community against men of learning. On the 
other hand, the Brethren, like the Taborites, laid great stress 



on a solid popular education, and, moreover devoted them- 
"seTves enthusiastically to the democratic art of printing from 
"its inception. " Very rarely," says Gindely (op. cit, i. p. 39), 
" has a Christian sect sent into the world so many writings in 
its defence." The number of their works, from their founda- 
tion to their almost complete extinction, after the death of 
Comenius in 1670, is much larger than that of all other con- 
temporary literature combined. They boast of being thie 
I first to have the Bible printed in the mother tongue (in 
Venice), so that in this respect the Bohemians took pre- 
cedence of all other nations. ^ At the beginning of the 
sixteenth century there were five printing establishments in 
Bohemia — one Catholic in Pilsen, one Utraquist in Prague, 
and three belonging to the Bohemian Brethren in Jung- 
bunzlau, Leitomischl, and Weisswasser respectively. Even 
these three could not always meet the demands made on 
them, and occasionally had their books printed in Nurenberg. 
Peculiar, but strictly in accord with their severe discipline, 
was the regulation that no m^^ should write and publish 

"a book .witho.ut the, .consent of Xhe. CO one 

'^with us," says their Church ordinance, "has permission to 
publish books unless they are previously examined by the 
other members of the community, and authorised by their 
unanimous approval." 2 

Johannes Lasitzki, a Pole, who visited the Brotherhood in 
1 571, writes as follows in his work, De origine et rebus jestis 
fratrum Bohemorum : " No book appears without a previous 
examination by several elders and Church officials, chosen 
and appointed for the purpose. . . . It is also the custom not 
to allow any work to be published in one member's name 
only (except under special conditions), but in the name of the 
whole Brotherhood. Thus each member of the spiritual "B5dy 
' gets quite as much honour from the work as any other, and 
every opportunity is removed for the indulgence of the vain 
thirst for fame which as a rule titilates the minds of authors, 
while the writings theiiiserves' acquire 'so' m^ the greater 
weight and esteem." 3 

' Comenius, op. cit, p. 57. ' Comenius, op. cit, p. 296. 

3 Cited by Comenius, op. cit., p. 328. 


In spite of these regi^^tions. what^ a £roductivity 

they exhibi 5^4 ! 

TtTs not surprising that the new community, which included 
so many former Taboristic elements, should, in spite of its 
peaceable and submissive character, seem highly suspicious 
and dangerous to the reigning powers. As early as 146 1 a 
violent persecution broke out against them under Georg von 
Podiebrad, already known to us as the destroyer of the 
independence of Tabor. Still administrator of the country 
in 1452, he was elected King of Bohemia in 1458, after the 
death of King Ladislaus. One of the first acts of his reign 
was the persecution of the Bohemian Brethren, which began 
with the imprisonment of Brother Gregory and other members 
of the sect. The community in Kunwald was afterwards 
broken up, and its members driven out, all assemblages being 
at the same time prohibited. 

Comenius tells us that, " through this rigorous inquisition, 
which was everywhere directed against the Brethren, it came 
about that most of them, and especially the leaders, were 
scattered through the woods and mountains, where they were 
forced to live in caves, which, however, by no means secured 
them from danger. From this living in caves they were 
called by their enemies Jamnici^ or cave-dwellers." ^ 

It is possible that the appellation of Jainnici may have 
originated previous to this persecution. As early as the 
fourteenth century the Beghard sectaries of Western Germany 
bore the nickname of " Nookers " ( Winkler\ on account of 
the secrecy of their meetings ; while in East Germany they 
were called " Hole-dwellers " {Gruhenhehner). The word 
Jainnici (from the Bohemian Jama, a hole or cave) is a 
translation of the German Grubenheimer, and perhaps indi- 
cates that the Beghard tradition was active among the 
Bohemian Brethren. Common people called them Picards 
as well as Jainnici. 

With the death of Podiebrad the first persecution came to 
an end. 

The Brethren underwent occasional subsequent persecu- 
tions, from which, however, they did not on the whole suffer 
' Comenius, o/>. cii., pp. 45, 46. 


much. The power of the government was still weak in 
Bohemia, and the Brethren found influential protectors in 
individual nobles in towns ; for persons of intelligence soon 
perceived that there was no harm in the enmity to govern- 
ment advocated by this sect, and in their efforts in the 
direction of equality, but at the same time they recognised 
how easy it would be to exploit a people who preached the 
obligation of industry, renunciation, and toleration. 

It was in no small measure due to this protection that the 
community rapidly inctieased in numbers even during the first 
severe persecution. Their proselytism was also favoured by 
the circumstance that, like the Taborites, they proclaimed the 
greatest tolerance, .in .ina,tters of belief^ impossible in other 
Church organisations which had been instituted for the pur- 
T5(3se of dominating the people.' At the very first congress of 
the Brethren, held among the hills of Reichenau, in 1464, to 
which delegates were sent not only from Bohemia, but even 
from Moravia, it was decreed that the question^^ social 
organisation should take precedence^ o^^ and that 

matters of belief should occupy a secondary position. 

Thanks to this tolerance, they succeeded in attracting 
many kindred communities. It made them, however, all the 
more rigid where differences of a practical nature existed. 
At the second congress, in Lhota, 1467, which gave the 
community a definite organisation, just as that at Reichenau 
had (to use a modern expression) given it a programme, 
certain delegates from the remnants of the Adamites pre- 
sented themselves with proposals for a union with the Brother- 
hood. These proposals were rejected. The communism of 
the Adamites was too far-reaching ; hence only a few members 
of that sect were admitted, after having abjured their " errors." 

The negotiations for a union with the Waldenses were also 
broken off, that community having become too opportunist 
and bourgeois in character. In his tract upon the attitude 
which should be maintained towards the Romish Church, 
Brother Gregory writes as follows : — " Certain Waldenses 
admitted that they had strayed from the paths of their pre- 
decessors, and that there existed among them the iniquity of 
taking money away from the people, amassing wealth, and 


neglecting the poor ; whereas it is certainly opposed to 
Christian belief that a priest should heap up treasure, since 
he should employ his own worldly possessions, and even those 
inherited from his parents, in the giving of alms, and not leave 
the poor in their necessity," &c. ^ 

But the Bohemian Brethren were destined soon to_meet 
the saiBg tKe W 

The puritanism, by means of which the fraternity pro- 
tested against existing society, and which was the cause of 
its separation from that society, was, as a matter of fact, an 
excellent aid to social advancement. We have already 
pointed out (p. 22) how, in spite of many external resem- 
blances, this Puritanism differed from the asceticism of 
primitive Christiamty."~'ATtTT6ugn both proclaimed the vanity, 
nay, the wickedness of life's pleasures of every kind, yet 
primitive Christian asceticism was allied with stupid indo- 
lence, whileTon the contrary, the puritanism of the Refor- 
mafion"was""JLinrted^lir"Tts"*'p^^ with indefatigable and 

cautro'us" industry. At that time, when capitalised industry 
on a large scale was^Horyet developecl, and capitalism was 
only budding, this industrious puritanismjkvas an exceedingly 
effectrvelTieans~of tuTnlng small traders into capitalists. This 
"means~Became rnore"~effective The more the masses of the 
people yielded to the instinct of a native joy in life connected 
with the primitive modes of production, which had for their 
object not sale, but personal consumption ; not accumulation, 
but enjoyment. In addition to the aid derived from their 
puritanism, the Brethren must have been much favoured from 
a business point of view by their good popular education, 
and especially by the firm cohesion — the solidarity — resulting 
from their communistic tendencies. This solidarity must 
have been as great a help to them in business as it has 
sometimes been to the Jews. 

If among the Taborites the spoils of war had produced a 
condition of opulence (which their communism put an end 

' An extract from the Czech original, with German translation, is to 
be found in GoH's Quellcn niui untersucliungeii zur Geschichte dcr 
Bohmischen Btiider, Ch. I. Der Verkehr der Briider init den Waldensern, 
Prague, 1878, p. 98. 


to), wealth also soon became common among the Bohemian 
Brethren, as a consequence of their industry, frugality, and 
thrift, together with their intelligence and the assistance they 
rendered each other. Actuated by very worldly motives and 
attracted by their wealth, large numbers from all classes now 
joined their ranks. 

With the increase of opulence, however, many of the older 
members began to feel fettered by the severe discipline which 
was enforced. In the interests of equality this discipline 
allowed no member to be richer than the others, and also 
forbade the investment of accumulated money in any trade 
or at interest. Moreover, with the increase of wealth, conflicts 
sometimes arose regarding property ; lawsuits became neces- 
sary, and the power of State was needed for the protection of 
the surplus belonging to individual members. 

Thus a more moderate party was gradually formed among 
the Brethren, which dared not disavow the original precepts 
of the fraternity, but strove to have those precepts interpreted 
as merely embodying the ideal of a higher and altogether 
exceptional sanctity, and not as universally binding prin- 

The split between the two parties first showed itself at the 
end of the seventh decade of the fifteenth century, when two 
barons and several knights applied for admission to the 
''Brofherhoocl. The stricter party consented to receive them 
only on the cGhdrtibn of tTieTr'rennqiH^ 
'afid^rafi'Rj' wKile .tJhe .moderate seHion'*M§fte9"fo 'drspehse with 
'this renunciation. The jeji;tJ^ixiists"[^amed* "the'-'vic^^ 
Ifhose alone of the" candidates were, admitted who acquiesced 
iri^all the dernands of the GomoHimty. 

Evidence of the influence of the moderate party was fur- 
nished in 1480, when admission was granted to a savant 
named Lukas, to be followed by others. If the acceptance 
of these members was a success to the moderates,, the erudite 
element in return contnbuted J:o^ the strength of that party. 
In vain did the strict faction, with the weaver Gregory of 
Wotic at their head, combat the lukewarmness which was 
gaining the upper hand. In the synod which was held at 
Brandeis, on the Adler, in 1491, the moderates gained the 


day ; for it was resolved that, in future, persons of wealth 
and high standing might be admitted without giving up their 
riches and rank. They were only to be reminded how easily, 
without this renunciation, they might forfeit the salvation of 
their souls. Thus the demand for equality, if not quite cast 
aside, was now confined merely to holy aspirations. 

The pious Brethren also discovered the way to a partici- 
pation m™State government the same congress it was 
agreed : — " If through worldly power it should fall to the lot of 
any Brother to be a judge, juryman, or guildmaster, or to go 
to the wars ; or if he, in combination with others, should have 
to give his consent to the torture or execution of a criminal, 
we now declare that these be things to which a repentant 
person should not hasten of his own good free-will, but rather 
flee from and avoid, l^ut if he cannot evade them, either by 
persistent entreaty or by any other means, then shall he yield 
to the powers that be." The Brethren, moreover, were not j 
only allowed' to take part in criminal prosecutions by the | 
Government, to accept office or fight in the wars if compelled I 
to do so, but they might in future even appeal to the com- ;, 
pulsory powers of the State or to the judges ; nay, it was | 
permissible to carry on any profitable business, such as inn- 
keeping or any trade — of course, onfy in case of necessity. 

The stricter party were infuriated by this decree, which ' 
cast to the winds the equality, freedom, and brotherhood 
hitherto existing in the community. They raised an ener- 
getic counter-agitation, and succeeded in winning over their 
Bishop Mathias, of Kunwald, and in intimidating the waverers 
or urging them onwards. On their compulsion, Mathias soon 
convened another synod, which annulled the Brandeis decrees 
and pronounced for an unconditional return to old and funda- 
mental principles. 

But the delight of victory was of short duration. The 
extremists had won the day, not by internal strength, but 
by a surprise. At the synod of Reichenau, in 1494, they 
were again in the minority, and finally recognised that they 
had lost all prospect of vindicating their views in the com- 
munity. A division in the Brotherhood was the natural 
consequence, and the attempt at re-union, in 1496, only led 


to reciprocal reproaches and to the intensification of the 

The rigorous section was called the " Smaller Party." It 
was inferior in numbers and composed of uneducated 
peasants and handicraftsmen, and being in antagonism with 
the needs of social development, languished away. After 
several of its members had been burnt at the stake in Prague 
(1527), it vanished from public ken. 

The moderate section, on the contrary, strengthened by 
rich and powerful adherents, with liberty to take part in the 
State government and utilise it for their own purposes, 
having, moreover, an organisation in harmony with the 
requirements of social progress, advanced rapidly in pros- 
perity. In 1500, they already possessed twf) >>yr)(;\f^H^ 
churches, and, during the sixteenth century they became an 
^Important factor in politics and economics. How largely the 
nobility was represented among them, may be gathered from 
a petition, presented in 1 575 to the Emperor by the nobles of 
the Brotherhood, and signed by seventeen barons and one 
hundred and forty-one knights. 

Every trace of a communistic origin disappeared, and, as 
has a,lready been remarked, all communistic traditions ~were 
carefully expunged from their literature. Moreover, although 
^ they had admitted persons of wealth into their ranks, they 
now on the other hand went so far as to tolerate mendicity. 
"As far as possible'' says their Church ordinance of 1609, "we 
secure our people against beggary ",;^ hence there was no 
longer an unconditional obHgajtion aniong the Brethren to 
help each other. 

Gindely says {pp. cit, ii. p. 312): — "The Bohemian Puri- 
tans, nay, even the fanatics who adhered to Peter Chelcicky 
more than to Huss, and in conformity with Pauline doctrines 
favoured celibacy, accepted no office, allowed themselves no 
luxury, tolerated no wealth, put no money out at interest, and 
abhorred war — these men produced very wealthy capitalists, 
very honourable husbands, very decorous burgomasters and 
jurymen, as well as very skilful generals and statesmen." 

Success attended the Brotherhood until the Thirty Years' 
War, and the Battle of White Mountain in 163 1. This 


battle, which decided the long struggle between the intract- 
able Bohemian nobility and Hapsburg absolutism, and led to 
the extinction of the former, the confiscation of their proper- 
ties and the distribution of these among the Jesuits and 
sycophants of the Court, also brought about the downfall of 
the Bohemian Brethren. The scanty remnant dragged on a 
painful existence, until they finally founded an asylum on the 
Saxon estates of the pietist. Count Zinzendorf (1722). 

But neither the communistic enthusiasm of the extremists, 
nor the worldly wisdom of the moderates long survived 
among the Herrnhuters. Poor, miserable peasants and handi- 
craftsmen, who had escaped the persecution only by living in 
the most isolated and uncivilised corners of the land, they had 
lost all traces of an identity with the original Brotherhood. 

In the3xiteeatL£mto^..j;laa J^ to 

pfajTa part in the his tory of socialism. In the seventeenth 
cerrttfiy, tliey also lost their importance to general history. 


I. The Gej'vian Reformation 

by us), formerly an enthusiast in the cause of Church 
reform, had made peace with the Roman Pope, and, as a 
reward, had been given the Cardinal's hat, 1456.^ A letter 
was addressed to the newly-created Cardinal by Martin 
Mayer (a native of Heidelberg and Chancellor to the Arch- 
bishop of Mayence, Ditrich von Erbach), in which, among 
other things, he says : — " There are thousands of ways in 
which the Roman See robs us of our gold as if we were a 
nation of barbarians. From this it has come about that our 
country, once so famed, which by its courage and blood 
founded the Roman kingdom and was the king and queen of 
the world, is now sunk in poverty, a servile and tribute-paying 
land, and, grovelling in the dust, has for long years been 
bewailing its misery and indigence. Our rulers, however, have 
at length awakened from their sleep, and have begun to 
ponder how they can oppose this evil ; aye, they have resolved 
to shake off the yoke and regain their old freedom, and the 
Roman Curia will suffer not a little if its princes carry out 
what they have in their minds." ^ 

In refutation of Martin's charges ^neas Sylvius deemed it 
necessary to write a book on the condition of Germany, which 

' Two years later he was made Pope, Pius II., and in that capacity 
saw fit to condemn his earlier writings as heretical. 
" UUman, Rcfoiinatoren, &c., p. 214. 



appeared in 1458, shortly before his election to the Papal 
throne.^ " He were indeed wanting in mental gifts," he sets 
forth, "who should assert that Germany is poor." He en- 
deavours to prove this by a reference to the commerce and 
mining industry which at that time flourished in Germany and 
brought in great wealth. " If it be true," he exclaims, " that 
where there are merchants there is always great wealth, then 
must it be conceded that the Germans are a very rich people, 
since the greater part of them thirst after profits in trade and 
roam through the most distant lands. . . . And then consider 
the veins of silver that have been discovered among you. 
Kuttenberg in Bohemia, Rankberg in Saxony, and Freiberg 
in Meissen possess inexhaustible silver mines on their dizzy 
heights." He then points to the gold and silver mines in the 
valleys of the Inn, and Enns ; to the gold washings on the 
Rhine and in Bohemia ; and finally asks : — " Where in your 
land is there an inn {diversorimn) which has not its drinking 
cups of silver ? What woman, not only among the nobility 
but among the plebeians, does not glitter with gold ? Shall I 
make mention of the neck-chains of the knights and bridles 
of the horses, embossed with purest gold ; of the spurs and 
scabbards garnished with precious stones ; of the finger-rings 
and shoulder-belts, the armour and helmets, sparkling with 
gold ? And how beautiful are the utensils of the churches ? 
What number of reliquaries do we find encrusted with pearls 
and gold ? how rich the vesture of the altars and priests ! " 

Hence Germany was well able to contribute to the support 
of the Roman See. But what would happen to the Pontifi- 
cate if Germany should cease to fulfil her mission ? It would 
become poor and wretched and incapable of performing its 
high duties, since the small and uncertain revenues of the 
Papal States were insufiicient for its needs. Without wealth 
it were impossible to be intelligent and highly esteemed. 
Moreover the laws of all societies {in omni lege) recognised 
the necessity of a wealthy priesthood. 

There could be no greater contradiction between two 
statements than is here exhibited. It might be said that 

' We avail ourselves of the Leipzig edition of 1496 : — Enec Sylvii. de 
Rilii. Situ. Moribiis ac Conditione alemanie. Lyptzick. 


only one could be true, the other must be false ; and yet 
both are true. Each by itself gives an incomplete picture 
of Germany's condition in the second half of the fifteenth 
century. They are both true precisely because they are 
jin irreconcilable contradiction ; the great antagonism of 
the time is, indeed, accurately reflected by the discrepancy 
between these statements. It was precisely because this 
antagonism was irreconcilable, that it could be terminated 
only by the conflict of the two opposing elements, and the 
triumph of one. 

Mayer's letter and the reply by yEneas Sylvius show us in 
the clearest light the pivot on which the Reformation turned, 
freed from the confused heap of theological wranglings con- 
cerning predestination, the Holy Communion, &c,, with which 
it was afterwards overlaid by the Church reformers of various 

iEneas Sylvius was right ; Germany in the fifteenth cen- 
tury was flourishing through its mining and trade. He was 
also right in affirming that the Papal See was chiefly depen- 
dent on the revenues it obtained from Germany ; for the 
other great civilised nations of Europe had already to a great 
extent freed themselves from Papal spoliation. 

For this reason the Vatican was obliged to exercise all its 
powers of extortion upon the German nation, and obstinately 
refuse even the smallest concession. No relief, therefore, from 
the Papal exactions could be expected. Germany must 
either suffer submissively, or throw off the Roman yoke 

This conviction continued to acquire strength, for Martin 
Mayer's statement was also correct. Although the wealth of 
Germany was undoubtedly increasing, the Papal claims were 
nevertheless most oppressively burdensome and very obstruc- 
tive to economic development. 

It was a sufficient injury that she had to bear a burden 
from which the rest of the civilised nations were free. It is 
true that in France, England, and Spain the population was 
taxed for the Church, but the most substantial part of the 
Revenues derived from such taxation remained in those 
countries and benefited the ruling classes. These seized upon 


all the lucrative benefices for the members of their own 
order, or for creatures and parasites from other classes. In 
Germany, on the contrary, many benefices fell to the share ofi 
foreigners — tools, not of the German princes, but of the Pope.j 
All the lucrative clerical appointments in Germany were 
moreover articles of commerce, which the Pope sold to the 
highest bidder,^ Enormous sums flowed into Rome year in 
year out, and were lost to the great extortioners in Germany 
— its princes and merchants. Moreover, great as the profits 
from trading and mining might be, and rapid as was the I 
increase of wealth in Germany, the necessity for money and } 
the greed for gold among the ruling classes augmented in like 1 

In the fifteenth century the production of commodities for \ 
the market had already attained remarkable dimensions, while 1 
that for home consumption as the exclusive form of pro- 
duction was, even in country places, in the course of rapid 
decline. Money began to play a great part in economic life. 
The necessity for it was ever greater on all sides, but chiefly 
among the upper classes, not only because their mode of life 
had reached a most extravagant degree of luxury, but also 
because money alone could satisfy the constantly increasing 
demands upon them. Money was also required to pay the 1 
mercenaries and officials who supported the absolute mon- \ 
archy, at that time developing itself ; funds were needed to 
attract the independent nobles to its Court and induce them 
to serve its purposes ; and lastly means were necessary to 
bribe the tools of its adversaries. All this implied imposts, 
raking and scraping townsmen and peasants in order to 
extract from them all that they could yield, the ordinary 
revenue rarely proving sufficient ; and it meant moreover 
incurring debts — debts the interest of which enforced fresh 

' " It is not easy to get a lucrative benefice here," said Hutten once, 
" unless one has been of service to the Holy See, or has sent large sums 
of money to Rome for bribery, or bought the living through the direct 
mediation of the Fugger family." {Die romische Dreifaltigkeit. 
Speeches by Ulrich v. Hutten, translated and edited by David F, R- 
Strauss, Leipzig, p. 106.) The Fuggers were indeed zealous Catholics, 
and did not spare money in the conflict with Luther. 


expenditure. In spite of all exactions and all loans, only a 
few princes were in a satisfactory financial condition, and 
hence they felt, as did their subjects, upon whom these and 
other burdens rested, that they were becoming impoverished 
in spite of Germany's increasing wealth, and that it was un- 
bearable to look on quietly while the Pope, for no reason 
whatever, carried off the cream of the profits and left them 
the skimmed milk. It was nevertheless by no means a very 
simple matter to rid themselves of papistical demands. 

Undoubtedly the mass of the people suffered like the 
brinces, and indeed even more than they ; the lower classes, 
(the peasants, the town proletarians and the class immediately 
above them, together with the burgesses and the lower 
'nobility, groaned under the dominion of Rome. Even before 
the days of Wycliffe and Huss they had shown themselves 
disposed, under Louis the Bavarian, to enter upon a struggle 
against the Papal Church, though they had, perhaps, to 
endure quite as much under the increasing demands of the 
higher nobility, the great merchants and princes ; and with 
this state of feeling among them, Bohemia was to learn, as 
England had done, how dangerous it was for the princes to 
undermine one of the great powers in the community. 

The Revolution of 1789 in France brought about a period 
of reaction in Europe, and cooled the desire of the bour- 
geoisie for a revolutionary struggle, which could only be 
carried on with the assistance of small traders and the 
proletariat, against princely autocracy and the aristocratic 
landed proprietors. In the same way the Hussite war pro- 
duced a period of reaction not only in Bohemia but in 
Germany also, and it required a long time for the idea of 
casting off the yoke of Rome to gain any influence among 
the upper classes of the Empire. 

) Then again there was the alliance between the Emperor 
land the Pope. The Imperial authority was declining very 
f fast in Germany, and the Emperors were afraid that it would 
diminish still more rapidly if the other traditional authority 
of the Empire — the Papal — were shaken or destroyed. More- 
over there was the danger from Turkey, which directly 
threatened the Imperial (i.e. the Hapsburg) possessions, a 


danger which could apparently be averted only by one of the 
Pope's organised Crusades. 

If one adds to all this the fatal disruption of Germany, 
which certainly reduced the power of the Emperor to a 
minimum, but at the same time made concerted action among 
the opponents of the Pope and Emperor very difficult, it is 
comprehensible that the Reformation movement in Germany 
only became strongly pronounced in the century after the 
Hussite War. 

Meantime development was spreading far and wide in all 
spheres. The means for a religious and military conflict had 
greatly improved. The art of printing had been invented 
and artillery had been made more perfect, while the facilities 
for commerce, and especially for maritime intercommuni- 
cation, had considerably increased. Shortly before the 
Reformation, bold navigators had sailed directly across the 
Atlantic Ocean, for the first time in the world's history. 

The advance of the Turks and nations of Central Asia was 
the incentive to these voyages, for these nations barred the 
old paths of commerce to the East. Thanks to the greater 
perfection attained by European navigation, this did not lead 
to any interruption in the trade between Western Asia and 
Europe, but rather to the search for new ways to India — 
along the coast of Africa on one side, and across the ocean on 
the other. The age of discovery had begun ; modern colonial 
policy took its rise. 

By these means not only was the horizon of mankind 
vastly widened, and a complete revolution of human know- 
ledge initiated, but an economic change was also inaugurated. 
The commercial centre of Europe was transferred from the 
basin of the Mediterranean to the shores of the Atlantic. 
The economic development of Italy was bound down and 
hemmed in, while on the contrary that of Western Europe 
was suddenly accelerated by a powerful impetus. Existing 
antagonisms, as much between classes as between nations, 
were brought to a climax, and fresh antagonisms were engen- 
dered, till the passions peculiar to the new capitalistic form of 
exaction were unfettered and exhibited with all the strength 
and recklessness of the Middle Ages, out of the barbarism of 


which society had just stepped. All traditional, social, and 
political relations were overthrown ; all prevailing codes of 
morality proved unstable. For a whole century a series of 
terrible wars raged throughout Europe in which the thirst for 
gold, the lust of murder, and the madness of despair were 
rampant. Who has not heard of the Eve of St. Bartholo- 
mew ? Who does not know the deeds of the heroes of the 
Thirty Years' War in Germany, of Alva in the Netherlands, 
and of Cromwell in Ireland ? There is no need to mention 
the abominations of contemporary colonial policy. 

This mighty revolution, the greatest which Europe had 
seen since the migration of nations, found its termination in 
some measure (except in the case of England) in the Peace 
of Westphalia, in 1648. It arose from the German Reforma- 
tion, which agitated the whole of Europe and supplied the 
catch-words and arguments for the combatants till the middle 
of the seventeenth century, so that to the superficial observer 
it might seem that in all these struggles religion was the only 
object in question : indeed, they are called the Religious 

Taking all this into consideration, it is not surprising that 
the German Reformation movement was vastly more important 
in historic significance than the earlier agitations of this kind ; 
that it has come to be known in general as tke Reformation 
and that the Germans, though they halted so long after the 
other civilised nations of Europe in the revolt against Rome, 
were regarded as the chosen people of religious freedom, 
destined to carry it to other countries. 

II. The Rich Product of the Saxon Mines. 

The land from which the spark was to fly forth that should 
kindle the whole world into flame was Saxony. We have 
seen how important the silver mines were for Bohemia in 
the fourteenth century; how they had intensified social 
antagonisms and increased the power of the country and 
its rulers. In the fifteenth century the produce of the 
Bohemian mines diminished, while, on the other hand, those 
of Saxony — namely, in Meissen and Thuringia — reached a 


dizzy height of prosperity. The silver wealth of Freiberg 
had been well known in 1 171, its mining laws becoming the 
foundation of mining legislation throughout the whole of 
Germany. At the close of the fifteenth century, however, 
it was outdone by Schneeberg, where, in 1471, fresh veins 
of ore were discovered, which for some time were the most 
productive of all German silver mines. In 1492 mining was 
started at Schreckenstein, and in 1496 the foundation-stone 
was laid of the mining town of Annaberg. In 15 16 the 
mines of Joachimsthal came into prominence (they were 
partly Bohemian and partly Saxon); in 15 19 those of 

In Thuringia the most important mine was at Mansfeld. 
It had been worked since the twelfth century, and yielded 
copper as well as silver and gold, the bituminous marl-slate 
being conveyed to Venice, where the process of separation 
was better understood than in Germany. 

The rapidly increasing wealth in the precious metals 
promoted production and trade in Saxon cities. Erfurt 
became rich and powerful as the Saxon emporium for trade 
to the south (Venice), while Halle and, later, Leipzig were 
the chief marts for the north. North and south, commerce 
developed most actively in the direction both of production 
and trade. The line commercial intercourse took from 
Saxony to Italy passed through Nurenberg and Augsburg, 
and contributed much to the powerful position taken by 
these towns from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. 

With commerce, production also developed, while art and 
local trade flourished in the above-mentioned towns. 

But it was not only town life that was influenced by the 
rich mines of Saxony ; their effect in the country was 
perhaps even greater. 

The demand for wood at the mines was an important 
item ; it was required partly as timber in the construction 
of the shafts, for the laying of tracks (with wooden rails, as 
we see them represented in Agricola's book On Mines), &c., 
and partly and especially for fuel in smelting the ore. A 
regular traffic in wood became quite necessary, and we 
find that it was already the object of many commercial 



treaties in Saxony even in the beginning of the sixteenth 

Other natural products were required in the mining dis- 
tricts, which lay, as a rule, in unproductive mountainous 
regions at a high altitude, where but little corn grew — much 
too little to support the crowd of people who gathered about 
a large mine. The mountain peasants being unable to cul- 
tivate the corn for themselves, were forced to buy it. The 
development of the mines, therefore, greatly promoted the 
commerce in wheat as well as in wood. It formed, for 
example, the chief revenues of Zwickau, which lay on the 
road from the Saxon " Lowlands " to the " Highlands." 

Hence at a very early date the peasants and lords of the 
soil in Saxony became producers of commodities for the 
market ; and, having once found a market for their produce, 
it was a matter of indifference to them what they cultivated, 
provided their productions were saleable. It was not even 
necessary that it should be wheat, the market for which was 
circumscribed, while that for plants used in manufacture was 
much more extensive, e.g., woad, which was used for blue dyes. 
Nowhere in Germany was this cultivation so widely developed 
as in Saxony, especially in Thuringia, the centre of the 
industry being Erfurt. Even at the beginning of the seven- 
teenth century, woad is said to have been cultivated in three 
hundred villages of Thuringia, though the competition from 
indigo was already very strong. The antagonism between 
the territorial lords and the peasants which was engendered 
by this development must, consequently, have reached a 
great height at the beginning of the Reformation in Saxony. 
The value of land was very great, and so was the greed of the 
nobles for it. The system of money duties and the avarice 
shown by the princes and nobility were most remarkable, 
as was also the great dependence of the peasantry on the 
merchants and cultivators. Capitalists, princes, and nobles 
seized upon the whole profits arising from this commercial 
prosperity. Thanks to the rapid increase of the precious 
metals, and the decrease in the cost of production, the price 
of agricultural produce arose enormously. In Saxony, the 
centre of the mining wealth, the rise in prices must have 


been particularly mischievous, for it did not in the least 
benefit the peasantry, while in the cities it was the cause 
of serious strikes. 

For this reason, we find that class antagonism at the 
beginning of the Reformation was peculiarly bitter in 
Saxony, exactly as it had been a hundred years before in 
the neighbouring country of Bohemia. But in the latter 
country the mining population had represented a conserva- 
tive power. Their proletarianism was only in its infancy; 
the miners were counted among the privileged classes, and, 
being Germans, were necessarily regarded as partisans of the 
traditional order of things, i.e., of the sovereign and the Pope. 

Since that time the proletariat element among miners, and 
the working of mines by capitalists, had made enormous 
strides ; but in Saxony the miners were not strangers to the 
country ; they possessed no privileges which the overthrow 
of the existing order of things could affect, but, on the con- 
trary, came more and more into conflict with the ruling 
powers during the last decade before the Reformation. Far 
from opposing any revolutionary movement, they were quite 
ready to join any such that broke out, and their numbers, 
their aptitude for arms, and the economic importance of their 
profession, gave them a power with which statesmen had to 

The class, however, which derived the greatest increase of 
strength from the wealth of the mines was the absolute 
monarchy, a class which, besides being the most revolu- 
tionary of any, was most favoured by all the tendencies of 
the age. 

Although the eager rush for gold and silver was increasing, 
most of the princes found difficulty in satisfying their need 
for money by means of taxes and imposts. It was different, 
however, with the princes within whose territories lay the 
rich silver and gold mines. Of these the best-filled coffers 
were possessed by the sovereigns of Saxony. The inheri- 
tance of the two brothers, Ernest and Albrecht (1485), had 
been divided into two parts, Ernest receiving the chief 
portion, Thuringia; Albrecht the lesser, Meissen. But the 
silver mines in the mountains had not been divided ; they 


remained the common property of both houses, the revenues 
being simply shared. Thanks to these revenues, the Saxon 
princes of the sixteenth century played a prominent part in 
Germany, taking precedence after the Emperor of Germany. 

Paradoxical as it may appear, the residue of the Imperial 
power at that time rested to a great extent only upon the 
impecuniosity and avarice of the German princes, especially 
of the Prince-Electors. The latter had, in reality, become 
independent sovereigns. If they tolerated the Imperial 
dignity, it was chiefly in order to find a purchaser to whom 
they could sell a part, and in truth a very trifling part, of 
their sovereign rights. The same rS/e which was played at 
the close of the old Roman Republic, first by the rabble of 
the capital, and subsequently by the Pretorian mob, was 
enacted by the Prince-Electors of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries. Every Imperial election was to them a most 
profitable business, the noble lords taking money in bribes 
from all the candidates, and finally giving their votes to the 
highest bidder. 

Perhaps the most disgraceful episode in this traffic of 
elections occurred when the nomination of a successor to 
Maximilian I. was in view, an episode which began during 
this Emperor's lifetime and lasted from 1516 to 15 19. The 
two dynasties which had been contending for predominance 
in Europe, and had alternately made a tool of the pontifical 
power, now sued also for the Imperial crown — the French 
dynasty of Valois, and the House of Hapsburg, the centre 
of whose dominion had slipped away from Germany to 

Nearly all the Electors accepted money from both Francis I. 
of France and Charles V. of Spain. 

The only prince who took no money was the Elector 
Frederick of Saxony (of the Ernestinian line, to whom 
Thuringia had fallen). The other Electors, hankering after 
the treasures of the joint possessors of the silver mines in 
Meissen, offered the Imperial crown to him — of course for 
corresponding fees. But Frederick rejected the offer, well 
knowing it was not worth the price, and turned the choice 
upon the House of Hapsburg. Notwithstanding the Tyro- 


lean mines and the flourishing commerce of the Hapsburg 
Netherlands, in spite also of the might of Spain at their 
back, the Hapsburgs appeared to threaten the independence 
of the German princes less than did Francis I., who already 
possessed a well-organised and compact France. 

We will not enter upon the other considerations which 
demanded the election of Charles, such as the danger from 
Turkey, &c. 

The Elector of Saxony not only became the emperor- 
maker by virtue of his riches and power, but he was also the 
centre of the opposition made by the German princes against 
the Emperor and Pope in their struggle for independence. 

The University of Wittenberg, founded by Frederick in 
1502, undertook the intellectual guidance of the movement, 
which was at once inimical to the Pope and friendly to the 
princes. Luther, who had been a professor in this school 
since 1 508, and had fallen under its influence, finally became 
its spokesman and the confidential friend and protege of the 
Prince-Elector. These events are too well known to require 
being dealt with in detail. Every one knows how, in 1 5 1 7i 
Tetzel came to Saxony to extort money from the people 
for Pope Leo X. by the sale of indulgences ; how Luther 
attacked him, quarrelled with him, and was carried further 
than he at first intended by the intervention of the Vatican ; 
how out of the " monk's quarrel " arose the rebellion of the 
whole nation against the Pope, and how the latter tried to 
intimidate the former by his anathemas (1520). But Luther, 
feeling sure of his prince's aid, defied the Pope and burnt his 
Bull ; he dared even to defy the newly-elected Emperor, 
Charles V., who summoned him before the Imperial Diet 
at Worms (1521). Charles, however, could not deal with 
him as Sigismund had dealt with Huss, for he knew that 
the monk was supported by the greater part of the German 
nation, and particularly by the powerful Frederick of Saxony. 
Hence the monarch upon whose dominion the sun never 
set did not dare to interfere openly with Frederick and 

Thus Saxony became the intellectual centre both of the 
aristocratic opposition to Rome, which proved victorious, and 


of the democratic, which was crushed. In Thuringia a num- 
ber of small towns, such as Miihlhausen and Nordhausen, 
succeeded in maintaining their freedom from princely rule. 
Erfurt also could count itself a free town. At the beginning 
of the Reformation it was the chief commercial city of 
Central Germany, though it was soon to yield its place to 
aspiring Leipzig, which had already surpassed the old trading 
town of Halle. The Erfurt University was considered the 
most eminent in Germany. It became the seat of the new 
German Humanism, which united itself to the kindred move- 
ments in Italy and France, and sought to emulate them in 
spirited contempt for traditional beliefs. 

It was, however, not only the learned and civic, but also 
the communistic, opposition, that found its greatest support 
in Saxon towns. 

III. The Enthusiasts of Zwickau. 

The Hussite War was not without its influence upon the 
obscure and feeble beginning of the communistic movement 
of Germany which was comprised under the name of the 
" Beghard doctrine." The ruling classes were stimulated by 
this war to a greater mistrust of, and severity towards, all 
the suspicious agitations among the lower orders, while, on 
the other hand, Bohemia became an asylum from which the 
German emigrants could exert their influence on their own 
country. Czech Taborites zealously supported the propa- 
ganda in foreign lands, and to them also the Hussite 
propaganda in Germany can almost always be traced back. 
The Hussite spirit in the armies of the " Brethren " grew 
so strong that they desired to spread its doctrine over the 
whole world ; and the bold thought was more than once 
expressed that all Christendom should, either by force of 
arms or by the path of peaceful teaching, be brought to 
accept the Truth. The so-called letters of heretics, those 
popular manifestoes of the Taborites, wherein they sum- 
moned all Christians, without distinction of nation or rank, 
to free themselves from priestly domination and to confiscate 
Church property, were carried to England and Spain, while 


in Dauphin6 the people sent contributions in money to 
Bohemia, and began in good Taborite fashion to murder 
their lords. In the south of Germany we find the Taborite 
emissaries more active than any others. Two facts in par- 
ticular did great service to the propaganda — the existence 
of the numerous Waldenses congregations, and the strong 
socialistic tendency which made itself noticeable, especially 
among the lower strata of the town folk, and threatened the 
rich hierarchy quite as much as it did the Jews.^ 

Of course the communistic sects could only exist in the 
form of secret societies. The Brethren, therefore, usually 
resided in out-of-the-way mills, hamlets, and farms, and 
assembled in small numbers when they held their services, 
thus avoiding every sort of notice. 

After the futile attempt of the ^Pope, and the Emperor 
to crush Luther, after the burning of the Papal Bull by 
the latter, and still more after the Imperial Diet at Worms, 
the cave-dwellers, like other rebellious spirits, plucked up 
courage to make an advance. 

When social and political powers have lost their material 
foundation, their best support is their traditional credit and 
prestige. By means of these they can, under certain 
circumstances, maintain themselves for a long time against 
superior opponents. But the longer they do so the more 
terrible is the downfall when, in a trial of strength, this 
prestige proves to be merely a hollow show. 

The Emperor and Pope experienced the truth of this 
during the years 1520 and 1521. Hitherto no one had 
ever defied them both at the same time with impunity. 
The less the lower strata of the people recognised that the 
princes and knights were in reality supporting Luther, the 
more isolated he appeared to be ; consequently the result of 
the Diet must have influenced the great masses most power- 
fully. If the truth were so strong that a single monk could 
defend it, undismayed and unpunished, before the greatest 
rulers of Christendom, then all who had a good cause to 
defend might unhesitatingly venture to step forward. 

' Fr. b. Bezold, Gesdiichie der deiitschen Reformation, pp. 127, 128. 


Saxony was the first to move. A few weeks after the 
declaration of the Diet against Luther and his friends (June, 
1 521) the people of Erfurt rose in a series of insurrections 
and put an end to the Catholic Church government. In 
Wittenberg also there were disturbances ; but the agitations 
in Zwickau, which began in the year 1520, are of the most 
importance to us. From very ancient times and until the 
Thirty Years' War, cloth weaving was the chief trade. As 
early as 1348, when statutes were enacted respecting this 
industry, the clothmakers formed a guild, which was the 
most important, and apparently the oldest in the place ; 
and in the second half of the fifteenth century Zwickau, next 
to Oschatz, supplied the largest amount and the best quality 
of cloth in Meissen, although it did not always come up 
to the standard of the much admired material from London 
and the Netherlands. In 1540, two hundred and thirty 
clothmakers might be counted among the householders ; 
but an old and not unfounded tradition tells us that at that 
flourishing period their numbers amounted to six hundred.^ 

It is with this " flourishing period " that we are now 
dealing. During the ten years of the Peasant War, from 
15,000 to 20,000 stone of wool were used in manufacture, 
and from 10,000 to 20,000 pieces of cloth were produced 

The clothmakers had something more than an economic 
importance. From their numbers they formed a con- 
siderable portion of the population of the town, which at 
that time contained nearly 1,000 houses ; so that in the 
"flourishing period" from one-quarter to one-half of the 
houses belonged to the clothmaker masters ; in any case 
they possessed more than 230, and probably nearer 600. 

The manufacture of cloth had become an important 
industry, and the trade was in the hands of great merchants. 
This was nothing unusual ; but the proximity of the Zwickau 
weavers to the workers in the Saxon mines was a unique 
circumstance, and the rebellious, defiant spirit of the latter 
must have given courage to the journeymen clothmakers, 
while the communistic enthusiasm of the latter must in its 
' E. Herzog, Chronik cier Krcisstadt Zwickau, vol. i. p. 234. 


turn have infected the miners. We cannot wonder there- 
fore that the communists in and about Zwickau were 
the first during the Reformation in Germany to dare to 
assert themselves openly. As early as 1520 we find an 
organised community there with chiefs, called " Apostles," as 
among the Waldenses. The long yearning for the millen- 
nium now appeared to them to be on the eve of gratification, 
through the medium of a frightful visitation from God — 
a violent revolution. Though their principal adherents were 
the clothmakers of the town, they gained followers from 
among the miners, and many persons of education also 
joined them, of whom we may mention Max Stiibner, who 
had studied at Wittenberg with one of the " Apostles." 
Their leader was the weaver Nicholas Storch. 

They also acquired some influence beyond Zwickau, and 
even in Wittenberg itself, where, besides the lower classes, 
some idealists joined the agitation. At that time class 
antagonism in the Reformation had not shown themselves; 
it still bore the aspect, on the one hand, of a national move- 
ment without distinction of class, while, on the other hand, 
it appeared as a purely religious struggle for the purification 
of the Church and the re-establishment of evangelical Chris- 

We have pointed out how easy it was for the idealists 
(who were not directly interested in exploiting the lower 
classes) to show their sympathy with the communistic move- 
ment at this stage, supported as it was by early Christian 

The enthusiasts of Zwickau made a deep impression even 
upon Melancthon, Luther's friend and fellow-worker. *' One 
sees by many signs," said he, " that firm spirits dwell in 
them." He wrote to the Elector Frederick about Nicholas 
Storch : — " I have observed about him thus much, that he 
has the true conception of the Scriptures, with the noblest 
and highest articles of the faith ; he has also a great gift of 
speaking." Frederick himself, in consequence of the demean- 
our of the theologians, did not know rightly what to think of 
the enthusiasts. Melancthon was clever enough not to com- 
promise himself, but to leave to Luther the decision upon 


the true character of these enthusiastic spirits. But he felt 
himself so drawn towards them that he took one of the 
"Apostles" (the Stubner mentioned above) into his house. 
Luther could not tell him much about the Zwickau sect at 
first ; he lived on the Wartburg, where he was awaiting the 
results of the ban of the Empire which had been promulgated 
against him. What the Brethren were driving at however 
was made clear to him soon enough, and he came forward 
energetically against them. 

Luther's friend and colleague, Karlstadt, favoured these 
enthusiasts far more decidedly than did Melancthon. The 
Lutheran movement advanced much too slowly for Karl- 
stadt's revolutionary vehemence. He took up the contest 
against the celibacy of the priests and the Latin Mass much 
earlier than Luther, who only followed his lead with hesita- 
tion. He went further than merely denouncing sacred 
pictures and the keeping of Lent. Quite in the Beghard and 
Taborite manner, the learned Professor condemned every 
form of scholarship, declaring that it was not the learned, 
but the working classes, who should preach the gospel ; the 
former should learn from the latter, and the high-schools 
ought to be shut. 

By far the most prominent among the adherents of the 
Apostle of Zwickau, however, was Thomas Miinzer. From 
the year 1521 to 1525 he was the centre of the whole com- 
munistic movement in Germany. His figure rises so con- 
spicuously in all its concerns, its history is so closely connected 
with him, and all contemporary evidence about it refers so 
exclusively to him, that we will follow the usual method and 
relate Miinzer's history, as the history of the communistic 
movement in the first years of the Reformation. 

IV. Mtlnser's Biographers. 

Our information about Miinzer is very scanty, as is the 
case with so many unsuccessful revolutionists both before and 
after him. Notices of him are not lacking, but they come 
chiefly from his enemies, and are consequently malicious and 
untrustworthy. The best-known sources of enlightenment 


are the passages in Melancthon's Historie Thome Muntzers, 
des anfengers der Doringischen vffrur, sehr niitzlich zu lesen, 
&c., which seems to have been published in the same year 
(1525) in which the insurrection was suppressed. This 
account is given in nearly all the editions containing a full 
collection of Luther's works. We all know how a time- 
serving dependent of a prince of that epoch would be likely 
to write about the prince's most dangerous enemy. Melanc- 
thon had special cause for animosity, since he had long 
coquetted with the associates of Miinzer as we have already 
seen ; he had even received and answered letters from 
Miinzer himself, and was obliged to expiate his offence by 
redoubled indignation. 

Accuracy was not the chief object of the " gentle Melanc- 
thon," his only desire being to abuse Miinzer. Even on 
matters of indifferent interest, his statements are wholly 

Sleidan and Gnodalius have simply copied these state- 
ments, and from them they have been repeated in the later 
histories of that period. Miinzer was only seen in a true 
light after the French Revolution, which roused the Pastor 
G. Th. Strobel, of Wohrdt (Bavaria) to a study of the 
Peasant War, and particularly of the Miinzer sedition. 
This led to the discovery of the omissions and contradictions 
in Melancthon's statements, which Strobel sought as much as 
possible to rectify in his own writings {Leben, Schriften^ und 
Lehren Thomae Milntzers, des Urhebers des Bauernaufstandes 
in Thuringen. Nurenberg and Altorf, 1795). This work is 
the first scientific monograph on Miinzer, and that written by 
Pastor Seidemann (who published a memoir in 1842) can 
alone be compared with it. ( Tho7nas Miinzer, cine Biographie^ 
nach den im koniglich sdchsischen Hauptstaatsarchiv zu 
Dresden vorhandenen Quellen bearbeitet. Dresden and Leipzic.) 
Seidemann has brought forward a number of new arguments; 
but in the title of his work he promises more than he 
performs, for in most of the particulars he relies upon Strobel, 
from whom he frequently takes excerpts without mentioning 
their author. 

The most recent work on Miinzer is by O. Merx {Thomas 


Miinzer und Heinrich Pfeifer, 1 5 2 3- 1 5 2 5 . Gottingen, 1 889), 
a doctor's dissertation, the author of which misses no oppor- 
tunity of bringing his loyal opinions to light. This brief 
memoir gives a few details and some chronologically accurate 
statements, which till then had been buried in contemporary 
writings or in collections of scattered materials. But it deals 
wholly with the mere surface of events, and displays no com- 
prehension whatever of Munzer's purpose or achievements. 

All the other monographs on Miinzer which we have come 
across are scientifically worthless ; but the most pitiable of 
all is a discourse by Professor Leo, Thomas Miinzer, given by 
order of the Evangelical Society in Berlin, 1856. He has 
merely copied Seidemann, but has interlarded his statements 
with servile malevolence. The spirit of Melancthon's writings 
appears throughout his discourse, as it does in most of the 
records of that period down to Janssen and Lamprecht. 

We have met with but one among the independent 
accounts of Miinzer, which has correctly estimated the 
historical importance of the man and his personality. It is 
that which Zimmermann gives us in his Geschichte des Grossen 
Bauef'nkrieges, a work never yet equalled, much less sur- 
passed, in spite of the fact that more than half a century has 
elapsed since its publication, and although a few of its details 
were already well known. 

Friedrich Engels has given an account of the Peasant War 
based upon Zimmermann's work, and with it also a narrative 
of Thomas Munzer's deeds, in a publication which first 
appeared in the sixth number of the review. Die Neue 
Rheinische Zeitung, Hamburg, 1880, and which since then 
has repeatedly appeared in pamphlet form under the title of 
Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg. Although (as he admits in his 
preface) Engels gathered his data from Zimmermann, he 
elaborated them independently on the basis of the material- 
istic conception of history, and with the recent experience 
furnished him by the revolution of 1 848, by which means he 
acquired a great many new and important glimpses into the 
causes of the Peasant War, which we have found of the 
utmost importance in the following account. 

On one point — and that certainly an essential one — we 



cannot agree with Zimmermann. He holds that Mtinzer was 
ahead of his age and superior to it. " Mtinzer was three 
centuries in advance of his time, not only in his political but 
also in his religious views." ^ 

Zimmermann came to this conviction after comparing 
Miinzer's opinions with those of more modern thinkers, such 
as Penn, Zinzendorf, Rousseau, &c. Had he compared them 
with the earlier communistic sects, he would have found that 
Miinzer moved entirely within their sphere of thought; 
indeed we have not succeeded in discovering a single new 
idea in him. 

In our judgment also the importance of the man as an 
organiser and propagandist has been much overrated. The 
persecution of the Beghards and Waldenses, which had not 
ceased, indicates that not only the opinions, but also the 
organisations of the communistic sects, had been preserved 
up to the time of the Reformation. We may assume that, 
contemporaneously with Mtinzer, perhaps indeed before him, 
as was notorious in Zwickau, countless agitators and organi- 
sers were active in promulgating the same opinions, and that 
in many places secret associations were already in existence, 
upon whom they could rely for support. 

Mtinzer surpassed his communistic confederates not only 
in philosophic conceptions and in the talent for organising, 
but in his revolutionary energy, and especially in his states- 
manlike discernment. The communists in the Middle Ages 
were universally inclined to peace. In revolutionary times it 
is true they were easily carried away by the fever of sedition. 
When the Reformation set the whole of Germany in a mighty 
blaze the communists did not remain unaffected by it, but 
many of them appeared to doubt the efficacy of violent 
measures — the South Germans in particular, as they were 
influenced by the Swiss Anabaptists, who were decidedly 
opposed to Mtinzer's opinion that force alone could procure 
the spread of the gospel. They wanted to fight with spiritual 
weapons only — to " conquer the world with the Word of 
God," as they expressed it at the time. We shall revert to 
this in the chapter which deals with the Anabaptists. 
' Op. cit. 2nd ed., vol. i. p. 162. 


■ Munzer was very far from displaying this peaceful dis- 
position. His vehemence and energy could not be surpassed, 
though at the same time he was anything but a simpleton or 
narrow-minded sectarian. He had a very good knowledge of 
the existing situation, and amidst all his mystical enthusiasm 
did not fail to reckon with facts. Moreover, very far from 
limiting his operations to a small community of true believers, 
he appealed to all the revolutionary elements of his time, and 
sought to make them serve his purpose. 

He failed in his purpose it is true, but his failure was due 
to circumstances beyond his control. He did what he could 
with the means at his command, and that an insurrection of 
unarmed peasants in Thuringia, in 1525, could for a time 
threaten the very foundations of existing society was owing, 
in no small degree, to Thomas Mlinzer — to his extravagant 
communistic enthusiasm, combined with an iron determi- 
nation, passionate impetuosity, and statesmanlike sagacity. 

V. Manser's Early Years. 

Munzer was born at Stolberg, at the foot of the Hartz 
Mountains, in 1490 or 1493.^ All information as to his 
youth and early studies is lacking. It is certain that he 
pursued a literary course with success, as he obtained a 
Doctor's degree. He became a priest, but his rebellious 
nature soon declared itself ; for in Halle, where he worked as 
a teacher, he instituted a league against Ernest H., Arch- 
bishop of Magdeburg and Primate of Germany ; and when 
this high functionary died, in 15 13, Munzer could not have 
been more than twenty-three years old. In 1515 we find him 
Provost in Frohsa, near Aschensleben, apparently in a 
nunnery, where, however, he did not remain long. After 
numerous journeyings in all directions, he finally arrived at a 
convent in Beutitz, near Weissenfels, to which he had been 
appointed confessor. Even there he seems to have soon lost 
patience and to have left the place ; for in 1520 he became 
a preacher in Zwickau, with the consent of Luther, whose 

' Seidemann says it was in 1490, but Zimmermann has found it also 
stated as occurring in 1493. 


struggle against Rome was taken up passionately by the 
young enthusiast and reformer. This residence in Zwickau 
decided his future career. 

At first he was a preacher at the Church of St. Mary, and 
subsequently at St. Catherine's, in which, as Seidemann says, 
" he was an interloper." This fact has seemed very unimpor- 
tant hitherto, but it does not appear so to us, for the Church 
of St. Catherine was, to a certain extent, the centre of the 
journeymen clothmakers' quarter. They had set up their 
own altar there in 1475, and the guild had endowed the 
benefice with a dwelling-house and a yearly stipend of thirty- 
five florins for the priest. The weavers held their assemblies 
in the churchyard. The Church of St. Mary, on the other 
hand, appears to have been the place of worship for the 
moneyed classes. 

Whether a leaning towards the journeymen clothmakers 
prompted Miinzer to solicit the post of preacher in their 
church, or whether his opinions were the consequence of that 
step, cannot now be decided. It is certain that, as their 
preacher, he came into the closest intercourse with them, 
learned their views, and was immediately influenced in the 
highest degree by them. A report ^ of his dealings with the 
journeymen clothmakers was published in 1523, in which we 
are told that " the journeymen cling to him, and he has held 
more meetings with them than with the esteemed priest- 
hood. Thus it appears that Master Thomas has shown 
preference for the journeymen, chiefly for one named Nicholas 
Storch, whom he praised highly from the pulpit, and has 
depicted in glowing colours, exalting him above the priests 
as if he was the only one who had a knowledge of the Bible 
and was deeply imbued with its spirit. Master Thomas at 
the same time extolled himself, declaring that he was eager 
for the truth and possessed the Holy Spirit. It is in con- 
sequence of this unseemly conduct that Storch as well as 
Thomas has dared to establish conventicles after the manner 
of the Beghards, who set up a cobbler or a tailor to preach. 
Hence the choice of Nicholas Storch arose through the in- 

' To be found in the Appendix of Seidemann's work, Miinzer, 
p. 109, sqq. 


fluence of Master Thomas, who declared his approval of the 
doctrine that the laity ought to become our prelates and 
pastors, and be responsible for the faith. Such was the 
origin of the Storchists, a sect which increased so much 
among the laity that it was openly said they had formed an 
association of twelve apostles and seventy-two disciples." 

This was a bold step of the communists, and necessarily 
led to a conflict. So long as Miinzer had thundered against 
the rich priests he had won the applause of the municipal 
council and the citizens, but now things were to be changed. 

The contest shortly assumed the aspect of a religious 
war between the two churches — the weavers' church, St. 
Catherine, and that of the moneyed class, St. Mary ; as a 
matter of fact, it was a conflict between their respective 
preachers, Miinzer and Johann Wildenau von Eger (Egranus). 
A dispute between the two began in the year 1520. Either 
Wildenau was really the debauched person described by his 
adversary, or else he did not find sufficient support among 
the citizens ; in any case, he gave way to Miinzer in the 
spring of 1521. 

This success made the journeymen clothmakers bolder, 
but it must also have made the municipal council and the 
burgesses more uneasy, and in consequence more inclined to 
use forcible measures. An opportunity for these was soon 
found in a weavers' riot, in which, however, Miinzer was not 
in the least interested, if we are to credit his letter to Luther 
of July 9, 1523. Fifty-five journeymen clothmakers were 
put in prison, while those who were most implicated fled, and 
Miinzer was banished. Nicholas Storch and others left 
Zwickau also, either at the same time or soon after, as the 
place had become too hot for them. Going to Wittenberg, 
where they arrived in December, 1521, they entered into 
correspondence with Melancthon and Karlstadt, as we have 
seen. Miinzer, on the contrary, turned towards Prague, 
where he hoped to find associates in the land of the Tabo- 
rites and a fruitful soil for his ministry. 

But Bohemia had become a worse soil for Taborite teach- 
ings than even Saxony. The valiant democracy had long 
since been crushed in decisive battles with the great aristoc- 


racy, and the last remnant of the democratic communism 
which had influenced the Bohemian Brethren had been dis- 
torted beyond recognition, the middle-class interest having 
overpowered the proletariat. 

Prague was the last place in the world for a man like 
Miinzer. Even at the time when the power of the Taborites 
was at its highest point, the town proved at best but a luke- 
warm friend, while, as a rule, it was a decided enemy to 
Taboritism. Now it had become a strong pillar of the ruling 

Miinzer reached Prague in the autumn, and after having 
posted up an appeal to the Bohemians, began preaching with 
the help of an interpreter. Scarcely had he become the 
object of attention, however, when his freedom as a preacher 
came to an abrupt end. He was placed under police super- 
vision (being accompanied by four guards at a time), and 
was soon afterwards banished from the town, which he quitted 
January 25, 1522. 

VI. Miinzer in Allstdtt. 

From Bohemia Miinzer returned to Saxony, staying a short 
time in Nordhausen, and finally going to Allstatt Like 
Zwickau, this place was situated close to a great mining 
district — the copper, silver, and gold mines of Mansfeld. 
We may assume that the miners, bold and trained to the use 
of arms, supported the proletarian tendencies of Allstatt, and 
that Munzer's agitation was favoured by their proximity. 
Hunted as he was from place to place, Miinzer certainly 
found Allstatt a spot where he could work under en- 
couraging conditions. He soon gained a firm footing as a 
preacher, and we may consider it as a sign of his confidence 
in the future that he married one of the nuns, named Otilie 
von Gersen, who had quitted the cloister (Easter, 1523). 

In the midst of these personal matters, however, Miinzer 
did not forget the object to which he had devoted himself. 
He arranged an order of Divine Service entirely in German, 
being the first among the German reformers who did so, and 
permitted all the books of the Bible to be read aloud and 
taken as subjects for sermons, and not the New Testament 



only. The Old Testament, republican as it is in many of its 
parts, suited the democratic sects better than the New Testa- 
ment, which is the product of a Roman imperial association ; 
and this predilection for the Old Testament can be traced 
from the Taborites down to the Puritans. 

The " hypocritical papistic confessional " was abolished, and 
the Holy Communion administered in both kinds. 

The whole of the congregation were to assist in Divine 
Service, the privileged position of the priest being done away 
with. " Our adversaries say that we teach the plough-boys 
from the field to celebrate Mass," says Miinzer himself 

We find this remark in the first extant pamphlet of his 
which treats of the new order of Divine Service just 
mentioned : Ordnung und Berechnung des teutschen ainpts zu 
Alstddt durch Toman Miinzer, Slc. Alstedt, 1524. 

Two other publications deal with the same subject, the 
Deutsch Evangelische Messe and Deutzsch Kirchenanipt, &c. 
Alstedt, probably 1 524. In addition to these, Munzer published 
in Allstatt two propagandist pamphlets, the Protestation and 
Erdichteten Glauben. 

There are also two letters of that time worthy of mention. 
One (which was to be circulated), dated the i8th of July, 
1523 : "an earnest epistle to his dear brother at Stolberg to 
avoid unbecoming tumult," and exhorting the Fraternity to be 
patient, as they had not yet attained to a right frame of mind. 
" It is an exceeding folly that so many of the chosen friends 
of God should suppose that He would haste to do good to 
Christendom and come instantly to its help, when no one 
longs for it, or is really striving to become poor in spirit 
through suffering and steadfastness." The people were still 
too well off. It must be worse with them before it could be 
better, for " God ordains that tyrants should rage in order 
that the elect may be filled with a fervent desire to seek Him. 
The man who has not believed against belief, hoped against 
hope, hated contrary to the love of God, knows not that God 
Himself will show mankind what is necessary for them." In 
conclusion, he blames the brothers for their luxury and want 
of firmness. " I understand that you are vainglorious, idle in 
study, and are shirking your duties. When you drink, you 


chatter about our cause, but when you are sober you are as 
frightened as cowards. Mend your lives, dearest brothers, in 
these things. Shun riotous living ; flee the flesh with all its 
desires ; be bolder than you have been, and write to me how 
you have traded with your pound." 

The other letter, an exposition of the 19th Psalm, he 
wrote in May, 1524; and it was published in 1525 by 
Johannes Agricola of Eisleben, in order to prejudice the 
people against Mtinzer and prove to them " that all the world 
may perceive how the devil intends to make himself equal 
with God." ^ It does not contain any remarkable ideas which 
had not been expressed under different forms in Munzer's 
writings at that time. 

The exposition of the second chapter of Daniel, which also 
appeared at Allstatt, will be noticed in due course. 

The first of these publications (the Ordnung des deutschen 
Amis) contains all the essential characteristics of the Mtinzer 
philosophy ; his mysticism, disdain of the Bible, contempt of 
learned men, and finally his pantheism and religious tolerance. 
But he disdained the Bible only in so far as it is not supported 
by the voice of interior revelation, which could only be won 
through suffering — through asceticism. 

We have already given examples of his mysticism. 

The following passage shows his pantheism clearly enough : 
" He " (man) " must and ought to know that God is in him ; 
he is not to imagine Him to be a thousand miles away, but 
that heaven and earth are full, full of God ; that the Father 
unceasingly forms the Son in us ; and the Holy Spirit, 
through heart-felt sorrow, interprets in us none other than 
the Crucified." 

MUnzer's religious tolerance is evident from the following 
injunction : " No one ought to be surprised that we celebrate 
the Mass in German at Allstatt. We are not the only ones 
who make use of a ritual differing from the Roman ; at 
Mediolan [Milan] in Lombardy, many have a mode of cele- 
brating Mass different from that in use at Rome. The Croats, 
Bohemians, Armenians, &c., celebrate Mass in their own 

' Aiisslegung dcs XIX. Psalms Coeli enarrant diirch Thomas Miintzcr an 
syner crsten ■Jungcr aincn, Wittenberg, 1525. 


tongue ; the Russians have quite other genuflexions, and yet 
they are not devils on that account. Ah ! what blind, 
ignorant beings we are, that we should dare to be Christians 
in external pomp only, and quarrel with one another over 
it, like mad, brute creatures." Even the heathen and Turk 
are not worse than Christians. God will "not despise our 
retrograde, dull Roman brothers." 

These are assuredly great and deep thoughts for that era ; 
but they are not peculiar to Munzer. We find pantheistic 
mysticism in earlier times among the brothers and sisters of 
the Free-Spirit. 

Even Munzer's religious tolerance had its forerunners, for 
we know that it had astonished ^neas Sylvius among the 
Taborites, and was also advocated by the Bohemian Fraternity. 
This religious tolerance was, nevertheless, interpreted in a 
very limited sense. It was impossible that it could extend 
to every religious question, at an epoch when all the great 
causes of contentions in the State and in society appeared 
under the garb of religion. Munzer hated all hypocritical 
tolerance behind which timidity and lack of character con- 
cealed themselves. " There is nothing upon earth," he ex- 
claims, " that has a better shape and mask than imaginary 
goodness, and this is the reason why all corners of the earth 
are full of hypocrites, amongst whom none are bold enough 
to venture to speak the truth. T/ze godless have no right to 
live^ except in so far as they are permitted to do so by the elect!' ^ 
This passage seems a contradiction to the other which shows 
Munzer's toleration, but the contradiction vanishes when one 
considers to what this toleration is applied. It applies simply 
to international relations ; it is the result of his acknowledg- 
ment of the sovereignty of the people. Every nation, he 
declares, may organise its religion as it thinks proper ; it is a 
matter of indifference to us. What concern is it of ours if the 
Turks and heathen believe what they please, or if the " retro- 
grade Roman brothers " celebrate the Mass in their own way. 
We wish for nothing except that we should be allowed to 
regulate our own affairs according to our necessities. No 

' Exposition of the second mystery of Daniel (.4 usmegung des andern 
Unterschiedes Daniels). 


animosity therefore ought to exist against foreign nations. 
Munzer's proclamation of relentless class-war in their own 
country is not by any means in contradiction to this opinion. 

But this statement is taken from one of his later writings ; 
those hitherto given are of a peaceful character — as peaceful 
as is possible to a fiery soul. They are propagandist writings, 
dealing principally with questions of religion and church 
organisation, and containing no revolutionary threats or 
appeals. Mtinzer was not yet a rebel, nor even in open 
opposition to authority. He had, however, quarrelled with 
Luther, personal rivalry being apparently the cause. 

Perhaps no period proved so distinctly how little Luther's 
personal initiative gave rise to the Reformation as the years 
1522 and 1523.^ 

He not only allowed himself to be driven by circumstances 
without recognising their inner connection, but he was even 
outstripped in the career on which he had entered by others. 
While he remained in quiet contemplation on the Wartburg 
and translated the Bible, the energetic elements of Witten- 
berg, led by Karlstadt, and influenced by the Zwickau 
enthusiasts who happened to be in that town, forestalled the 
practical results of a conflict with Rome by abolishing 
celibacy, monastic vows, fasting, the adoration of pictures, 
private Masses, &c., so that later on Luther had nothing to 
do but to accept and sanction these reforms ; that is in so far 
as he did not abrogate them. 

One year after these occurrences at Wittenberg, the man 
who already considered himself to be the leader in the 
struggle for " Gospel truth," allowed himself to be surpassed 
by Miinzer in one matter — the order of Divine Service in 
German ; for the latter introduced it into Allstatt and with 
such success that there was nothing for Luther to do but to 
copy it. He did not wish, however, to appear before the 
world as an imitator ; Munzer's innovation must be kept 
out of sight till his own copy of it was established. There 
was a simple way of securing this end, of which Miinzer 
himself speaks in his apology iSchutzrede) wherein he 
accuses Luther of having, through jealousy, " induced his 
Prince not to permit my Service to be printed." 


This accusation Luther never answered. 

The rivalry of the two reformers did not tend to make their 
intercourse more friendly. But the true ground of their 
differences lay deeper. 

Luther had not yet taken any decided action with regard 
to the democracy, not being certain of the side to which the 
reins of power would fall. But his civic instinct was too 
much developed for him not to see ^/zai communistic sectarians 
should in no case be permitted to thrive. 

He had recognised this as early as 1522, when the Zwickau 
enthusiasts had begun to gain influence in Wittenberg ; but 
as neither Melancthon nor the Prince Elector had taken 
any decided stand, it became impossible for him to remain 
any longer on the Wartburg. Hastening, therefore, to Wit- 
tenberg early in 1522, he dispersed these dangerous people, 
Storch going to South Germany, where he disappeared. 
Luther sought to silence Karlstadt in the same way as he 
had silenced Miinzer, and caused his writings to be confiscated 
by the authorities. In consequence of this, Karlstadt betook 
himself first to the country near Wittenberg, where he bought 
a property and wished to live as a peasant among peasants, 
desiring them no longer to call him doctor, but neighbour 
Andreas. We soon find him again, however, actively 
agitating and organising with great success in Orlamiinda, 
where he regulated the Church community on wholly 
democratic principles, and made a clean sweep of all 
Catholic ceremonies. 

When Miinzer appeared again in Allstatt, Luther, who 
knew of his connection with the people of Zwickau, could 
not but look upon him with distrust, which increased in 
proportion to Miinzer's importance. Moreover, the stings 
of jealousy contributed greatly to render Luther extremely 
indignant. But the man was difficult to get at. In vain 
Luther summoned him to Wittenberg for the purpose of 
examining him ; Miinzer declared that he would only appear 
among a community in which he was in no danger. 

Since Miinzer would not go to Wittenberg, the Saxon 
Princes (Frederick, with his brother and co-regent, the Duke 
John) came to Allstatt, induced to do so by the disturbances 


which had taken place in the neighbourhood of that town. 
They not only attempted nothing against Miinzer, however, 
but even permitted him to deliver an oration before them, 
which was bolder than had ever been made before reigning 
princes. This speech alone suffices to contradict the gossip 
about Miinzer's cowardice, which is traceable through all the 
anti-democratic statements concerning his movements. 

Far from disavowing his revolutionary views, Miinzer in his 
oration declared revolution necessary, adding that it was best 
for the Princes to place themselves at its head, otherwise the 
rebellious people would stride over them. This discourse 
displayed no very great confidence that the reigning Princes 
would act upon the appeal, but it nevertheless proves that 
Miinzer did not consider it as wholly impossible to gain at 
least the Prince Elector to his side.^ 

The Prince Elector indeed showed great indulgence 
towards these popular movements, as we have seen in the 
case of the Zwickau enthusiasts. To this circumstance it 
is possibly due that Miinzer was dismissed unhurt by the 
Regents, though perhaps this may have been also owing to 
the consideration which Miinzer enjoyed in Allstatt. Duke 
John possessed far more class-feeling than his brother 
Frederick, and when Miinzer published his discourse 2 fell 
into such a rage that he exiled Nicholas Widemar of Eilen- 
burg, the printer of Miinzer's pamphlets, from Saxon terri- 
tories. In vain Miinzer protested against this in a letter 
dated July 13th. Widemar was prohibited from printing 
anything whatsoever without the sanction of the authorities 
at Weimar. 

' " If you would be a true regent, you must begin your government 
at the roots," The roots of idolatry must be destroyed. The sword is 
the means of exterminating the godless. " In order that this should be 
done honestly and in accordance with the law, it must be done by our 
dear fathers, the Princes who profess Christ with us. If, however, they 
do not do it, the sword will be taken from them- (Daniel vii.), for they 
profess Him with their lips and deny Him by their deeds." After this 
he spoke against hypocritical tolerance, concluding with the appeal : 
" Only be bold ! He Himself will rule to whom all power is given in 
heaven and in earth, as St. Matthew says in his last chapter. May He 
keep and guard you to all eternity. Amen." 

^ Ausslegung des andern untcrsyds Danidis des propheten. 


The only effect on Miinzer's resolute nature was that he 
had a new propagandist pamphlet printed in the neighbour- 
ing town of Mlihlhausen, where a popular movement had just 
been victorious ; it was entitled, " An unveiling of the False 
Beliefs of the Faithless World.''^ 

On the title-page he calls himself " Miinzer with the 
Hammer," in allusion to a passage in Jeremiah xxiii. 29, in 
which the Lord says, "Is not My word . . . like a hammer 
that breaketh the rock in pieces ?" " Dear brethren," he 
continues, further on in the title-page, " let us also make the 
hole wider, to the end that all the world may see and 
understand who are those great ones of the earth who talk 
so blasphemously of God, and have made Him like to a 
painted dummy." 

This shows the whole character of the pamphlet. It begins 
with a polemic against the clergy, who deceive the poor ; 
and advises the latter to emancipate themselves from 
priestly rule. " Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. 
Whoever taketh honours and goods into possession will 
be eternally lost to God at the last, as God declares in the 
5th Psalm, that their heart * is very wickedness,' For this 
shall the violent and sullen men be thrust from their seats. 
The government and authority of godless, foolish men storm 
and rage against God and His Anointed," yea, some few are 
now beginning to " put their people into the stocks, into the 
pillory, and to scourge and flog them, and, worse than all, to 
threaten all Christians, and to torture and ignominiously put 
to death their own people as well as strangers, so that, after 
all the troubles of the elect, God will neither be able nor 
willing to behold such misery any longer." God puts more 
on His own people than they are able to bear, and it must 
and will end very soon. 

The Princes are the scourges with which God punishes the 
world in His wrath. " Therefore they are nothing else than 
executioners and warders. That is their whole office." 

It is not they who are to be feared, but God. But no 
one need despair of God. With Him nothing is impossible, 

' Aussgetruckte emplossung des falschen Glatibcns dcr vngetrewen Welt. 
Thomas Miinzer mit Hammer. Miihlhausen, 1524. 


not even the triumph of communistic revolution. " Many 
people may fancy it to be a very wild delusion. It seems 
to them impossible that such an undertaking should be set on 
foot and accomplished as the putting down the godless 
from the seat of judgment, and exalting them of low degree. 
Indeed it is a grand belief notwithstanding, and will yet 
do a great deal of good." The impossible will become 
possible, "and it may establish a refined society such as 
was contemplated by Plato the Philosopher {De Republica), 
and Apuleius of the Golden Ass." 

The remainder of the pamphlet is only repetition. If we 
compare it with Miinzer's earlier publications in Allstatt, a 
marked difference is observable. The Exposition of the 
second chapter of Daniel forms a transition stage between 
the latter and the former. The question now for Miinzer 
was rather how to urge on and incite his associates, than 
to convince and persuade those who did not share his views. 
And it is no longer ecclesiastical, but political and social 
revolution to which he attaches the greater importance. 
The Exposition was an attempt to enlist the Princes in favour 
of the subject of revolution ; but now the Princes are the 
chief enemy and not the Pope, and the question was no 
longer of vague conceptions of the " Gospel," but of pure 
communism " such as was contemplated by Plato the 
Philosopher," whose work on the State, Miinzer must there- 
fore have known. 

This change of purport and tone in Miinzer's agitation had 
certainly been brought about in part through his conflict with 
the Princes, which plainly showed him that he could accom- 
plish his designs only by resisting his rulers. But perhaps in 
a considerably greater degree the cause for this change 
probably lies deeper still, being based upon the general 
change of conditions ; for just at that time the first feeble 
flicker of the Peasant War was showing itself It was now 
becoming a question of acting, not merely of preaching. 

VII. The Origin of the Great Peasant War. 

We have already had occasion to speak of the antagonisms 
which led to the peasant wars, but it now becomes necessary 


to point out how the position of the German peasantry at the 
beginning of the sixteenth century differed from that of their 

The period of the Hussite Wars may be fairly considered 
as approximately the line of demarcation at which the decline 
of the peasantry began, not only at different periods and 
in isolated localities, but universally. 

We see the principal cause of this in the growth of capital, 
and in the autocratic power of princes with which it was 

The inevitable consequence of the development of pro- 
duction and trade in commodities was the increase of capital. 
Capital, and above all commercial capital, requires a strong 
government to ensure the home market and to make com- 
petition in the world's emporiums possible. Hence the 
capitalists supported the development of autocratic princely 
power, with its two great tools, bureaucracy and mercenary 
troops. They assisted the princes in their conflicts with 
the undisciplined masses not with their persons, but rather 
with their purses, while the latter on their part sought 
to maintain their hard-won freedom and rights ; the nobles 
and the Church being ranged on one side and the peasants 
and petty townsmen on the other. In this struggle 
it was very much to the advantage of the princes and 
capitalists that • the antagonistic classes themselves thus 
stood in sharp opposition to each other, and were in a 
state of embittered conflict. 

Capitalists and princes managed to make all these classes 
more and more dependent on them. Every one sought to 
throw off his own burden, which thus fell finally with re- 
doubled weight on the lowest ranks of the people ; ie., the 
city proletarians and the peasants, these forming the great 
mass of the population. The revolution in prices increased 
the effect of these burdens. 

But while the pressure on the lower classes was augmented, 
their power of resistance was at the same time diminished. 
If the position of the peasants themselves was improved 
in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they did not 
owe it to the flourishing condition of the towns, particularly 



the numerous small country towns, in which they found a 
support against the common enemy. During the fifteenth 
century, in Germany, the towns fell more and more into 
dependence on the princes, their independence being finally 
lost by the end of the century. The comparatively small 
number which had managed to guard their freedom were 
mostly large cities, the ruling classes of which had them- 
selves taken the most active interest in the peasant 
exploitation. These republican cities (and among them 
Nurenberg was by far the most important) were as much 
in favour of the princes as Prague had been during the 
Hussite Wars ; but the small town-bourgeois had been the 
backbone of democracy, and in proportion as these lost 
their independence the democratic parties lost their strength 

But the modification of town life made the position of 
the peasants worse in yet another way during the fifteenth 
century. Till the fourteenth century, the towns had been 
the places of refuge which stood open to the peasantry. 
This compelled the landowners, if they did not wish to 
lose their labourers, to attach the peasants to themselves ; 
when possible by force, but where force would have failed 
by kind treatment. 

All this was now changed. In the fifteenth century the 
closing of the guilds against the far too great influx of 
labourers became more general. This led to the oppression 
not only of the unorganised town proletariat, but of the 
peasantry likewise. The path to prosperity in the towns 
being thus closed to them, it is not surprising that antagonisms 
should spring up between the petty citizens and the towns 
and the peasantry, sometimes indeed bridged over by 
alliances against their common enemies — the Church, the 
nobles, princes, capitalists — alliances which, however, made 
their friendship even then a very cool one. 

The more the towns ceased to be places of refuge for 
the peasantry, the less necessity there was for the land- 
owners to be careful of them, for they felt they had a hold 
on them, since they had nothing to gain in the towns and 
were not completely destitute in the country. The towns 


were becoming more and more closed even to the proletarians. 
A country proletariat now came into existence, which was 
increased by the diminution and dispersion of the feudal 
retainers, a natural consequence of the advance into the 
country of the production of commodities, and the thirst 
for gold connected with it. The reigning princes promoted 
this advance wherever they could do so, in order to lessen 
the independence of the nobles, which was a danger to them. 

But the development of production in commodities gave 
also a greater value to the land ; on the one side prompting 
the country communes to be exclusive, and on the other 
side causing the landowners to lay claim to and appropriate 
the common property of the commune as their own private 

Let us now consider what all this means. The places of 
refuge for landless people became closed ; at the same time 
the number of landless people was increased by the natural 
growth of the population, by the dispersion of the retainers 
of the nobility, and by the ever-growing burden on the 
peasantry through State taxation, demands of landlords 
and the interest of usurers. Hence we cannot wonder that 
the country proletariat rapidly augmented. 

Moreover, it was chiefly the ragged proletariat from which 
sprang beggars and swindlers, as well as robbers and 

In the fourteenth century the mercenaries had still been to 
a large extent the younger sons of peasants, seeking for 
adventure and booty, who returned to their peasant condition 
after a few years of military service ; they shared the class- 
interests of their kin, and were therefore not available for 
military service against the peasantry — at least in their own 
country. After their return from war, they augmented the 
number of peasants capable of bearing arms. In the fif- 
teenth century the ragged proletariat became more and more 
prominent among the soldiery ; the unclassed, so to speak, 
who no longer recognised any class-interests, but went 
through thick and thin for their masters, and were everything 
to every one — so long as they were paid. 

The military capacity for resistance on the part of the 


peasants must have been diminished by this mercenary spirit 
and lack of class-feeHng, and even to a greater degree by the 
development which had taken place in the art of war. We 
have already seen how the Taborites revolutionised this art, 
and it developed still further in the line adopted by them, for 
it became increasingly important to exercise the population 
in the use of weapons, and to train bodies of men in skilful 
evolutions, in discipline, and in concerted and prompt 
simultaneous operations of the separate divisions of the 
army. These new tactics had made democracy invincible in 
the hands of the Taborites, and now determined the military 
superiority of the opponents of democracy. The regular 
soldier was alone in a position to practise these tactics, for the 
peasants and petty townsmen had no time at their disposal 
during the insurrections occurring in the second half of the 
fifteenth and in the sixteenth centuries, in which to train a 
standing army in their midst, at all comparable with that 
of the Taborites. That side therefore which could pay the 
regular soldier secured the victory. 

The application of gunpowder to military purposes, which 
had made rapid strides since the Hussite Wars, operated 
in a similar way. Gunpowder has been called a democratic 
invention, because it put an end to knighthood ; but we can- 
not discover anything " democratic " in the use made of this 
invention. The influence of gunpowder in breaking the 
power of the lower nobility is often very much over-estimated, 
for it must not be forgotten that it helped quite as much to 
break up the resistance of the peasant troops as that of the 
knightly armies. The economic and military bankruptcy of 
the lower nobility was determined before the use of fire-arms 
had begun to be of essential importance in the art of war. 
The development of fire-arms is the last link in that chain, 
which was forged in the sixteenth century ; after that period 
the one thing most necessary for carrying on war was money, 
money — and once again, money ! To purchase fire-arms for 
the exigencies of war and to employ them for that purpose 
was the privilege of the wealthy possessors of power — i.e., the 
great towns and the princes. They helped to cast down 
knighthood, not in order to favour the peasants and petty 


townsmen, but to afford advantages to capitalists and to 
uphold princely dominance. 

The cost of the military overthrow of the nobles fell upon 
the peasantry. In the fourteenth century the noble had been 
hard pressed from above and from below at the same time ; 
from above by the princes (in alliance with the middle 
class) ; from below by the peasants. Long did he seek to 
defend himself from both ; but finally he submitted to the 
princes, who henceforth undertook the task of keeping his 
peasants down. He sold his independence in order to 
establish his power over his people more firmly for the 

This change in affairs was not carried out everywhere in the 
same way or at the same time. In North Germany, and 
particularly in the eastern portion of it, it was brought about 
much later ; but in South and Central Germany the peasant 
felt its oppressive effects as early as the fifteenth century, and, 
certainly, the nearer we approach to the sixteenth century the 
more down-trodden he became. At the beginning of that 
era his position had become unbearable, according to the 
apprehension of those times, though it differed in many 
respects advantageously from that of the working classes of 
town and country in the present day. 

The increase of rents payable in labour, kind, or money, 
the greater dependence on the lords of the soil, the confisca- 
tion of peasant commune property in field and wood in 
favour of the landlords (the confiscation of the peasant's 
private property took place a little later) could not of course 
be carried out without violent opposition from the despoiled 
people. During the fifteenth century one popular insurrec- 
tion followed another, and they became more frequent and 
more embittered the further the century advanced. 

Then came the Reformation movement, which convulsed 
the whole nation, and united, at least temporarily, all the 
local antagonisms into one national class-opposition which 
extended over almost the whole kingdom. Now also the 
various peasant agitations joined in one single great move- 
ment to throw off the yoke which was crushing them to the 
ground — the last and most powerful of the great strainings 


of every nerve among the lower classes on the European 
continent which had taken place for centuries. 

Putting England out of the question, we do not find a 
similarly grand movement till 1789 in France, where it took 
place under totally different and more favourable condi- 
tions. Irresistible as was the latter revolution, that of 1525 
carried the germs of death deep within it from the very 

With the peasantry other classes rose in arms. Society is 
much too complicated to make it possible for one class alone 
to create a great revolutionary disturbance. Nevertheless 
it is always one class to whose share the vanguard falls ; in 
the present day it is the proletariat ; in 1789 it was the petty 
citizens ; in 1525 the peasantry. 

The allies of the latter we know already; in 1525 the 
same classes fought together which had assembled under the 
banner of the Taborites. Now, as then, a portion of the 
bankrupt lower nobility took their places by the side of the 
rebels, chiefly in prominent positions as leaders ; in which 
position some became heroes through their loyal adherence to 
their convictions (such as Florian Geyer), while others proved 
traitors (like Gotz von Berlichingen). A large portion also of 
the town population joined the peasantry, especially in the 
small towns, the proletariat always being in the front rank. 
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the condition 
of German towns differed from that of the Bohemian in 
the beginning of the fifteenth. The cities were far more 
intellectually advanced, but politically they had lost much of 
their independence, and the proletariat was still the only 
trusty ally of the peasants. The trade-masters and even the 
trade-journeymen had been estranged from them. In 1525, 
therefore, the brunt of the struggle lay more on the peasantry 
than was the case in the Hussite Wars. The towns interfered 
but coldly, and the movement found no such support as was 
offered by Tabor a hundred years before in Bohemia. The 
cities actively expressed their sympathy for the peasantry, not 
in military but in intellectual relations by influencing their 

On the other hand, the insurgents of 1525 found allies 


which the Taborites did -not have — namely, the miners. These 
men lived and worked together in great numbers, possessed 
arms and knew how to make use of them. They were 
trained in warlike evolutions, and accustomed to be kept 
under discipline. From a military point of view they stood 
at a far higher level than all the other ranks of the neighbour- 
ing classes of their day, and wherever they entered into any 
conflict with energy the insurrection remained, in a military 
sense, invincible. 

During the course of the year 1524 every one who was in 
close touch with the peasants saw clearly that matters must 
come to a violent crisis, and to a man like Miinzer this could 
not remain a secret. Every peasant had had the same 
experience as he ; with shouts of joy they had hailed Luther, 
who had allowed himself to be borne along on the tide of 
popularity, stirring up the expectation of all classes. But 
when the common enemy appeared to be vanquished ; when 
the Pope and his protector, the Emperor, had shown their 
own impotence in Worms, 1521 ; when the old authority was 
overturned, and the question was how to bring about the 
new order of things ; when class-antagonisms showed them- 
selves more strongly ; when it became necessary to decide 
the question who should appropriate the fruits of Church 
reform, the lower or the higher classes — then Luther could 
come to no decision so long as he was not compelled to do so. 
From the very first the only determined stand he took was 
against the communistic enthusiasts ; but he resisted every 
attempt of the lower classes to derive material benefit from 
the Reformation, by favouring each step taken by the Princes 
in this direction. They were to become the owners of the 
Church property, not the peasants. " It is not our business to 
attack the monasteries," he writes, " but to draw hearts away 
from them. When, then, churches and monasteries are 
lying deserted, let the reigning princes do with them what 
they please." ^ 

In 1524 it became more and more evident that the lower 
classes had nothing to expect from Luther's Reformation. 

' Luther's complete works. Leipzig, 1729. Vol. xix. p. 240. The 
above was probably written towards the end of July, 1524. 


Only through their own power and an armed force would 
they be able to free themselves from the yoke which was 
weighing so heavily on their shoulders. 

VIII. Miinzet^s Preparations for the Insurrection. 

As soon as it became clear that nothing remained to the 
lower classes but a resort to arms against all exploiters, 
revolutionary as well as reactionary, no one was more zealous 
in preparing for the revolt than Miinzer, whose circumspection, 
energy, and intrepidity, made him the central figure in the 
revolutionary movement of the exploited classes in Thuringia, 
and gave him an extensive influence far beyond the borders 
of that province. 

The activity of the man can be measured by the accusations 
against him which poured into the ears of the reigning 
Princes of Saxony. For example, a certain Friedrich Witz- 
leben complained that his dependents in Wendelstein, Woll- 
merstadt, and Rosleben had sent delegates to Miinzer, asking 
his permission for the formation of a league against their 
master, on the ground that he had prevented their attending 
the Miinzer form of Divine worship. Miinzer gave his 
consent, and very probably showed them how to organise 
themselves. He managed the organisation of the numerous 
and warlike Mansfeld miners, and sent a letter to the subjects 
of Duke George of Saxony at Sangershausen, in which he 
urged them to stand fast to the Gospel {i.e., by the democratic 
cause), and to resist its enemies. 

Miinzer also addressed himself to the Orlamiinders, with a 
view to forming an alliance with Karlstadt, who occupied a 
position similar to his own at Allstatt. But Karlstadt and his 
followers belonged to a party who deprecated all violent 
measures. In a reply, written by the people of Orlamiinda 
" to those at Allstatt," stating how " Christians should fight " 
(printed at Wittenberg, 1524), Karlstadt says: "We will not 
have recourse to swords and spears ; rather should we be 
armed against the enemy with the armour of faith. You 
write that we should join you, and make an alliance with you. 
Were we to do so, we should no longer be free Christians, but 



dependent on men. Such an act would raise a cry of 
' Death to the Gospel ! ' and the tyrants would exult and say, 
* These fellows boast of being God's elect, yet form leagues 
among themselves, as if God were not strong enough to 
defend them!'" 

While this letter was of no avail to Karlstadt, it really 
amounted to a denunciation of Miinzer, whom Luther put in 
the same category as the Orlamlind agitator. 

The most serious incident, however, was the betrayal to the 
Princes by Nicol Rugkert of a secret league in Allstatt, 
instituted by the agitator. Melancthon informs us that 
" Miinzer kept a register of all who had bound themselves to 
him, and had sworn to punish unchristian Princes and to 
establish a Christian government." The league had adherents 
outside of Allstatt ; for example, in the Mansfeld valley, 
Sangerhausen, and even in Zwickau. In his Confession, 
Miinzer sets forth the aim of the organisation to be : " An 
alliance against those who persecute the Gospel." In regard 
to what was to be understood by " the Gospel," he asserts : 
" It is an article of our creed, and one which we wish to 
realise, that all things are in common [omnia sunt coinmunid], 
and should be distributed as occasion requires, according to 
the several necessities of all. Any prince, count, or baron 
who, after being earnestly reminded of this truth, shall be 
unwilling to accept it, is to be beheaded or hanged." 

We do not know to what extent the Saxon Princes were 
acquainted with the aims of the league at that time ; but 
what they did learn was enough, in conjunction with other 
indictments, to make them summon the dangerous instigator 
to Weimar ; a step to which Luther's animosity to Miinzer 
was an additional incentive. 

Miinzer was fearless enough to obey the summons, and go 
to Weimar on the ist of August. Duke John submitted him 
to an examination, from which, however, he was dismissed 
unharmed, to await the Duke's final decision. 

But Miinzer did not remain for this, as his position in 
Allstatt had already become untenable. The Princes were 
threatening the little town with chastisement, and now the 
Council declared against the agitator, who fled in the night of 


the 7th-8th of August. He tells us in his Apology that : "When 
I returned home from the interrogation in Weimar, I intended 
to preach the earnest Word of God ; but the Councilmen 
wanted to deliver me over to the arch-enemy of the gospel.; 
upon perceiving which my longer stay became impossible. 
I shook the dust from off my feet, for I saw with my own 
eyes that they esteemed their oath and allegiance far more 
highly than they did God's Word." 

The weak renegade Melancthon endeavours here as else- 
where, to cast the odium of cowardice on Munzer. "Thomas' 
high spirit," he says, " forsook him at that time ; he ran away 
and hid himself for six months." 

How small a part cowardice had in Miinzer's flight from 
Allstatt, and how little disposed he was to hide himself, are 
shown by the fact that he went from Allstatt direct to a new 
theatre of war, Muhlhausen, where we find him as early as the 
1 5th of August. Moreover Melancthon's statement cannot have 
been merely an error ; for in 1525 he must have had a lively 
remembrance of the fright which seized Luther and his 
friends in 1524, when they learned that Munzer had gone to 

Luther at once wrote to his confreres in that town, urging 
Miinzer's banishment, and asking the Council to summon the 
impostor and force him to declare who had authorised him to 
preach. " If he says that God and His Spirit have sent him, 
like the Apostles, then make him prove it with signs and 
wonders ; but forbid his preaching, for when God would 
change the natural order of things, He signifies it by all 
manner of miracles." ^ 

Luther had good grounds for energetically combatir^g the 
communistic agitator. Not only were the signs of the 
impending insurrection beginning to multiply, but Miinzer 
was more dangerous in Muhlhausen than in Allstatt, as it was 
a larger town, containing about 6000 inhabitants and con- 
trolling a district of nearly 220 square kilometres.^ Handi- 
crafts and trade were in a very flourishing condition ; wool- 
weaving and cloth manufacture being in an advanced stage of 
development. " A very large quantity of cloth was woven in 
' Luther's Complete Works, xix. p. 236. » Merx, p. 48. 


Muhlhausen, a profitable trade being carried on with it in 
Russia, and in other countries in that part of the world " 
(Galletti, Geschichte Thuringens, p. 491). The town was not 
only rich and powerful, but also independent of the Saxon 
Princes, as it was one of the few free cities still remaining in 
Thuringia ; and if it were to fall into the hands of the 
communist enthusiasts, they would have a point dappui which 
would make them rather dangerous. 

Internal affairs were not unfavourable to a popular insur- 
rection in the town, where the great extension of woollen 
manufacture for export must have produced a fertile soil for 
rebellious and communistic ideas. In addition to this, Miihl- 
hausen was controlled by " an oppressive, aristocratic govern- 
ment. This free imperial city did not contain more than 
ninety-six really free burgesses, who formed the Council, 
and these filled its vacancies exclusively from the patrician 
class." ^ 

Rebellious sentiments in Muhlhausen were not limited to 
the urban proletarians, the suburban population and the 
peasants of the surrounding districts dependent on the town : 
the guild craftsmen were also similarly disposed, although 
elsewhere they belonged to the privileged classes. It is not 
surprising, therefore, that the Reformation movement led to 
a series of violent uprisings among the citizens against the 
patrician government, in which the populace was led by 
Heinrich Pfeiffer, a monk who, like so many others of that 
period, had renounced his vows. Pfeiffer was/<a:r excellence the 
leader of the opposition faction among the well-to-do citizens,, 
such as the guild-craftsmen and merchants, so far as the 
latter did not belong to the patricians ; the latter, however,, 
were too strong to allow Pfeiffer to ignore the peasants and 
proletarians. He therefore addressed himself to these classes,, 
and urged them to unite in a struggle against the town 

Moreover Pfeiffer had another ally in the Saxon Princes,, 
who had long craved the possession of the powerful imperial 

' Zimmermann, Bauernkneg, i. p. 191. Zimmermann availed himself 
of important researches among the State Archives at Muhlhausen. 


city, and whose purpose seemed to be served by its internal 

The rebellion was encouraged at its outset by Duke John 
of Saxony, although he afterwards had Pfeiffer executed as a 
rebel when he became inconvenient. 

In spite of all these opponents, the Council must have 
had a strong following in the town, for the democrats did not 
achieve a lasting success. Pfeiffer and his partisans won their 
first victory in 1523, of which the spoils fell to the well-to-do 
citizens, who alone received a share in the municipal govern- 
ment, while the proletarians and petty craftsmen in the 
suburbs, and especially the peasants, came off empty-handed. 

We are now led to inquire if this unequal distribution of 
the fruits of victory gave rise to a change in the disposition 
of the lower classes. One thing is certain ; the Town Council 
soon succeeded in banishing Pfeiffer, and Duke John in vain 
interceded for his return. Nevertheless before long we find him 
back in Muhlhausen in hot conflict with the Council, fortune 
smiling first on the one side, then on the other. In the midst 
of this struggle Miinzer arrived in Muhlhausen. The Council 
was at that time too feeble to comply with Luther's demands 
for a citation of the agitator, however willing it might have 
been to do so. " The honourable Council were as little pleased 
with Miinzer as with Pfeiffer, but the populace retained him 
by force ; for he and his confederate Pfeiffer had just incited 
and led a rebellion against the others." ^ 

Just at this time we find Pfeiffer's party executing a change 
of front to the left. They raised claims for the peasants and 
suburban population as well, and carried the day August 27, 
1524. It is impossible to determine how far, if at all, 
Miinzer influenced this change. 

Another rupture like that of the year 1523, now began to 
make its appearance among the victors. In 1523 it was the 
peasants and suburban population who were discontented ; 
now the burgesses, craftsmen, and tradesmen became alarmed 
at the peasants and proletarians, who, since Miinzer's arrival, 

' Johann Becherer, Newe Thuringische Chronica, Miihlhausen, 1601^ 

P- 473- 
' Compare Zimmermann, op. cii. i. p. 194, 


had certainly lost none of their confidence. The burgesses 
sided with the Council, and as early as September 25th 
Pfeiffer and Miinzer suffered defeat, Mlinzer being banished, 
and soon after, Pfeiffer also. 

Miinzer betook himself to South Germany, like so many 
others of political prominence in Saxony, e.^:, Karlstadt, whom 
Luther had prevailed upon his sovereign to banish, because he 
had been very badly received by the Orlamiinders in a tour 
of agitation against that reformer. Miinzer's retreat, how- 
ever, did not imply even a temporary halt in the movement, 
but merely the search for a new field of activity. He must 
have been well informed of the events preparing in South 
Germany ; for Germany (at least South and Central Ger- 
many) was at that time covered with a network of secret 
revolutionary societies, which were in constant intercommu- 
nication. The communistic sects in particular supplied a 
large number of itinerant agitators who kept the different 
leagues in touch with each other. From the very first 
establishment of Waldenses, the confidential agents of the 
communists (" Apostles," " poor priests," or whatever name 
they might have borne) were as a rule, and with only short 
interruptions, continually wandering hither and thither. The 
development of migratory habits among the craftsmen was 
an additional instrument in bringing about a closer union 
between these classes of society, as it was for every other 
class. " All migrating craftsmen belonging to the association, 
masters as well as journeymen, became ' apostles.' " ' 

Hence, when Miinzer repaired to South Germany, he must 
have been well informed of the condition of things, and have 
seen that an insurrection was everywhere imminent. At all 
events, he knew that at the end of August the peasants in 
Stiihlingen had actually revolted, and that the insurrection 
had rapidly spread to the Swiss frontier. This was sufficient 
to induce him to go thither as soon as all scope for his 
activity in Saxony had ceased, beyond all hope of recovery 
so long as the existing conditions of government continued 
in that country, 

' C. A. Cornelius, Geschichfe des Miinsterschen Aufruhres. Leipzig, 
i860, p. 41. 


He remained but a short time in Nurenberg, not (as many 
believe) to kindle a revolt (and he would have found partisans 
enough in that ancient centre of Beghardism), but only to have 
a tract secretly printed. Affairs in that town did not seem 
ripe for an insurrection. 

His stay in Nurenberg is best explained by Miinzer himself 
in a letter to Christoph N., in Eisleben.' The following pas- 
sage shows the sad state of his circumstances at that time : 
" If you can," he says, " help me towards my living expenses. 
But if this angers you, I will not have a farthing." It is 
evident, therefore, that Miinzer had not grown rich in AUstatt 
and Miihlhausen. 

The result of his sojourn in Nurenberg is briefly given by 
an ancient chronicler named Johann Miillner : " A book- 
printer of Nurenberg made bold to print a tract by Thomas 
Miinzer ; but the Council seized all the copies, and im- 
prisoned the journeyman, who had acted without the know- 
ledge of his master." 

The most high and wise Council, however, by no means 
succeeded in getting possession of all the copies. Not only 
was the work circulated before the peasant rebellion, but, in 
spite of the war to the knife carried on against all insurrec- 
tionary writings after that rebellion, copies of this work have 
been preserved to this day. It is the most vehement and 
revolutionary of all Miinzer's writings, and is entitled : Hock 
verursachte Schutzrede, or " Apology." 2 With his usual scorn 
for the prevalent servility of the theologians, he dedicates it 
to " The Most High First Born Prince and Almighty Lord, 
Jesus Christ, the gracious King of all kings, the brave Leader 
of all believers, my most merciful Sovereign and faithful 
Protector ; and to his afflicted Bride, Suffering Christendom." 

After a series of attacks on Luther {Dr. Ludibrii\ he goes 
on to say that he has summoned the Princes of Christendom 

' Transcribed in Luther's Complete Works among his writings against 
Miinzer and the rebelHous peasants (xix. p. 245). 

* Hoch verursachte Schutzrede unci antwort wider des Gaistlose Sanfft 
lebende Fleyscli zu Wittenberg, welches mit verklarter weysse durch den 
Diepstal der heiligen Schrift die erbermdliche Christeiiheit also guntz 
jammerlich besudelt hat. Thomas Miintzer. Alstedter. 


to seize the sword in defence of the Gospel ; appealing at the 
same time to the Bible in justification of his summons. 
" Nevertheless there comes an eavesdropping gossip — ah ! the 
sly fellow ! — and says that I wished to raise a rebellion, as he 
had discovered from my missive to the miners. He accuses 
me of this, but conceals another most discreet matter ; to wit 
that I proved to the ruling powers that a whole province had 
the sword within their grasp, as well as the key for the 
unlocking, and showed from Daniel vii.. Rev. vi,, and Rom. 
xiii. 1-8, that the rulers are not masters, but servants of the 
sword. They should not act as pleaseth them (Deut. xvii.), 
but do righteously. It is the greatest abomination on earth 
that no one will relieve the necessities of the poor. . . . Look 
ye ! Our sovereign and rulers are at the bottom of all usury, 
thievery, and robbery ; they take all created things into pos- 
session. The fish in the water, birds in the air, the products 
of the soil — all must be theirs (Isaiah v.). Moreover, they 
proclaim God's command among the poor, and say : God 
hath ordained thou shalt not steal ; but themselves do not 
follow it. Wherefore they oppress the poor husbandmen and 
craftsmen, and fleece and flay all who are in like condition 
(Micah iii.). If one of these poor fellows breaks the least jot 
or tittle of the law, he must hang for it. To all this Dr. 
Liar (Luther) says : * Amen.' The rulers themselves make 
the poor man their enemy by their deeds. If they will not 
abolish the cause of tumult, how can things be well for any 
length of time ? Because I say this, it follows that I must be 
rebellious. Verily ! " The remainder of the work consists of 
an exceedingly bitter polemic against Luther. 

After Miinzer had delivered this Parthian shot at his 
opponent, he left Nurenberg, and went to the Swiss frontier, 
where he passed the winter. The exact place of his sojourn 
is unknown. According to Cochlaus, he extended his 
journeyings at that time as far as Halle in Tyrol, a mining 
district which subsequently became the centre of Anabaptism. 
Many ascribe to his authorship the celebrated Twelve 
Articles, in which the rebel peasants formulated their 
demands ; while others even assert that he was the cause 
of the South German insurrection. The last two statements 


are certainly without foundation, and that of Cochlaus is 
probably equally so. 

The reference in Munzer's Confession to his stay on the 
Swiss frontier is limited to the following passage, which 
probably contains all the essential particulars of his activity 
during that period of his career : " At Klettgau and Hegau I 
proposed certain Articles on the proper form of government ; 
others presented a modified form of these. They would 
willingly have received me as one of themselves, but, though 
grateful to them, I declined. I did not incite the revolt in 
those places, for it was already in progress. Oekolampadius 
and Hugowaldus requested me to preach to the people there, 
and I finally complied." 

Miinzer, therefore, was not the author of the Twelve 
Articles, though he had an influence in their production. He 
looked upon his stay as only temporary ; yet he did not 
remain inactive but continued to agitate ; — " preached to the 
people," as he says, or, as Bullinger expresses it : " Sowed his 
poisonous seed of the peasant insurrection." 

While on the Swiss frontier, he had an opportunity of 
meeting with the leaders of the Swiss Anabaptists ; but 
though his relations with these men are important to that 
sect, they afford but little insight into the character of the 
Thuringian communist and his work. An account of these 
relations would demand an inquiry into the beginnings of 
the Anabaptist order. In order, therefore, to avoid undue 
interruption in the course of this description, we will not 
pursue this point further at present, but will return to it 
in the next chapter. 

IX. The Peasant War. 

In the beginning of the year 1525, perhaps as early as 
January, Miinzer left Swabia to return to Thuringia. He 
had a motive for doing so, for he knew that the outbreak of 
the movement was imminent. 

Like the uprising of the peasants in England in 1381, 
which broke out simultaneously at all points, the insurrection 
in Germany was arranged to take place in all parts on the 


same day, the 2nd of April ; but it occurred at an earlier date 
in some localities, owing either to the impatience of the par- 
ticipants, or to force of circumstances. Hence we cannot 
doubt that the revolt was organised and directed by a widely 
ramified conspiracy. 

The age in which guild secrets could be kept for centuries 
was also peculiarly favourable to hidden leagues. Not only 
were sectarian doctrines propagated by means of secret 
associations, but political deeds were often effected in like 
manner both in town and country. Many of these associa- 
tions acquired great importance, such as the Bundschuh 
(peasants of the shoe) and the A rme Konrad (poor comrade), 
which were the inaugurators of the Peasant War. 

Hence in spite of portents in various places as early as the 
autumn of 1524, and the zealous preparations for an insur- 
rection during the winter, the ruling classes were taken by 
surprise ; so that at the outset the insurgents almost every- 
where gained the advantage. 

On his way from Swabia, Miinzer fell in with bodies of 
rebels, and on one occasion was within a hair's-breadth of 
coming utterly to grief, being taken prisoner in the Fulda 
district with a mob of malcontents. On the 22nd of February 
the receiver of taxes in Allstatt, Hans Jeyss, who was always 
well informed of Miinzer's movements, wrote to Spalatin : 
" I add for your information that Thomas Miinzer has been 
at Fulda, where he was thrown into prison. The Abbot said 
to the innkeeper at Schwartzburg, that had he known it was 
Thomas Miinzer, he would not have let him go free." 

Shortly after this (March 12th) we again find Miinzer in 
Miihlhausen, where Pfeiffer had previously made his appear- 
ance (December). On March 17th, a successful revolt made 
them masters of the town ; being nearly the same day and 
month in which, more than three hundred years afterwards, 
the populace in 1848 seized Berlin, and the proletariat gained 
possession of Paris. Hans Jeyss wrote about the affair to 
Spalatin, giving remarkable prominence to the part played 
by Pfeiffer, and ignoring Miinzer, but showing an accurate 
appreciation of the elements by which the fight was won. 

I must tell you," he says, " of the dreadful discord and 


tumult caused for a whole day in Miihlhausen by a preacher 
named Pfeififer. To sum up, Lord Omnes" (the populace) 
" wrested the government from the Council, which can neither 
rule, punish, write, nor act in any way against the popular 

" After Pfeiffer and Miinzer had been banished, and the 
latter had visited and left Nurenberg, Pfeiffer returned to 
Miihlhausen, where he busied himself in the neighbouring 
villages by propagating his views. He complained to the 
peasants that he had been driven from the town only because 
he had preached the truth and had wished to deliver the 
people from the yoke of the Council and ruling authorities, 
and from all oppression. At his behest the peasants of these 
villages armed themselves and advanced in a body to the 
suburb of the town, where he delivered a revolutionary 
address. As soon as it came to the ears of the Council that 
Pfeiffer was trying to force his way into Miihlhausen, they 
made ready for resistance, called their forces together, and 
marched out against him. Just as the fight was about to 
begin, the burgesses, who should have remained true to the 
Council, turned against it, and played a villainously treach- 
erous part. Seeing that the populace had fallen away from 
the Council, the leader of the municipal forces endeavoured 
to put a stop to the uproar, and, after great labour and 
trouble, succeeded in doing so ; not, however, until the 
Council had been forced to allow Pfeiffer and Miinzer to 
continue their preaching, and a promise had been exacted 
that nothing should be done without the consent and know- 
ledge of the commune. Thus all power was taken from the 
Council, and very strange things went on in Miihlhausen." 

Very strange things in truth : A communistic community 
was established in the town. 

" This was the beginning of the new Christian government," 
writes Melancthon. " They afterwards drove out the monks, 
and appropriated all the property of the Church. The 
Knights of St. John possessed a manor at that place, with a 
large rental ; Thomas seized this manor . . . He taught that 
all things should be in common, as is written in the Acts of 
the Apostles, and by this means made the people so wanton 


that they would no longer work. When one of them wanted 
corn or cloth, he went to some rich man (to whomsoever it 
pleased him) and demanded it as a Christian right, on the 
ground that Christ had proclaimed that all things should 
be shared with the needy. If any wealthy person proved 
unwilling to give what was demanded of him, it was taken 
by force ; and this happened in many cases. Moreover, those 
who lived with Thomas in the manor house of the Hospital- 
lers acted in like manner." 

Becherer tells us that : " In the government Munzer was 
dictator, and managed everything as it pleased him. ... In 
particular, he made the community of goods compulsory ; 
from which it resulted that people left their craft-work and 
daily labour, believing that before they had consumed the 
possessions of the princes and barons, the churches and 
monasteries, God would further provide. This mode of life 
was carried on by Mtinzer for some months." ^ 

We need not inquire into the bad effects said to have been 
produced by the communistic regimen on trade and pro- 
duction, as they have no basis in fact. This indeed is shown 
by the circumstance that the government of the revolutionary 
commune at Muhlhausen did not last more than two months; 
almost exactly the duration of the Paris Commune of 1871, 
which began March i8th and ended May 28th, while that 
of Muhlhausen continued from March 17th to May 25th. 
Indeed Munzer left Muhlhausen before May 12th. And in 
these few weeks communism is supposed to have exercised a 
sensible influence on production, in the midst of the most 
dreadful exigencies of a war which enlisted the services of 
every labourer capable of bearing arms ! 

Melancthon, it is true, tells us that communism lasted a 
year in Muhlhausen ! Let it be imagined that in the autumn 
of 1 87 1, a modern author should have written a history of 
the Paris Commune, in which he stated that it lasted a year ! 
It is difficult to say which is the more surprising, the cool 
audacity of the " mild and timid " Melancthon, or the cre- 
dulity of his public. 

And it is from such " contemporaneous sources " that most 
' Becherer, op. cii., p. 479. 


of the histories of communistic movements have been com- 
piled ! 

Meanwhile the falsifications can easily be discovered with 
the exercise of a little caution. Much more confusion, how- 
ever, has been created by the completely inaccurate accounts 
of the part played by Miinzer in Muhlhausen. Becherer 
and Melancthon represent him as a dictator whose will was 
law, and Luther occasionally expresses himself in a similar 
way. The latter writes in one of his letters : "Miintzer Mulhusi 
Rex et Iniperator est." 

As a matter of fact Miinzer's position was an extremely 
disagreeable one. He had conquered not by the strength of 
his adherents, but by a compromise with Pfeiffer's party, who 
were not communistic, but outspokenly bourgeois in feeling. 
Moreover, he did not mount to the head of the government, 
but remained simply a preacher, and even as such acquired 
no decisive influence. The policy of the town was entirely 
out of harmony with his own, and in all important matters he 
met with opposition from Pfeiffer, who was backed up by the 

Muhlhausen was no Tabor ; the latter may be designated 
as a communistic colony and a new institution, to which com- 
munists flocked for the purpose of building up an " exclusive 
people." Circumstances were quite different in the ancient 
imperial town of Muhlhausen, where the communists found 
their chief supporters in the proletariat, together with some 
circles of the petty, independent, suburban craftsmen and the 
peasants of the neighbourhood. These strata of the popula- 
tion were at that time far too weak to force their will upon 
the middle class. Through a fortuitous combination of 
favourable circumstances, and a clever and energetic use of 
them for their own ends, the communists succeeded in playing 
a decisive part between the two contending parties, much 
resembling that of the needle on the balance ; but toleration 
was all that they were able to obtain from those who, by 
their help, had been placed in power. We must not imagine 
that the whole town of Muhlhausen was organised on the 
communistic basis. At all events, the only gain to the 
Brethren was the permission to transform their secret organi- 


sation into an open one, and to establish a "commune" 
within the town's domain, of which the seat was probably the 
manor of the Hospitallers. 

We may judge of the small number of Miinzer's adherents 
in Muhlhausen from the fact that when he marched away to 
help the peasants, he was accompanied by only three hundred 

It is easy to believe Melancthon's statement that the 
Miinzer commune, "occupying the manor of the Hospital- 
lers," derived its revenues during the few weeks of its 
existence, not merely from the labour of its members, but 
also, and chiefly, from the spoils obtained from churches, 
monasteries, and castles ; for we know that the Taborites 
maintained themselves in a similar way. In those days the 
goods of the Church were res nullius — no one's property — 
which he might seize "who had the power," chief among 
such being the princes, while here and there, perhaps, a few 
poor devils might share in the plunder. 

We have already pointed out that Miinzer and Pfeiffer 
were opposed on fundamental principles. But from this 
antagonism others arose which were of a tactical nature. 

As a petty townsman of pre-capitalistic times, Pfeiffer 
considered himself the representative of local interests only ; 
Miinzer, like the communists of his time in general, was, on 
the contrary, cosmopolitan in feeling. Pfeiffer looked upon 
the insurrection in Muhlhausen as a purely local event, while 
for Miinzer it was a link in the great chain of revolutionary 
uprisings, which, by co-operating, were to give the finishing 
stroke to tyranny and spoliation. That which Tabor had 
previously been for Bohemia, the fortified town of Miihlhausen 
was now to become for Thuringia, namely, the point d'appui of 
the whole rebellion, and in closest touch with the revolts in 
Franconia and Swabia. 

Pfeiffer (and when we speak of Pfeiffer and Miinzer we do 
not refer to the two individuals alone, but to the parties as 
well, of which they were the most prominent representatives) 
was, it is true, present in a few predatory expeditions into the 
neighbouring purely Catholic districts, but he did not con- 
template anything beyond a petty town quarrel. Miinzer, on 


the other hand, was well aware that victory in Muhlhausen 
did not signify the close of the revolutionary struggle, but 
was only a preliminary to the decisive battle. It behoved 
him, therefore, to prepare and organise the masses, train them 
in the use of arms, and combine the revolts in different 
districts into a common movement. 

Perhaps nowhere in Germany were the peasants so unused 
to arms, so lacking in military capacity, and so wholly unpre- 
pared for war as in Thuringia. Time therefore was needed 
to supply them with weapons and to train them in their use. 

MUnzer did all he could. He was specially solicitous with 
regard to heavy artillery, and had cannon cast in the monas- 
tery of the Barefooted Friars. The value he placed upon 
these guns — perhaps more as instruments of moral suasion 
than as weapons of war — is seen from the fact that he sent 
information concerning them as far as Swabia ; and this fact 
alone shows how eager he was for an alliance with the South 
German insurgents. 

He devoted himself with still greater energy to stirring up 
and combining the revolutionists in Thuringia ; displaying a 
feverish anxiety in speech and writing, and sending letters of 
exhortation and encouragement in all directions. 

The mine-labourers seemed of more importance to him 
than the untrustworthy Muhlhauseners and badly armed 
peasants. These miners formed the most warlike and defiant 
part of Saxony's population, and in consequence Miinzer 
directed his attention to them. He formed an alliance with 
those of the Erzgebirge Mountains, after striving first of all 
to rouse an insurrection among his nearest mining neighbours, 
the Mansfelders ; his friendliness with them ever since his 
Allstatt days giving him good cause to hope for their aid. 

A letter written by him at that time to his confederates in 
Mansfeld, Balthasar, Barthel, &c., for the purpose of starting 
the agitation among the miners, is reproduced in Luther's 
works as one of " three abominable, revolutionary writings by 
Thomas Miinzer " (xix. p. 289 sgg'.). It reads : " Before all 
things, the pure fear of God. Dear brethren, how long will 
you sleep ? How long will it be ere you confess why God of 
His good will has to all appearance abandoned you ? It is 


high time. Hold back your brethren from mocking at godly- 
testimony, else must you all perish. Germany, France, Italy, 
are all aroused. Our masters wish to make a game of it ; 
but the villains cannot escape their fate. During Easter 
week three churches were destroyed in Fulda. In Kletgau, 
Hegau, and Schwatzwald the peasants are up, three thousand 
strong, and their numbers are growing daily. I am anxious 
lest the foolish fellows should agree to a treacherous compact, 
for they do not yet perceive the mischief Where there are 
only two of you who trust in God and seek His name and 
honour, they shall not be afraid of a hundred thousand. But 
forward, forward, forward ! It is high time. Let this letter 
be given to the mine-associates. My printer will come in a 
few days. I have received the missive, but cannot do more 
at present. I had wished to instruct the brothers myself, 
that their hearts might grow much larger than the castles 
and armour of all the godless rascals on earth. Forward, 
forward, forward while the fire is hot ! Let your swords be 
ever warm with blood ; forge the hammer on the anvil of 
Nimrod ; raze his tower to the ground ! " 

Miinzer's letter was well received ; a large number of 
miners assembled in the Mansfeld district, disturbances 
began to arise, and the impetus given to the Mansfelders 
extended to the mining population near Meissen. " Even 
before the foolish rioters rushed on to the bloody day at 
Frankenhausen," says Hering, " many miners from the 
revolutionary domain of Count Mansfeld had taken flight 
to our mountains, either because they saw no promise of 
good in remaining at home, or because they hoped, by the 
aid of the ' new wisdom,' to play an important part in 
other places." ^ 

The rioters succeeded in gaining influence, and in assisting 
an attempt at revolution in the neighbourhood of Zwickau, 
where the enthusiasts, under Storch and Munzer, had 
previously acquired power and paved the way for an up- 

In April there was, in fact, a revolt among the peasants 
and miners in the Erzgebirge Mountains, which, like similar 

' Gcschichte des siichsischen Hochlandes, p. 203. 


movements elsewhere in Germany, was not wholly sup- 
pressed till after the fight at Frankenhausen. 

Miinzer was, as a rule, unsuccessful in his efforts to bring 
about a co-operation of the revolutionary movements in the 
various districts of Saxony. 

He found the separatism of the petty townsmen and 
peasants too powerful for him. The equality of economic 
pressure in all places, the stirring up of the whole nation 
by the Reformation movement, and, last but not least, the 
indefatigable interlocal activity of the communistic "apostles" 
had been just sufficient at its commencement to make the 
insurrection of the peasants and their allies an affair which 
embraced the largest part of the nation ; so that the revolt 
broke out almost simultaneously in all parts. In its progress, 
however, and when it became a question of securing the 
fruits of the early victories and taking advantage of them, 
the local separatism became more conspicuous than ever ; for 
it was too deeply rooted in circumstances to be suppressed for 
more than a veryshort time,and then only to a very smallextent. 

With this separatism there was associated the fatal 
childishness of the peasants. That inexperienced folk 
believed that the word of a prince was, if not better, at 
least not worse than that of any other honourable man. 
They had no inkling of the new State craft, which promoted 
dishonesty and mendacity to the rank of highly estimable 
princely virtues. 

Instead of co-operating, each district and each town which 

had made cause with the insurgents depended on its own 

strong arm ; and a few empty promises on the part of their 

rulers (in which they held up the prospect of granting the 

demands of the insurgents) were sufficient as a rule to 

scatter the rebels, and induce them to lay down their arms. 

In this way the princes found time to collect troops, combine, 

and easily overcome one after another of the isolated peasant 

masses which, if united, could have made a good stand. 

Moreover, while on the side of the peasants the absence 

of any definite plans became more and more conspicuous, 

the growing danger increased the cohesion and systematic 

co-operation of the princes. 



The rulers rose everywhere in their might to stifle the 
insurrection in the blood of the rebels. In the last week 
of April, Truchsess von Waldburg, then leader of the 
Swabian league's army, had almost suppressed the revolt 
in Swabia, Landgrave Philip having done the same in Hesse, 
while large bodies of veteran troops had been despatched 
against the insurgents of Franconia and Thuringia. 

In the beginning of May the good " evangelical " Land- 
grave Philip of Hesse united his forces with those of the 
arch Catholic George of Saxony and a few petty princes, who 
were afterwards joined by the new Elector of Saxony, John,^ 
for the purpose of putting an end to the Thuringian revolt. 
The headquarters of the rebellion were at the town of 
Frankenhausen, a few miles distant from the Mansfeld 
mines, and celebrated for its salt deposits, which employed 
a large number of workmen.^ Most of the military forces 
of the rebels had been concentrated at this place and not, 
as would have been more natural, at Miihlhausen, a well- 
fortified town provided with artillery, or at a more southern 
point, e.^-., Erfurt or Eisenach, both of which were in the 
hands of the insurrectionists, and from which it would have 
been easier to keep in touch with the revolt in Franconia. 

The encampment before Frankenhausen seemed of the 
greatest importance both to the princes and rebels, and, to 
reach it, Philip of Hesse executed a very singular movement. 
He pushed on past Eisenach and Langensalza, leaving 
Miihlhausen on his right and Erfurt on his left, and marched 
straight to Frankenhausen. While this evidences the impor- 
tance of that town, the fact that Philip could perform this 
movement, without being in the least threatened or even 
molested by the Miihlhauseners or Erfurters, proves the total 
lack of cohesion, co-operation, and plan among the insur- 

The importance of Frankenhausen can be explained by its 
proximity to the Mansfeld mines, with their numerous war- 

' John's brother, the peace-loving Frederick, had died on the 5th 

" G. Sartorius, Versuch einer Geschichte des deutschen Bauernkriegs. 
BerUn, 1795, p. 319. 


like workmen ; for if the insurrection had spread thither the 
princes would have had a severe task before them. 

Miinzer too was fully alive to the value of Frankenhausen, 
and did his utmost to direct all his available forces to that 
place. He also wrote to the Erfurters, but they did not 
move. Nor could he induce even the Miihlhauseners to go to 
the help of the men before Frankenhausen. How did the affairs 
of the peasants of that place concern the petty townsmen 
of the imperial city? Even the usually energetic Pfeiffer 
remained inactive, thus obliging Miinzer to march out in 
sole command of his three hundred men after the Miihlhau- 
seners had grudgingly lent him eight mounted cannon. 

Miinzer fared no better with the Mansfeld miners. There 
is, unfortunately, a total lack of minute information con- 
cerning his negotiations with these people. In Spangenberg's 
Mansfeldischer Chronik (chapter 362) we find only the 
following notice, still more briefly reproduced by Bieringen 
in his Beschreibung des Mansfeldischen Bergwerks : " The 
peasants of Mansfeld were also in revolt. Count Albrecht 
exerted himself most diligently, and promised the miners 
all manner of things, in order to keep them at home and 
prevent their joining the rebellious peasants in the field." 

Albrecht seems to have succeeded. Miinzer had good 
grounds for the fear expressed in the above-quoted letter 
to the miners that "the foolish fellows would agree to a 
treacherous compact ; " for as soon as their demands had 
been granted most of them quieted down and troubled 
themselves no further about the rebellious peasants. They 
sent out a few reinforcing parties, only to be surprised, 
however, by Count Albrecht's cavalry, which held all the 

One possibility still remained, namely, to carry the in- 
surrection into Mansfeld itself, and in that way involve 
the miners in the struggle. But this chance also was not 
taken advantage of The peasants before Frankenhausen 
were foolish enough to engage in negotiations with Albrecht, 
which he carefully managed to prolong from day to day until 
the armies of the princes arrived. 

The Count had agreed with the peasants for a conference 


on the 1 2th of May; but he did not make his appearance, 
pleading important affairs as an excuse, and, instead, 
summoned the peasants to a meeting on the next Sunday, 
May 14th. " In the meantime," Luther tells us, " God so 
ordered that Thomas Miinzer came from Mlihlhausen to 
Frankenhausen." ^ 

Miinzer, who detected the Count's artifice, caused the 
immediate breaking off of these negotiations, and made 
every effort to provoke a battle between Albrecht and the 
peasants before the arrival of the princes. The outrageously 
rude letters written by Miinzer to Mansfeld at that time are 
incomprehensible except as deliberate provocations to that 
end. Zimmermann looks upon them as evidences of a state 
of self deception on the part of Miinzer, arising from his 
frenzy and despair ; but his arrangement of affairs indicates 
the possession of a clear intellect. 

Meanwhile the Mansfelders did not grant Miinzer the boon 
of allowing themselves to be provoked ; and either the con- 
sciousness of the weakness of his forces, or perhaps their 
unwillingness, prevented him from making the attack. 

It was soon too late. Miinzer had reached Frankenhausen 
May 1 2th ; on the 14th Landgrave Philip of Hesse and Duke 
George Henry of Brunswick arrived, to be followed on the 
1 5th by Duke George of Saxony with his army. 

The fate of the men before Frankenhausen was now 
sealed, and with it that of the Thuringian insurrection. 
On one side stood 8,000 badly armed, undisciplined peasants, 
almost without artillery ; on the other, about the same 
number of well-equipped, veteran soldiers with numerous 

Descriptions of the fight at Frankenhausen have generally 
been based on Melancthon's account. According to this, 
Miinzer first of all delivered an eloquent speech to the 
peasants, which was followed by a still more eloquent one 
by Landgrave Philip to his troops ; whereupon the latter 
advanced to the attack. "The poor folk, however, stood 
still and sang ' JVun bitten wir den heiligen Geist' ('Now 

' Erschreckliche Geschichte und Gerichte Gotts tiber Thomas Miinzer. 
Luther's Works, xix. p. 288. 


pray we to the Holy Ghost') as if they were demented. 
They neither defended themselves nor fled, many of them 
trusting to the great promise made by Thomas, that God 
would show help from heaven ; for Thomas had said that 
he would hold all the balls in his sleeves." As the miracle 
did not take place, and as the soldiers continued cutting their 
way into the ranks of the peasants, these creatures at last 
took to flight and were butchered in heaps. A strange 
fight indeed ! 

iS it possible that Miinzer and the peasants could have 
been such utter fools as they are here depicted ? 

Let us first of all consider the speeches. That of Miinzer 
is in a style altogether different from his own, and has an 
empty bathos about it in no way characteristic of him. But 
on closer inspection the speech of the Landgrave seems a 
still stranger production. It is a categorical answer to 
MUnzer's — as if Philip of Hesse had stood by and refuted 
the former's complaint point by point ! Let us, for example, 
compare the following passages : — 

MiJNZER : Landgrave : 

" But what are our princes " Whereas it is invented and 

doing ? They take no interest in fabricated that we do not care for 

the government, turn a deaf ear the general peace of the land, and 

to the poor people, do not ad- that we do not execute judgment 

minister justice, nor combat mur- nor combat murder and robbery : 

der and robbery, and visit no we now declare ourselves to be, 

criminal nor wanton with punish- with all our abilities, assiduous 

ment." in the maintenance of a peaceable 


And more to the same effect. The more closely these two 
speeches are exarr^ined, the clearer it becomes that they were 
not actually delivered, but were devised by the learned school- 
master on the pattern of the speeches of statesmen and army 
leaders handed down to us by Thucydides and Livy. They 
are rhetorical exercises, written for definite purposes, The 
dissolute mercenaries, gathered from all countries, could not 
have been impressed in the smallest degree by the prelection 
of the Landgrave on morals and justice, and the necessity 
and utility of imposts, and so forth, with the affecting pero- 


ration that it was a question of fighting for the safety of wife 
and child. This hypothetical speech, however, must have 
raised the Landgrave in the estimation of the educated 
Philistines for whom Melancthon wrote. It was to these 
that the speech was delivered, and not to the soldiers. 

On the other hand, Miinzer's speech is composed with the 
sole purpose of making him ridiculous. Melancthon makes 
him say at the close of his address : " Let not the weak flesh 
terrify you, but go boldly to the attack of the enemy. You 
need not fear the shot, for you shall see that I will hold in 
my sleeves all the cannon balls fired at you," &c. 

Nowhere in Miinzer's writings has he expressed himself so 
absurdly about practical things, his mysticism consisting 
solely in believing that God held direct intercourse with him 
and that his doctrines proceeded from the Holy Spirit. He 
never asserted that he could perform miracles. Hence we have 
no hesitation in pronouncing this speech an impudent invention. 

It is, moreover, a clumsy invention ; so clumsy, indeed, 
that a hundred years ago Strobel became convinced that 
not Munzer but " Melancthon was certainly the author " of 
the speech (p. 112). In spite of this, however, it is still used 
by writers in forming their judgment of Munzer, e.g., by 

There was little time for speech-making, if the battle is 
correctly described in the pamphlet entitled. Am niitzlicher 
Dialogus odder gesprechbuchlein zwischen eineni Muntzerischen- 
schwermer zu Frankenhausen geschlagen belangende. Wit- 
tenberg, 1525." The enthusiast says: "How now! Is it 
honourable for princes and barons to give us three hours 
for deliberation and yet not keep faith a quarter of an hour, 
but, as soon as they have won over Count von Stolberg with 
some of the nobility from our side, to begin firing at us with 
cannon and then immediately attack us ? " 

All of which means that the princes parleyed with the 
peasants, demanding their surrender, and gave them three 
hours' grace. In the meantime they induced the nobles on 
the side of the populace to come over to them, and, long before 
the truce had expired, threw themselves upon the unsuspicious 
peasants and butchered them. 


This certainly was not very honourable, and we can well 
understand Melancthon's pains to devise another account of 
the affair. While, however, his version is wholly nonsensical, 
the description given in the Dialogus is in exact accordance 
with the mode of procedure universally adopted by the 
princes at that time in their dealing with the peasantry. In 
spite of their superior strength, they resorted to treachery 
and breach of faith to gain the mastery over their opponents. 
By this means, and not by any imbecile expectation among 
Miinzer's followers, that he would actually catch the cannon- 
balls in his coat-sleeves, by far the greater number of the 
insurgents were slaughtered — from 5,000 to 6,000 out of 
8,000 ! — while the princely forces suffered hardly any loss 
worth mentioning. 

After the victory was won the troops pushed on into 
Frankenhausen, and, as Landgrave Philip himself wrote on 
the following day, " All males found there were slain and the 
town given over to pillage." 

Miinzer, with a part of the vanquished forces, fled into the 
town, and as the enemy's cavalry was at his heels, rushed 
headlong into one of the first houses near the gate, disguised 
himself by wrapping up his head, threw himself on a bed, 
and feigned illness. But his artifice failed. A soldier who 
entered the room recognised him by the contents of his 
satchel. He was immediately seized, and brought before the 
Landgrave of Hesse and Duke George. " When he came 
before the princes they asked him why he had thus led the 
poor folk astray. He answered defiantly that he had acted 
rightly and had purposed punishing the princes " — a truly 
bold reply ! Melancthon, who tells us this, momentarily 
forgets that he always represents Miinzer as being exception- 
ally pusillanimous. 

The princes at once had him put to the rack and feasted 
on his agonies, after which he was sent as a " booty-farthing " 
to Count Ernest von Mansfeld. " If he had before ' been 
cruelly tortured,' he was now, after a few days, ' barbarously 
dealt with ' in the tower of Heldrungen " (Zimmermann). 

It was here that he was tortured into making the confession, 
from the protocol of which we have so repeatedly quoted. 


He revoked nothing, and, concerning his secret league, re- 
vealed only such things as could not injure anybody. Not 
one of the confederates named by him is mentioned among 
those who were executed ; hence he probably inculpated only 
such as had already perished. As the fight of Frankenhausen 
had broken the force of the movement in Thuringia, nothing 
further remained to the princes but to take bloody revenge 
— a task which they carefully accomplished. 

It being a sufficient cause of congratulation that the 
Mansfeld miners remained peaceable, they were left for a 
time unmolested. Spangenberg tells us that it was not until 
the next year that " the miners began to be somewhat harshly 
dealt with, by the imposition of additional labour, from which, 
in spite of energetic remonstrances, they could obtain no re- 
lief" On the contrary, troops were sent to " quiet " them, and 
they were deprived of all freedom of speech and of meeting. 

Worse still was Muhlhausen's expiation for its desertion of 
the insurgents' cause at the critical moment. From Franken- 
hausen the allied princes at once pushed on to the imperial 
city. In vain did the town appeal for assistance to the Fran- 
conian insurrectionists. These now treated the Miihlhauseners 
as they themselves had treated the defenders of Frankenhausen, 
As soon as the siege began (May 19th) despondency spread 
rapidly among the rebellious citizens. Seeing that all was lost, 
Pfeiffer escaped on the 24th, with four hundred men, to gain 
the uplands of Franconia ; but the cavalry of the princes over- 
took him, and made him prisoner, together with ninety-two 
of his men. 

On a written promise of mercy from the princes, Miihl- 
hausen capitulated May 25th. In practice this mercy consisted 
in the execution of several citizens and the pillage of the town. 
The city, moreover, lost its independence, and fell into the 
power of the Saxon princes, who thus gained what they had 
hoped for from the insurrection ; while the rebels, who had 
helped them to gain their ends, were executed, including 
Pfeiffer and Miinzer, who had been brought to Miihlhausen. 

Pfeiffer died defiant and unrepentant. With regard to 
Miinzer, Melancthon naturally asserts that he was "very 
faint-hearted in the last extremity." As evidence of this he 


relates, that, from downright terror, Miinzer was unable to 
utter a single word, and consequently could not repeat the 
Creed. Duke Henry of Brunswick had therefore to recite it 
for him. Immediately afterwards, however, our authority 
makes the man who was speechless from terror deliver one 
of those eloquent addresses so much beloved by the classical 
and rhetorically-educated schoolmaster. 

The other chroniclers of the time make no mention of 
Miinzer's " faint-heartedness " (compare Zimmermann, ii. 
p. 444). In addition to the utterly worthless testimony of 
Melancthon, there is only one piece of evidence from which 
it is possible to draw conclusions as to the agitator's despair 
in his last days, viz., his letter to the Council and com- 
mune of Muhlhausen, written in his prison at Heldrungen, 
and dated May 17th. In this he exhorts his friends not to 
exasperate the higher authorities, as his death was deserved, 
and was well calculated to open the eyes of the "foolish." 
He implores them to look after his poor wife. Once more he 
beseeches them not to provoke the authorities for purposes of 
self-interest, as they had already done, but to abandon the 
rebellion and beg the pardon of the princes. 

Without doubt this letter betrays faint-heartedness. We 
cannot agree with Zimmermann, who puts a more favourable 
construction upon it. 

But is the letter genuine ? It did not proceed from Miinzer's 
own hand. He himself says that he dictated it to a certain 
Christoph Lau. Why did he dictate it? Why did he not 
write it himself? For whose interest was it that such a letter 
from Miinzer should come to Muhlhausen ? We answer, for 
the interest of the princes alone. It was composed on 
May 17th, and on May 19th the siege began. It was calcu- 
lated to make this siege easier, and to produce despondency 
among the besieged. Is not the assumption probable that 
Miinzer's name was made use of by the princes for carrying 
out one of those tricks of war so common at the period ? 

The least that can be said, is that the document is highly 
suspicious and is not sufficient to corroborate Melancthon's 

Hence we can truly say that nothing certain is known 


regarding Munzer's last moments, and that the accusations 
of pusillanimity on his part are unsubstantiated. 

It does not in the least affect our judgment of the man 
whether his nerves were or were not completely under his 
control to the very last. We have dealt with this question 
only because the great stress laid on Munzer's alleged cowar- 
dice, without any tangible basis, is of significance, not for him, 
but for his opponents. 

But the furious attacks on Miinzer made by the advocates 
of reaction have themselves proved the most powerful means 
of keeping his memory green among the populace of Ger- 
many, and of preserving their undiminished sympathy for 

In the eyes of the German working-classes Miinzer was 
and is the most brilliant embodiment of heretical communism. 


I. The Anabaptists before the Peasant War. 

AT the period of the German Reformation one centre of 
the communist movement lay in Saxony, Another 
existed in Switzerland — that peculiar conglomeration of 
peasant and urban republics, which had concentrated them- 
selves round the central mass of the Alps for united defence 
against their common enemies. 

They had completely freed themselves from the German 
Empire, and had succeeded in setting limits to Papal 

This new and independent commonwealth, however, had 
not at that time become a unified state. Almost the only 
bond of union between its constituent parts was the know- 
ledge that each, by itself, was powerless against its princely 
neighbours. But with this common interest, there existed 
others of an antagonistic nature between the rustic, primi- 
tive cantons, where economics were behind the age, and the 
rich cities which were far advanced in that respect. 

This antagonism was manifested clearly during the Refor- 
mation, in which movement the primitive cantons had no 
interest. Papal exploitation, already materially diminished 
in the confederation, pressed lightly, as a rule, on these poor 
districts. On the other hand, they had every reason for 
remaining on a good footing with the Catholic Powers 
(France, Milan, Venice, the Pope, and the Hapsburgs), as 
these were the chief consumers of the only valuable com- 



modity which the peasants and petty nobility of Switzerland 
could at that time bring into the market, namely, their warlike 
sons. Reislaufen, or mercenary service, was the chief source 
of revenue for the country folk, especially in the mountain 
cantons. A union with the Reformation movement boded a 
breach with the Catholic Powers, and threatened this source 
of wealth with exhaustion. Hence the honest country folk 
had held fast to the faith of their fathers. 

The towns were differently situated. Their middle-class 
citizens had no interest in mercenary war service ; on the con- 
trary, they disliked it, as it strengthened the power of their 
enemies, the nobility, and increased the warlike capacities of 
the lower classes from whom they derived their wealth. For 
the Swiss mercenaries were not homeless tatterdemalians, but 
sons of peasants, who, after the completion of their war service, 
returned to their native land. 

The towns, indeed, had every reason for animosity against 
the Catholic Powers. Moreover, though Papal exploitation was 
more restricted in Switzerland than in Germany, that covetous 
Power held more tenaciously to its rights in the towns than 
in the poor mountain districts. The antagonism to the 
Catholic princes (par excellence, the Hapsburgs) was every 
whit as great as the enmity to the Papacy. The German 
Reformation was a revolt, not only against the Pope, but in 
like manner against the Emperor, i.e., the House of Hapsburg, 
and it was so regarded in Switzerland also. 

The House of Hapsburg had long ceased to be the 
" hereditary enemy " of the primitive Swiss cantons, which 
were already too firmly established to be threatened by that 
dynasty ; and while having nothing to gain by opposition to 
it, they had nothing to lose in the way of war-pay and bribe- 
money. Quite otherwise was it with the cities of North 
Switzerland bordering on the territories of the Hapsburgs, 
which, menaced and coveted by that House, were in constant 
enmity to it. Zurich, in particular, had the liveliest interest in 
the struggle with that line of monarchs, and was the pioneer 
of the Reformation in Switzerland ; while the primitive cantons 
made cause with Catholicism, the successors of Tell allying 
themselves with the Hapsburg Ferdinand. 


In Switzerland, as in Germany, the Reformation brought 
a communistic movement to the surface ; but as the circum- 
stances of the confederation were quite different from those 
of Saxony, the character of the communism in the two 
countries also differed greatly. 

While in Saxony the movement was materially influenced 
by Taborite tradition, in Switzerland these exercised hardly 
appreciable power. The movement, however, had for a long 
time been considerably exposed to the influences of the 
Waldenses and Beghards ; the former coming from Southern 
France and Northern Italy, and the latter from the Nether- 
lands along the Rhine valley, finally reaching Bale by way of 
Cologne and Strassburg. 

In contrast to the Taborites, who favoured violent measures, 
the Waldenses were peacefully inclined. This contrast alone 
must have resulted in producing other sentiments among the 
communists of Switzerland than those prevalent in Saxony, 
as well as different ideas and actions. But the character of 
a social movement in any country is determined much less by 
imported doctrines, than by its peculiar social and political 
circumstances. Saxony was distinguished by its mining 
industry, especially by its silver mines. While this industry 
was favourable to the growth of the power of its princes, it 
also created a strong and defiant proletariat among the 
miners, living together, as they did, in large masses. It 
encouraged production for the markets in the agricultural 
districts, but, at the same time, engendered a thirst for land 
among the landlords, and intensified to the highest degree 
all the social antagonisms of that epoch. 

It was quite otherwise with Switzerland, where there was 
no mining industry and hence no warlike proletariat. Agri- 
culture to a large extent was still at a very primitive stage. 
Land communism was very strong, and there was not the 
least vestige of absolute princely power. We find rather a 
collection of peasant and town republics, with a peasant and 
urban democracy, which, so long as it felt itself weak and 
menaced, was in sympathy with communism, whose nearest 
enemy was its enemy also. 

All this must have tended to strengthen the peaceable 


tendencies of the Waldenses and Beghards in Switzerland 
and to make class antagonisms less acute than in Saxony, 
where the movement acquired more of a proletarian character. 
In Munzer's time there were very few communists in Saxony 
belonging to the upper classes. This is one of the reasons 
why Miinzer towered to such a height above the name- 
less masses who supported him and made him feared, but 
among whom there were no prominent combatants able, by 
their writings, to hand down their memory and personality to 

It was quite otherwise with the Swiss communists and 
those influenced by them, who counted numerous men of 
social prominence and culture in their ranks. It is impossible 
to keep our glance long fixed on any individual, for we are 
confused by the brilliant constellation of their interesting and 
characteristic men of talent. Though the Swiss movement 
is feebler than the Saxon, and from an historical point of view 
less important, it is more valuable to literature, and stands on 
a higher intellectual plane. 

We have perhaps said enough as to the generic character 
of the movement. 

Numerous traces of the Waldenses and Beghards are to be 
found in Switzerland during the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries ; but they are only blood traces ; in other words, 
executions. The sects were chiefly composed of people from 
the lower classes, such as craftsmen, proletarians, and peasants, 
who preached communism secretly in hidden confederacies. 
Together with this proletarian movement however, a sort of 
salon-covamumsni seems to have been instituted at the 
beginning of the sixteenth century. 

While Zurich was the Wittenberg of the confederation. 
Bale played the same role in Switzerland that Erfurt did in 
Saxony, as it was the headquarters of Swiss Humanism. A 
circle of free-thinking savants and artists was formed in the 
town, of which the central figure, after 1513, was Erasmus, 
the bosom friend of Thomas More. All sorts of novel ideas 
were discussed in this coterie, including probably many 
peculiar to the later order of Anabaptists ; for among the 
" erudite men " gathered at that time in Bale, we find several 


who subsequently became leaders of that sect. Conrad 
Grebel, the son of a Zurich patrician, and already " a dis- 
tinguished defender of the Gospel," was there in 1521 and 
1522 ; Dr. Balthasar Hubneir, from Waldshut, was in frequent 
communication with the circle ; and among its members were 
the Swabian Wilhelm Reublin, pastor of St. Albans, Bale, 
and Ulrich Hugwald, a B^le professor, who, as we have seen, 
had joined Oekolampadius in requesting Miinzer to agitate. 
We also find Ludwig Hatzer, the bookbinder Andreas auf der 
Stiilzen, Simon Stumpf, and others, all of whom were subse- 
quently zealous agitators among the Anabaptists. 

We may also mention the significant fact that Thomas 
More's Utopia had at that time aroused marked attention in 

The first edition of this work (which was written in Latin) 
appeared in Louvain, in the year 15 16, under the supervision 
of More's friend Erasmus, who was then staying in that 
town. In 1 5 18 it became necessary to issue a new edition, 
which came out in Bale and was produced by the celebrated 
printer, Froben. We can see from a letter written by Beatus 
Rhenanus to Pirkheimer ^ how eagerly Utopia was discussed 
in Bale. 

In 1524, the German translation by Claudius Canticula was 
also published in Bale : this was the first translation of the 
book into any language. 

Nothing positive, however, is known about the communistic 
movement in Bale ; and it has hitherto been impossible to 
remove the veil of obscurity covering the infancy of the Ana- 
baptist order, or rather its connection with the earlier com- 
munistic movements. The first clear indication of the new 
sect appeared in Zurich at the time of Zwingli's Reformation. 

The Lutheran Reformation began with the resistance to 
one of the most active means of taking money from Germany 
to Italy — the sale of indulgences. Zwingli's activity in the 
direction of reform (first as pastor in Glarus from 1 506 to 
1 5 16, then as parish-priest in Einsiedlen from 15 16 to 15 19, 
and lastly as pastor in Zurich) began with a struggle against 
the means by which the money of the Papacy was brought 
' Given in my Thomas More und seine Utopie. 


into Switzerland, viz., mercenary war service. Luther began 
as a theologian, Zwingli as a politician, his first attacks being 
directed, not against Catholic dogmas, but against the neigh- 
bouring Valois and Hapsburg dynasties. In 15 19, he was 
still so high in favour with the Vatican, that when he fell ill 
with the plague, the Papal legate hastened to send him his 
body-physician. Not until the waves of the German Refor- 
mation reached Switzerland, did the conflict in that country 
with the temporal power of the Pope become one against 
Catholicism (1522). As soon, however, as the Zurichers had 
entered this path, they went rapidly forward without en- 
countering any serious obstacles. 

Though Zwingli surpassed Luther in perspicuity and con- 
sistency, the Zwinglian Reformation movement none the less 
followed, in one respect, the same direction as the Lutheran. 
Like the latter, it exerted itself at the^ beginning to bring 
about the co-operation of all the classes who were dissatisfied 
with existing ecclesiastical conditions. In Zwingli's case, 
however, as in Luther's, the united struggle was followed by a 
rupture. Each of the allied parties and classes sought to 
profit by the victory in the furtherance of its own interests, 
and in accordance with its own views. The leader of the 
movement, the reformer, who had hitherto been supported by 
all classes, was now forced to decide in favour of one of 
these in opposition to the others, and thus to turn against a 
part of his former co-workers. This is a peculiarity of all 
revolutionary movements which are accomplished by the 
co-operation of different classes having opposing interests. 
When the conflict with the ruling Church began in Zurich, 
the communistic sectarians of that place no longer deemed it 
necessary to maintain strict secrecy. As early as the spring 
of 1522, it came to the knowledge of the authorities that an 
" heretical school " existed in the town ; an association in 
which the bookseller, Andreas auf der Stlilzen (who had 
belonged to the B&le circle) acted as teacher. This association 
had not yet been proscribed ; on the contrary, we find its 
members in friendly intercourse with Zwingli. 

Late in the autumn of 1522, Conrad Grebel returned from 
BAle to Zurich, and immediately joined the '^ heretical 


school." Independent and wealthy from his earliest years, 
he had studied in Vienna and Paris, acquiring some fame 
as a savant, but also seriously impairing his health by the 
excesses of his student life. 

On his. return to his home in Zurich, he devoted himself 
with enthusiasm to the cause of the Church movement, and 
became one of the " Brethren," though continuing to be on 
the best of terms with Zwingli. 

He was followed by many of his associates in the B^le 
circle, to whom Zurich seemed a freer field for their activity. 
Wilhelm Reublin left his living in B^le and received one in 
Wietikon ; Simon Stumpf became pastor in Hongg, near 
Zurich ; and Ludwig Hatzer, an erudite young priest from 
Thurgau, who had also been in Bale, was to be found in 
Zurich in 1523. 

The associates who thus flocked in from abroad were joined 
by numerous proselytes from the town itself Among these 
the most prominent was Felix Manz, a philologian, who with 
Grebel was soon in the front rank of the " Spirituals," as the 
Zurich Brethren were first called. 

The community continued to grow, and at length began to 
feel its strength. Zwingli cast loving glances at it. The chief 
concern of the association was now to urge him onward along 
the path of social reform ; the effort, however, resulting in a 
quarrel, which became more and more bitter. 

The Brethren demanded the abolition of Church imposts — 
tributes and tithes ; a step which Zwingli himself had openly 
advocated. But he now grew apprehensive of the league. 
On the 22nd of June, 1523, the Great Council of the town 
pronounced emphatically against the idea of attacking the 
Church tithes ; a hint which was apparently not lost on 
Zwingli, for three days latter he delivered a sermon in the 
cathedral, in which he sided with the Council. This 
showed that he intended to sever his connection with the 

Meanwhile this did not make the Brethren yield. They 
invited Zwingli to organise the Church in such a way as to 
make it independent of the State. The answer was the 
introduction of the State Church in the autumn, and the 



decision that all Church affairs should in future be referred to 
the Great Council, z.e., to the governing classes. 

This arrangement was a great blow to the " Spirituals," 
who had not begun the struggle with the Papal Church 
merely to place a compliant instrument of power in the 
hands of the wealthy. The conflict between them and 
Zwingli now became a bitter one ; but while the " Spirituals " 
fought with words only, Zwingli had the whole power of 
the State at his disposal, and made abundant use of it. As 
early as the end of 1523, the Brethren began to be arrested 
and banished, Simon Stumpf being among the first victims, 
in December. 

The persecution, however, did not overawe the Brethren ; 
it rather increased their zeal, and bound them more closely 
together. The sect grew rapidly both in the town and 
country, as the exiles carried their doctrines into the neigh- 
bouring cantons, where they soon gained a following. At 
the same time the Brethren began to dissociate themselves 
more and more from the mass of the population, and the 
condemnation of infant baptism gradually came to the fore, 
as their distinguishing tenet. 

Such was the state of affairs in the beginning of the year 

II. TAe Doctrines of the Anabaptists. 

Up to the year 1525 the theorists of the Anabaptists had 
not spoken, their deductions dealing chiefly with the theolo- 
gical confirmation and amplification of their doctrines. The 
fundamental features of these doctrines were sufficiently 
evident at the beginning of the Peasant War. This seems 
the fittest place for explaining them, before proceeding with 
the account of the external affairs of the sect. 

That which most strikes the observer concerning tjie 
Anabaptists is the great diversity of opinion prevailing 
among them. In his Chronica, which appeared in 1531, 
Franck (who knew and understood them thoroughly and 
sympathised with them on many points, although scepti- 
cally and timorously) says in regard to them : " Although 


dissensions exist in all sects, yet are the Baptists peculiarly- 
disunited and split up ; in so much that I know not what 
certainly and finally to write about them." ^ 

Bullinger writes in the same strain in his work against the 
Anabaptists. " Many hold," he says, " that it is impossible 
to give an accurate account of all the distinctions and an- 
tagonistic opinions, and pernicious, horrible sects or factions 
existing among the Anabaptists, In truth, few communities 
will be found which are unanimous in their views, and have 
not each its own mystery, z>., its own fantasy." For that 
reason he refrains from attempting to describe all the sects, 
and limits himself to a recapitulation of their most important 

Dissensions and divergences of views were not peculiar 
to the Anabaptists, They are in part due to the same 
tolerance in matters of faith which had enabled the most 
diverse sects to dwell together peaceably in Tabor, and in 
part to the circumstance that the various sects only rarely 
acquired a stable, recognised organisation. Hence the 
conception of what an Anabaptist really was remained, 
perhaps, quite as uncertain as that of a " Nihilist " of to- 
day in Russia. Contemporary historians include among 
them partisans of the most varied modes of thought. On the 
other hand, it is natural that every revolutionary — and hence 
critical — movement should maintain a critical attitude, not 
only towards its opponents, but also towards its adherents. 
This makes it liable to disruption in its very infancy, and so 
long as it is feeling its way without firm foothold. The 
Anabaptists (at least in Germany) never passed beyond this 

Bullinger is more minute than Franck in his account of the 
different factions among the Anabaptists, but also more 
bitter. We shall confine ourselves to Franck's narrative, and 
give a few of its details. 

Many of the distinctions given by this author are of a 

' Chronica, Zeytbti-ch und bibel von anbegyn biss inn diss gegenwartig, 
MDCXXXI.jar. Strassburg, 1531. Fol. 445. 

^ Der Widertiiuffer nursfrung, furgang, Secten, wasen fromemen und 
gemeine vier leer Aiiickcl. etc. Zurich, 1531, p, 17. 


subordinate character, and relate to differences of natural 
temperament or idiosyncrasy ; in which category we may 
place the various views held in regard to revelations and 
dreams. Other points deal with certain tactical matters of 
little import. 

But even on weighty questions and first principles there 
was no perfect unanimity among the Anabaptists. 

Foremost of all stood the fundamental question of private 

" Some," says Franck, " regard themselves alone as holy 
and pure. Holding themselves aloof from others, they have 
all things in common ; no one calls anything his own, and 
the possession of any property is a sin. 

" Others have all things so far in common that they allow 
no one among them to suffer want. Not that one can seize 
another's goods, but that in case of necessity the goods of 
each belong in common to the sufferer ; and no one is 
allowed to hide anything from another, but must keep 
open house. While, however, the giver should be ready 
and willing, the receiver should be unwilling, and, as far as 
possible, spare his brother, and avoid being a burden to him. 
But herein there is much hypocrisy, deceit, and lying, as 
they themselves well know. 

"In some places, e.^., at Austerlitz in Moravia, they have 
OeconomoSy or stewards, and a common kitchen-sack, from 
which each one is given what he is in want of ; but whether 
this is really so, and the distribution just, I do not inquire. 
These anathematise other Brethren who do not walk in 
what they consider the right way ; and this often happens, 
since each community puts a ban upon other brotherhoods 
who do not subscribe in all things to its tenets. , . . 

" Other Baptists lay no stress on the brotherly feeling and 
community of goods just mentioned, and esteem it un- 
necessary and arrogant on the part of the Fraternities 
which call themselves perfect Christians and despise all else. 
In this sect each works for himself, and the members help, 
question each other, and shake hands in a way quite 
hypocritical (to my thinking), although I lay no blame on 
those who do these things in sincerity." 


Hence among the Anabaptists, as among the Taborites 
and Bohemian Brethren, we find two parties : one strict, 
taking communism seriously, abolishing all private rights in 
property, and supporting the Brethren from the common 
" kitchen-sack " ; and, at the same time, the more moderate 
faction which recognised private proprietorship, and only 
demanded that each should so possess " as if he possessed 
nothing." The appearance of these two parties nearly simul- 
taneously is not an accidental, but a typical phenomenon, 
consequent, by the very nature of things, on the communistic 
movement, so long as it adhered to the basis of communism 
in the means of consumption. 

The question of marriage is intimately connected with that 
of private proprietorship. 

According to Franck, some taught that no one should 
live in family life with those of another faith ; and many 
wedlocks were broken up in this way. Others held opposite 

Some thought it a duty to forsake house and family after 
the example of the apostles (St. Luke xviii. 28-30), while 
many preached the contrary. 

" There was also a sect among them the members of 
which wished, together with all things else, to have their 
wives in common ; but they were soon suppressed by the 
other Brethren of the community, and driven out. Many 
inculpated Hut and Hatzer as leaders of this sect. If this 
be true, these men at all events atoned for their sin." 

Ludwig Hatzer of Thurgau is already known to us. Not 
only was he opposed to the bolder thinkers of his party on 
questions of marriage, but he was one of those Baptists 
who denied the divinity of Christ, and maintained that He 
was only a teacher and example, not an " idol." We do not 
know how far his views were shared by others. In 1529 he 
was put to death at Constance, for adultery. 

Hans Hut, of Franconia, was a bookbinder, and a zealous 
partisan of Munzer (who was himself far from advocating 
the community of wives). After the suppression of the 
Peasant Insurrection in Thuringia, he joined the South 
Grerman Anabaptists. 


The tendencies for which he and Hatzer were condemned 
call to mind those of the Adamites in Bohemia and the 
Brothers and Sisters of the Free-Spirit ; and it is noteworthy 
that BulHnger speaks of a sect of " Free-Brothers " among 
the Baptists, who not only in name but in their opinions 
showed a close kinship with the Brothers of the Free-Spirit. 
We cannot decisively say whether this similarity rests upon 
tradition, or whether under the same conditions, but without 
any connection with their forerunners, like events led to like 

" The Free Brethren," says Bullinger " (whom nearly all 
other Baptists call the rude, wild Brothers, and curse and 
scorn) make the eighth sect of this people. From the very 
origin of the order they were rather numerous in various 
localities, especially in the Zurich highlands. The Baptists 
interpreted Christian freedom in a fleshly sense, wishing to 
be above all laws, because Christ had made them free. They 
also imagined themselves exempt from the payment of rents 
and tithes, and furthermore from the duties of labour. Some 
of the more discreet, however, teach that although these 
things are not incumbent as between the Brethren, yet should 
the heathen be paid, that they may have no cause for com- 
plaint, and may not revile the doctrines. Nevertheless serf- 
dom should cease among Christians. Some of these Free 
Brothers (abandoned, dissolute knaves) convinced wanton 
women that unless these hazarded their honour, it would be 
impossible for them to be saved. To this end they blas- 
phemously abused the Word of God, which says that he 
cannot be saved who is not willing to forfeit and lose all that 
he holds dear. In like manner all ignominy and disgrace 
must be suffered for Christ's sake. Because Christ said that 
publicans and harlots should enter the kingdom of heaven 
before the righteous, therefore women are to turn harlots, 
yielding up their honour, and thus be greater in heaven than 
virtuous wives. Others are more subtle ; for they teach that 
as all things are held in common, so should the wives be also. 
Some affirm that after they have been rebaptized they are born 
again, and cannot sin ; the flesh alone can and may sin. In 
this way great scandal and wantonness were caused by many 


false pretences and lies, since they dared to say concerning 
all these things, that they were in accordance with God's 
will. Certain wanton knaves among them instituted what 
they called spiritual marriage ; wives were told that they 
committed heinous sin with their husbands if these had not 
been rebaptized, since in that case they were no better than 
heathens ; but that with Baptists they did not sin, there 
being a spiritual marriage between them." ^ 

We have, unfortunately, been unable to discover any further 
contemporaneous information concerning the Free Brethren. 
Bullinger's polemical treatise is by no means an unprejudiced 
source ; but in all essential points we may rely upon the 
accuracy of its representations of the sect, particularly on 
points in which their doctrines touch upon those of the 
Brothers and Sisters of the Free-Spirit ; namely, their " free- 
love," " communistic anarchism," and their sinlessness based 
on the assumption that what they did was God's will. 

Though the Anabaptists were no more unanimous in 
their opinions about government or public authority than 
in those concerning private property and marriage, they all 
agreed that they would have as little as possible to do with 
the Government. They wished to know nothing of it ; at the 
same time they deprecated violent resistance, and preached 
the duty of suffering obedience. 

Franck informs us that they taught the duty of unresisting 
submission to violence. A Christian should fill no office ; 
" he may not have any kind of servant ; neither may he go to 
war, or clench his fist." Let vengeance be of God. 

Some among them proclaimed that no one should take an 
oath. " Furthermore no Christian may take an official position 
in which his duty would oblige him to sit in a criminal court 
and judge matters of life and death, or concern himself with 
war." Others at least tolerated necessary self-defence. " Never- 
theless they all with one voice teach obedience to the authorities 
in things that be not contrary to God's will ; and the giving 
not only of rent and taxes, but of the cloak with the coat, and 
all that is not absolutely needful. They also say that they 
are ready to suffer violence, and even to obey tyrants. . . . 
' Wicdeiidufcr, fol. 32. 


So far as I have discoursed with the latter, they have replied 
to me that they are here to suffer with patience for Christ's 
sake, not to fight with impatience ; because the precepts and 
demands of the gospel were defended and established by 
suffering and martyrdom, not by violence; as the peasants 
had it in mind to do." 

Much as they agreed with the Zurich Brethren in other 
matters, their views on the subject of violence were the main 
cause of their separation from Miinzer and the majority of 
German communists before the Peasant War. 

A letter is still extant which was addressed to Miinzer on 
the Sth of September, 1524, by Grebel, Manz Andreas von 
der Stiilzen, Hans Okenfuss, Heinrich Aberli, and others. 
They affirm that they are at one with him in many things, 
and that " you and Karlstadt are esteemed among us as the 
purest proclaimers and preachers of the purest Word of God." 
They rejoice that " we have found one who is of the same 
Christian understanding as ourselves. We who are poor in 
spirit have been taught and strengthened beyond measure by 
your tracts." But he is not radical enough in his doctrines, 
and they exhort him " seriously to bestir himself, and preach 
without fear godly words only ; to set up godly usages . . . 
and to reject, hate, and curse all human designs, words, usages, 
and opinions, and even your own." They attack his German 
Mass, which they consider too far removed from apostolic 
simplicity, and also inveigh against his advocacy of violence. 
Whosoever will not believe, and struggles against God's Word 
" should not be put to death, but be esteemed a heathen and 
a publican. The gospel and its believers are not to be pro- 
tected with the sword, nor should the latter so protect them- 
selves ; yet this, from what we have gathered from our Brethren, 
is your opinion. True, believing Christians are sheep among 
wolves, sheep for the slaughter ; they must be baptized in 
anguish and want, in tribulation and persecution, in suffering 
and death ; by these must they be proved, and obtain the 
home of everlasting rest, not by physical, but by spiritual 
strangling. Moreover, they must not make use of the sword 
of the world, nor of war, as killing is an entirely bygone thing 
with them." 


We do not know whether Munzer received this letter, nor 
what reply he gave to it ; but soon after its composition we 
find him on the Swiss frontier in communication with the Swiss 
Anabaptists. We are limited to conjecture respecting the 
nature of this intercourse, though the events which transpired 
after Miinzer's return to Thuringia, lead us to infer that no 
agreement was arrived at concerning the employment of 
violent measures. 

The question of such measures was a crucial one with the 
Anabaptists, as it had previously been with the Bohemian 
Brethren. This is seen from the fact that in spite of their 
tolerance in other matters, and the existence among them of 
the most diverse tendencies, they always protested against 
Miinzer's being considered one of them. Moreover, that 
reformer's partisans held aloof from the Baptists. Franck 
tells us: "It is said that Miinzer still has (1531) a large 
number of secret followers in Thuringia, who are not Baptists. 
Furthermore, as far as I have been informed on trustworthy 
authority, he has not even rebaptized." 

This last circumstance is not in itself any proof that Miinzer 
did not belong to the Baptists. Like these, Miinzer publicly 
declared against infant baptism. In his Protestation he writes : 
" In the days of the apostles care was taken that the adver- 
sary should not mix the tares with the wheat. For that 
reason adults only were admitted as members of the Church, 
after long instruction. . . . Ah ! What shall I say ? In all 
the books of the Fathers of the Church from the earliest 
extant, there is not one single word which discloses or 
indicates the true mode of baptism. I ask all who are learned 
in letters to point out to me the place in Holy Writ in which 
it is asserted that a single child under age was baptized by 
Christ and His messengers, or which may be adduced in 
support of infant baptism." 

At the end of January, or beginning of February, 1525, 
the Zurich Brethren had begun to introduce the practice of 
rebaptism ; at a time when Miinzer had probably left to take 
part in the great revolutionary war, and when that sort of 
sectarian controversy must have seemed to him trivial and of 
absolutely no importance. 


The idea of rebaptism (or rather late baptism) was not new. 
It sprang up at a very early date among the Waldenses, and 
was afterwards especially prominent in the early days of the 
Bohemian Brethren. Peter Chelcicky was of the opinion that 
" it were better to baptize adults only, after the manner of the 
ancient Church, z>., those who could confirm their faith by 
their works." While not wholly repudiating infant baptism, 
he preferred that the rite should be limited to adults only. 
When the community of Bohemian Brethren was formed at 
Lhota in 1407, their first act was rebaptism, which was per- 
formed on all who were present ; and late baptism maintained 
itself among the fraternity until the rise of the Anabaptists. 
At that time the Bohemian Brethren had acquired the 
character of middle-class people, and did not wish to be 
confounded with the Anabaptists, who bore the same features 
as the original followers of Chelcicky. Adult baptism now 
became a dangerous symbol, and for that reason the dislike 
to it in the Bohemian sects continued to increase until a 
synod held at Jungbunzlau in 1534 (the year of the Munster 
uprising) put a final end to the practice. ^ Hence it was no 
new principle, the acceptance of which gave the Zurich 
Brethren their name. In fact the opposition to infant 
baptism was a logical consequence of the opposition to the 
State Church. 

So long as the Catholic Church in Occidental Christendom 
was truly Catholic, baptism implied the reception into general 
society. At that time there was nothing contrary to common 
sense in infant baptism. It was quite otherwise after the 
formation of opposing heretical parties, who contested the 
claim of the Catholic Church, that it comprised the whole of 
society. When other ecclesiastical organisations had been 
instituted, the demand was naturally advanced that each 
individual should not be involuntarily apportioned to a 
designated Church through the accident of birth, but remain 
free to decide until he was able to think for himself 

This conclusion, however, was not arrived at by all the 
Protestant sects. The Protestantism of the ruling classes 
consisted merely in the effort to get possession of the Church 
' Gindely, Geschichte der Bohmischcn Briulcr, i. pp. 36 and 224. 


as a means of government, and to incorporate it in the State. 
The Church became a part of the State — the State Church ; 
and the Government in those countries to which the Reforma- 
tion spread determined to what Church — to what " faith " — 
the citizens of the State should belong. This was afterwards 
displayed in the most marked manner in monarchical Germany, 
where the principle was formulated : cujus regio, ejus religio ; 
and where the subjects of a prince were obliged forthwith and 
uncomplainingly to change their faith, if their sovereign for 
any reason changed his, or bequeathed, gave, sold, or ceded 
them to another monarch of a different belief 

In democratic Protestant commonwealths the power of the 
State Church did not lead to such absurd consequences as in 
monarchies ; but the consequences became apparent sooner, 
and first of all, in Zurich, where, as we have seen, Zwingli had 
introduced the State Church in 1523. The baptism of adults 
was incompatible, however, with the inauguration of a National 
Church. As every individual belonged by birth to a par- 
ticular country, so in those countries having a State Church, 
he belonged by birth to a particular confession. Adult 
baptism implied a denial of State authority ; the denial of its 
right to fix the belief of its native-born citizens. As adminis- 
trator of the State of Zurich, Zwingli could not recognise 
late baptism, although earlier, and as long as he was in the 
opposition he avowed himself to be in favour of the practice. 

On the other hand, the Brethren were made to adhere 
more firmly to the right of adult baptism by the increasing 
severity of the persecution, and the growing consciousness 
that they were in the minority and must renounce all hope of 
getting the government into their hands. They saw that they 
could vindicate their claims only by separating from the mass 
of the people and organising themselves into a peculiar com- 
munity of " saints " and " elect " — two appellations which 
sound very arrogant, and only show that the Brethren had 
abandoned the hope of ever constituting the mass of the 

Thus the question of adult baptism (or as its opponents 
said, ?'^-baptism) came more and more to the front. It was 
just as far from being the objective cause of the struggle as 


was the question of Communion in both kinds among the Hus- 
sites.i But as was the case with the lay chalice, circumstances 
caused rebaptism to be the standard round which the Brethren 
gathered — a token by which they recognised each other, and 
from which they received the name they have borne in 

III. Tke Fortune and Fate of the Anabaptists in 

The first decisive blow received by the Anabaptists fell 
upon them before the outbreak of the Peasant War. 

Inflamed by their preachers, and especially by Reublin, 
many parents refused to have their children baptized. In 
vain did pastors and Councilmen exert themselves to per- 
suade the recalcitrants to yield. On the i8th of January, 
therefore, the Council issued an order for the compulsory 
baptism of children, at the same time enacting the punish- 
ment of exile to any one transgressing the decree. The 
execution of the order began three days later, by the banish- 
ment of Reublin, Hatzer, Andreas von der Stulzen, together 
with Brodli, from Graubiinden, who acted as preacher in 
Zollikon, but supported himself by manual labour. 

The answer to this blow was fit and bold. An assembly 
was convened of the Brothers remaining in Zurich, at which 
Jurg Blaurock, at one time a monk in Chur, rose and asked 
Conrad Grebel to baptize him with the true Christian 
baptism. After the ceremony had been performed, Jiirg 
baptized all others present at the meeting. From that time 

' Zwingli himself says this in a letter to Vadian of May 28, 1525, in 
which he designates the conflict with the Baptists as one of the severest 
he had ever carried on. All previous struggles had been comparatively 
child's play. But resistance was necessary, as it was not merely a ques- 
tion concerning baptism, but of insurrection, destruction, and contempt of 
authority. (Egli, Ziiricher Wiedertdufer, p. 34.) 

• " Rebaptists " or " Anabaptists " ; from the Greek Ana, a particle con- 
taining the idea of repetition. The members of the sect protested 
against this appellation. They did not baptize twice, but maintained 
that infant baptism was no real baptism ; being, as Hubmeir calls it, 
only a child-bath. (In a work entitled, Vom Cliristenlichen Tauff der 
Glaubieen, 1525.) 


rebaptism, or late baptism, was the recognised symbol of 
admission to the league of Brethren. An attempt was 
made to arrive, at the same time, at a practical realisation 
of communism.! 

When the Zurich Brethren espoused the doctrine of 
rebaptism, they did so with the full consciousness of what 
awaited them. 

" The Council caused many to be thrown into prison, among 
whom were Manz and Blaurock. Interdictions, trials, and 
punishments followed ; then more imprisonments, con- 
ferences, and severer punishments. But this people had a 
spirit which mocked at the theology of Zwingli, and as wind 
spreads the fire, so did violence spread the name of their 
Church far and wide." ^ 

In fact the exiles from Zurich soon sowed the seed of their 
doctrines throughout all German Switzerland, their greatest 
success being achieved on the German frontier, in Waldshut, 
Schaffhausen, and St. Galle. 

In these and other towns of Switzerland and South Ger- 
many, the Zurich Reformation movement met with an active 
response ; and, as in Zurich, there also appeared a radical 
Anabaptist party, who wished to go beyond the reform of 
Zwingli, and who were more successful than their coadjutors 
had been in the capital, where the population was less plebeian 
in character. 

The wholesale expulsions from Zurich at the beginning of 
the year 1525 helped to stir up the above-mentioned towns. 
Grebel repaired to Schaffhausen ; Brodli began to preach at 
Hallau, in the vicinity of the same town ; and Reublin finally 
went to Waldshut. In Schaffhausen the new doctrines made 
but slow progress ; but Hallau was soon won over, as well 
as Waldshut, where the leader of the movement was Dr. 

' We have it on the evidence of an eye-witness, Heini Frei (called 
Gigli), that : " It was thought that all things should be in common and 
be heaped together ; and that what any one lacked and asked for, he 
should take from the heap, as far as his actual needs demanded. It was 
also thought that persons of wealth and high family should be gladly 
admitted, and be 'induced to join" (Egli, Ziiricher Wiedertdufer, 

PP- 24, 97)- 
== Cornelius, Geschichte des Miinsterischen Aufruhrs, ii. pp. 29, 30. 


Balthasar Hubmeier, who, as we know, had had dealings 
with the Bale circle. 

This man merits a somewhat closer view. Born in Fried- 
berg, near Augsburg, in 1480, he had devoted himself to a 
scholastic career, and had been made professor in the Univer- 
sity of Ingolstadt, of which he was appointed Pro-Rector in 
15 15. He passed the following year at Regensburg, where 
he was preacher in the cathedral, and became conspicuous 
chiefly for his agitation against the Jews, whom the handi- 
craftsmen accused of causing the decay of the town and the 
crafts. In 15 19 the Jews were banished, and soon after 
Hubmeier also left. What drove him away we do not know ; 
perhaps his participation in the Reformation movement. He 
betook himself to Waldshut, which was at that time in the 
possession of the Hapsburgs, and there he soon acquired 
an important influence as a preacher, especially among the 
common people. This influence was increased when, owing 
to the impulse given to the movement in Waldshut by the 
Zurich Reformation, a democratic agitation began against 
the ruling dynasty. This agitation, which finally led to the 
insurrection of the town against the Hapsburgs on the eve 
of the Peasant War, was headed by Hubmeier, whose ro/e 
was the same as that played in Zurich by Zwingli, with 
whom he was in constant communication. 

As we have already remarked, the success of this movement 
was coincident with the prosperity of the Anabaptists in 

When Zwingli took up the cudgels against the Brethren, 
Hubmeier was forced to a decision. In Waldshut the 
common people had more power than in Zurich, and were 
in closer proximity to the rebellious peasants of South 
Germany. Hubmeier separated himself from Zwingli, and 
with his community went over to the Baptists, with whom 
he had previously been in sympathy, and was on many points 
in accord. When Reublin came to Waldshut, Hubmeier was 
baptized by him (Easter, 1525). More than three hundred 
citizens followed his example, and with Hubmeier the town 
was soon won over to the cause. This rebellious city 
became " a rock of the Baptist Church ; a centre whence 


revival preachers and missions were dispatched in all direc- 
tions" (Cornelius). 

A rapid increase took place simultaneously in the St. Galle 
community, and all Appenzell was soon roused to excitement. 

Manz carried the Baptist doctrines to Graubiinden ; others 
spread them in Bale and Berne ; while in the canton of 
Zurich itself the agitation did not stagnate, in spite of all 
the measures taken by the authorities. For a long time 
it was particularly successful in the highlands of the 

These great successes would have been impossible without 
the Peasant War, which stirred up the people of Switzerland 
and Southern Germany. But when this great war was at an 
end ; when the rebellious German peasantry lay in the dust, 
bleeding from' a thousand wounds, the position of things in 
the confederacy was altered for the Baptists. The lower 
classes now grew faint-hearted and despairing, while the 
rulers became more arrogant, their thirst for blood fired by 
the famous example of their German neighbours. In the 
second half of the year 1525 the persecution of the 
Anabaptists became general throughout Switzerland, and 
all the more bitter and cruel in proportion to the increase 
of danger threatening from the communistic sectarians, under 
the aegis of the Peasant War. 

As early as the beginning of June the Council of St. Galle 
was roused from its lethargy and decreed the prohibition of 
rebaptism. Burgesses were forced to swear unconditional 
obedience to the authorities, under penalty of banishment 
from the town. In July Manz was arrested by the Council 
of Chur and handed over to Zurich, while in August the 
Council of Schaffhausen gained the mastery over the Ana- 
baptists. October saw the arrest of Grebel and Blaurock, 
and in November Berne enacted the penalty of banishment 
on the advocates of Anabaptism. Finally Waldshut, the 
rock of the Anabaptists, fell into the hands of the Austrian 
Government without resort to arms, and Hubmeier, to whom 
all other loopholes of escape were closed, fled to Zurich, where 
he was seized and imprisoned. 

This year, which during its first half had been so full of 


brilliant success for the Anabaptists, ended in the complete 
overthrow and dispersion of the entire league. 

Most of them fled to Germany, e.^:, Rueblin, Hatzer, and 

Others repented and renounced their errors, among whom 
the best known was Hubmeier. After he had recanted and 
sworn never again to enter the canton of Zurich, he was 
mercifully set free (April, 1526). "Nevertheless," mourns 
Bullinger, " however reasonable and right-minded the simple 
erring folk were made by this act of Dr. Balthasar, there 
were many Baptists who neither by this nor by any other 
means could be induced to better themselves." ^ 

The authorities pursued them with corporal punishments 
of increased severity. As early as March 7, 1526, the 
Council of Zurich had decreed that all who obstinately 
adhered to the Anabaptist cause "should be laid in the 
tower, kept on bread and water, and left to die and rot," 
women and maidens as well. Moreover, it threatened with 
rigorous punishment all who might shelter an Anabaptist or 
supply him with food and drink. Finally, the death penalty 
was ordained for those who should relapse, the first to suffer 
being Felix Manz. He was drowned on the 5th of January, 
and his property confiscated. 

Persecution however did not succeed in suppressing the 
doctrine of Anabaptism in Switzerland; and indeed no 
communistic sect has hitherto being annihilated by violent 
measures. But circumstances no longer favoured the sect, 
and hence, after the overthrow of the German peasants, the 
communistic movement in the Swiss confederacy was soon 
forced back to the level at which it stood before the begin- 
ning of the Reformation, viz., that of a secret league, boding 
no danger to the governing classes but in the highest degree 
dangerous to its members — a league whose existence was 
made known only by occasional law proceedings and execu- 
tions. As far as publicity was concerned, the movement had 

' Der Wideddiiffcr Ursprung, p. 13. 



IV. Tke Anabaptists in South Germany. 

It would be natural to presume that the suppression of 
the Peasant insurrection, producing, as it did, so violent a 
reaction against the Baptists in neighbouring countries, must 
have made any success of that order in Germany itself quite 
impossible. But while this view would accord with the 
circumstances of a modern, centralised government, it does 
not take into account the feudal, local separatism so strong 
in the German Empire at that time. If this separatism 
increased the difficulty of combining all the revolutionary 
or rebellious parties into one common movement, it also 
diminished the energy of the reactionary blow, which did not 
fall on all these classes simultaneously or with equal force. 

The majority of the large free cities of the Empire had 
confronted the'Peasant insurrection with great coolness. Not 
only did the higher classes of burgesses — the patricians — 
stand in a position of enmity to the peasants, but the middle 
and lower classes of the urban population — the town de- 
mocracy — entertained only a lukewarm sympathy for the 
rural population ; a lukewarmness which was often not far 
removed from aversion. 

But as the democracy of the large towns had refrained 
from strengthening with their power the insurrection of the 
peasantry, they were not affected — or at least directly affected 
— by the overthrow of that insurrection. The democracy 
of most of the imperial cities of South Germany was un- 
broken after the Peasant War. But at that period an acute 
character was given to the conflicts between this democracy 
and the urban aristocracy on the one hand, and, on the other, 
between the whole body of the urban population and the 
princely powers who were aspiring to the rule and exploita- 
tion of the towns — conflicts which indeed never wholly ceased 
in those centuries. 

The mass of the population in the Imperial cities had 
welcomed Luther's resistance to the Pope with joy, and 
given it their support ; their enthusiasm, however, diminished 
in proportion to Luther's increasing lukewarmness towards 
the democracy. 



At the same time that Luther began to sever himself from 
the democracy, there arose in Zurich a form of Church 
Reformation which quite coincided with the interests of the 
urban guild-democracy. It soon excited the attention of the 
Imperial towns of South Germany, where it gained a footing ; 
without, however, at the outset, placing itself in opposition to 
Lutheranism. But the two parties were bound to come into 
antagonism as soon as Luther and his followers declared 
themselves against the democracy. And thus the epoch of 
the Peasant War precisely indicates the period of the begin- 
ning of the great struggle between Luther and Zwingli ; 
seemingly only a conflict over a word ; a battle to decide 
whether Christ said : " This " (the bread) " is my body," or 
" This signifies my body " ; but in reality a battle between 
middle-class democratic reformation and princely reformation, 
fought out with theological arguments, but concerning very 
mundane matters. 

All Germany had been full of the struggle since 1525, but 
it was carried on most eagerly in the South German Imperial 
cities of Strassburg, Ulm, Constance, Lindau, Meinningen, 
Augsburg, &c. As had already been the case under similar 
conditions, the communists were the tertius gaudens. By 
their conflict with the Wittenberg pope, they now acquired 
room and light for a freer development, just as they had 
previously done, by their struggle with the Roman Pope. 
The adherents of Zwingli in South Germany were in a 
position to use the Anabaptists as a tool against the 
Lutherans ; hence they tolerated that sect during the years 
immediately following 1525, Zwingli himself, now their perse- 
cutor in Zurich, having, indeed, very recently favoured them. 

South Germany became the asylum of political refugees 
from the free republic, who went there in large numbers and 
rapidly gained many adherents. Their peaceable intentions, 
which repudiated all resort to violence, exactly harmonised 
with the universal frame of mind among the lower classes 
after the suppression of the Peasant rebellion. Some who 
liad previously been partisans of Miinzer, went over to them ; 
e.g.y Hans Hut, the bookbinder, and Melchoir Rinck. Rinck 
was at one time schoolmaster at Hersfeld, and afterwards 



pastor at Eckartshaufen in the jurisdiction of Eisenach. He 
had, moreover, fought at Frankenhausen, but, more fortunate 
than Miinzer, escaped with his life. 

The subsequent increase among the order of the Anabaptists 
in Germany was so rapid that it was thought by many in that 
country that the order had, generally speaking, come into 
existence either during or after the Peasant War. The 
Baptists themselves encouraged this view, hoping thereby to 
refute the accusation that they had plotted that insurrection, as 
was firmly asserted by their opponents. In support of their 
denial they could appeal to the fact that the adoption of 
rebaptism as a symbol of the Brotherhood, their outspoken 
severance from the Zwinglian Church, and their constitution 
as a separate religious community took place no earlier than 
the beginning of the year 1525. 

Sebastian Franck accepts this representation, exerting 
himself most zealously to prove that they were in nowise 
rebelliously inclined. 

At all events, Franck's view is nearer the truth than 
the one still more widely disseminated and adopted by 
Bullinger — that Miinzer was the founder of the Baptist sect. 
Bullinger had, it is true, seen the beginnings of Anabaptism 
in Zurich, but the Zurich pastor must have been desirous of 
shifting the birthplace of the inconvenient order from the 
home of Zwinglianism to that of Lutheranism. 

The headquarters of the Baptist order in South Germany 
were Augsburg and Strassburg, two weaver towns in which 
Beghardism was very strong. 

Another centre was Nurenberg, where we know Miinzer 
found many congenial spirits, although the patrician element 
was too strong to admit of a successful popular movement at 
that time. 

At the end of the year 1524 (perhaps immediately after 
Munzer's arrival in the town) a number of " heretics " were 
thrown into prison at Nurenberg, among whom were Diirer's 
pupil, Jorg Penz, and Hans Denck, who had been appointed 
Rector of the school at Sebald, on the recommendation of 
Oekolampadius at Bale. 

The chief personages among the accused were exiled, 


including Denck, who went to Switzerland, where the cause 
of the Brethren was beginning to be highly prosperous. At 
the commencement of the year 1525 we find him as proof- 
reader in a printing establishment at St. Galle ; but the 
autumn of the same year saw him once more at Augsburg 
in Germany. In this town the enmity between Lutheranism 
and Zwinglianism was beginning to show itself in its acutest 
form ; there the battle fought at that time between the two 
parties raged at its fiercest, and consequently the Baptists 
came under conditions which were most favourable to them. 

The community grew rapidly. According to Urbanus 
Rhegius it already numbered 1,100 members in 1527. This 
increase is chiefly ascribed to the agency of Denck, " who, 
with his vagabonds (wandering agitators), wished to establish 
his new Baptist order, and hid himself in a corner, where he 
secretly poured out his poison," over this Urbanus Rhegius 
laments in a pamphlet against Denck.^ 

Denck was certainly much favoured by circumstances in 
Augsburg ; but a large part of the success he attained 
must be attributed to his zeal and intelligence. He and 
Hubmeier stood in the front rank of the vanguard of the 
Brethren. Peter Gynoraus, who lived in Augsburg in 1526, 
speaks of him as the " head of the Anabaptists." Bucer calls 
him the "pope"; and in a letter to Zwingli of December 2, 
1527, Haller calls him the "Apollo of the Anabaptists." 

As an able man of erudition and a philosopher, Denck 
directed his activity above all to divesting the Baptist 
doctrines of all that was material or " fleshly," and to making 
them more " spiritual," He was one of the foremost repre- 
sentatives of the more moderate (or perhaps more practical 
and placable) party among the Anabaptists, who chafed under 
the burden not only of the strict enforcement of the principle 
of community in goods, but of complete passivity towards the 
Government. It is true that the antagonism between the two 
parties did not attain to its full development in Germany ; it 
first reached its climax in Moravia, where the community 
found more elbow-room, and could better allow itself the 

' Wider den newen Taufforden. Notwendige Warnung an alle christ- 
glaubigen dutch die Diener dcs Evangelii zu Augsburg. 1527. 


luxury of internal quarrels. But a new practical party in 
opposition to the old Zurich faction was beginning already 
to be conspicuous in Germany and especially in Augsburg, 
where the Brotherhood was exceedingly prosperous, and 
where also it included among its members representatives of 
the higher classes ; of whom we may mention Eitelhans 
Langenmantel, "a burgess belonging to one of the first 
families in Augsburg." ^ 

As was the case with the Bohemian Brethren, the larger 
part of the educated members of the Anabaptist community 
belonged to the moderate party. Next to Denck, the most 
prominent of these was Hubmeier, who, it is true, deserted 
the sect in Zurich, but again joined it as soon as he knew 
that the walls of Zurich were behind him. 

Meanwhile' there were men of education on the other side, 
e.g-., Eitelhans Langenmantel, who, if the Short Discourse on 
the True Community is justly ascribed to him, made cause 
with the stricter form of communism. 

The most determined advocate of the rigorous party was 
the bookbinder and accountant, Hans Hut, who, as we have 
seen, had been through the Miinzer school, and was accused 
of being a member of the "Community of Wives in Common." 

Denck and Hut had already encountered each other at the 
second Augsburg Congress of the Brethren. 

Augsburg was so important a place that the two primary 
synods of the Baptists were held there. Among those who 
took part in the first of these, convened in the spring of 1526, 
were Hans Denck, Hans Hut, Ludwig Hatzer, and Balthasar 
Hubmeier. This Congress sanctioned the introduction of late 
Baptism into Germany, the practice having hitherto been 
confined to Switzerland. 

Greater importance, however, attaches to the second Con- 
gress in August, 1527, which was attended by more than 
sixty delegates from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. 
Its chief task was the organisation of the propaganda work, 
the sending of " apostles^' into different districts, and perhaps 
also the settling of the programme, or " Confession." 

' Beck, Die GeschichtsbUcher der Wiedertdufer in Oesterreich Ungarn. 
Vienna, 1883, p. 36. 


" Unfortunately," says Keller, who is our authority with 
regard to these two Congresses, " we are not in possession of 
the protocols of the resolutions passed by this assembly. It 
is certain, however, that after long debate (in which a 
difference arose between Denck and Hut) the delegates 
unanimously embodied their resolutions ; and it was Denck's 
propositions which carried the day." ^ 

Together with the delegates to these two Congresses from 
the South Germany of that period, we meet with some from 
Austria, to which country Anabaptism had also penetrated ; 
first of all to the parts of Tyrol bordering on Switzerland and 
the neighbouring mountain regions. 

Tyrol at that time played a much more important part in 
economics and politics than she does to-day. In that province 
and in the district bordering on its eastern frontier, the 
mining industry was more highly developed than in any 
other land with the exception of Saxony and Bohemia. It 
could boast not only of rich iron and copper ores and salt 
deposits, but also of numerous veins of gold and silver. 
The large output of these mines must have contributed to the 
intensification of indigenous social antagonisms, though this 
effect was less evident in its mountainous regions than in 
those of Saxony. The chief cause of this difference lay in the 
inaccessibility of the country and the isolation and sterility of 
its lonely valleys. The inhabitants of the side valleys were 
untouched by the influence of the few commercial routes 
traversing the lofty mountain passes. Their wants remained 
those of olden times, and the ways and means of satisfying 
them had not changed. No prospect of gained allured the 
merchant into their pathless wilds, and the peasant produced 
no surplus for barter. 

The wealth produced by the mining population, especially 
in the gold and silver mines, contributed but slightly to the 
encouragement of manufacture, for the chief shareholders of 
the mines of Tyrol were non-Tyrolese, the most important 
being the Fuggers and Hochstetters of Augsburg. Moreover, 
Spaniards also were among those who worked the Tyrolese 
mines. Even the share that fell to the sovereigns of the 
' Die Reformation, p. 429. 


land, the Hapsburgs, did not remain in the country, but was 
scattered abroad in support of their foreign policy, going into 
the pockets of mercenaries from Switzerland, the Netherlands, 
and Spain, and enriching the ministers of various Courts 
whom it was necessary to bribe, as well as the German 
Electors and their officials. 

Hence in Tyrol, though some districts were highly developed 
in economics, we find others which were very backward. The 
old constitution of the Markgenossenschaft still prevailed to 
a very great extent, and there was but little exploitation of 
peasants — at least north of the Brenner. The climax of 
class-antagonism was reached only in the towns and mining 
localities and their environs. 

Hence when the waves of the Peasant War of 1525 beat 
upon the Tyrol and Salzburg Alps and created a stir among 
the population of those districts, it was not the peasants but 
the miners who stood at the head of the insurrection. ^ 

The military strength of the miners then became evident, 
and proved how dangerous the uprising in Thuringia might 
have been if the miners of that province had thrown them- 
selves heartily into it. The rebellions of 1525 in Northern 
Tyrol and the Salzburg district were the only ones 
which were not suppressed by military force. They were 
conquered by moral means, t.e., by broken promises and by 
utilising the narrow spirit of local separatism, exhibited quite 
as plainly among the Salzburg miners as among the Mans- 
felders. A few of the more dangerous uprisings were sub- 
dued by the reform of some all too flagrant abuses, and a free 
hand was thus obtained for dealing with the other insurgents. 
After these had been defeated and time gained for the massing 
of troops, it became possible to subdue those districts which 
had remained unconquered. 

Subjugated and depressed, yet without having suffered 
military defeat, the lower classes of Tyrol were every whit as 
discontented and ill-disposed after the Peasant War as those 
of South Germany, though not so disheartened. 

This was the frame of mind in which they were found by 
' This is fully dealt with in my treatise Die Bergarbeiter tind der 
Bauernkrieg. Neue Zeit, 1889, p. 508, sqq. 


the Anabaptist preachers from Switzerland and Bavaria, to 
whom it soon became clear that Tyrol offered a fertile soil 
for the growth of their doctrines. 

The Baptist sect achieved its greatest success in the mining 
districts. Before the Peasant War these localities had gladly- 
embraced Lutheranism, which in the countries of the Catholic 
Hapsburgs had borne the character of direct enmity to the 
ruling powers. " In addition to the clergy, laymen, and 
even miners, clerks of Court, students and others had the 
audacity to preach the new Gospels. . . . Enthusiasm for the 
new doctrines sprang up in all directions, the nucleus of the 
adversaries of the ancient Church being the Brotherhood 
at Schwaz, with its numerous adherents from the mining 
population." ^ 

The year 1525 saw the beginning of the alienation of the 
democratic classes from Luther's doctrine, which had emerged 
from its chrysalis as an enemy to their order ; and, as soon as 
the doctrines of the Baptists became known to them, these 
classes eagerly went over to that sect. 

As early as 1526 there were reports of certain " Brethren" 
in the valley of the Inn, among whom was Pilgrim Marbeck, 
a judge in the Court of Mines in the mining district of 
Rattenburg. In 1527, other centres of Anabaptism had 
been formed in Schwaz, Kitzbichel, Sterzing, Klauzen, &c., 
where the miners were the most zealous partisans of the 

It may be incidentally mentioned that the number of weavers 
among the Tyrolese Baptists was surprisingly large ; but 
there was no lack of members from other labouring classes, 
and they even had a few adherents belonging to the nobility. 

The number of Baptists in Tyrol increased with extra- 
ordinary rapidity in the years immediately following the 
Peasant War, as it also did in the towns of South Germany. 

But the period of unrestricted propagation in all these 
districts was extremely short ; for hardly had the sect begun 

' Loserth, Der Anabaptismus in Tyrol von seineni Anfdngen bis zutn 
Tode Jakob Hutters. Vienna, 1892, p. 21. 

' Loserth, op. cit. p. 37, and many other passages. Compare also 
Beck, Die Geschichtsbilcher der Wiedertdufer, pp. 80, 81. 


to get a noticeable following when the municipal and State 
authorities united in instituting a persecution against it. It 
was of no avail to the Baptists that (even on the admission 
of their enemies) they led a submissive and peaceable life, 
and repudiated all tumults ; these doctrines would, it was 
asserted, inevitably lead to a revolution. We find this 
argument used in a pamphlet against them written in the 
year 1528. (Ez'n kurzer Unterricht.^) " It is true," the writer 
says, " that the Anabaptists enjoin obedience to the authori- 
ties ; but this is only an artifice. They have devised their 
devilish doctrines for the sole purpose of making themselves 
great and powerful, and as soon as this object is attained they 
will set themselves up against the authorities and pursue their 
vile wantonness. He who teaches that all things are in 
common, has naught else in his mind than to excite the 
subjects against the rulers ordained by God, the poor 
against the rich, and to cause discontent and tumult." 

This argument must have met with cordial support from the 
ruling classes at the end of the third decade of the sixteenth 
century, when the remembrance of the Peasant War was 
still fresh. An additional cause for opposition to the Ana- 
baptists lay in the fact that they threatened danger, not to the 
small villages, but to the rich and powerful cities ; and finally 
it must not be overlooked that, in spite of their peaceableness 
a large contingent of the Anabaptists, and especially the 
proletarian adherents of Hut, could not conceal a vein of 
strongly rebellious sentiment. It is true that they all 
denounced every attempt at an armed insurrection as foolish 
and sinful ; nevertheless many of them were convinced that 
the fall of the governing class was at hand, though they 
no longer relied on an internal uprising for the realisation 
of their wishes, but put their trust in a foreign war. 

Even Hut built his hopes on the impending invasion of the 

» The full title runs Ein kurzer vntcrricht den Pfarherrn vnd Prcdigern 
Inn me'iner gned'igen Herrn der Marggrafen zu Brandenburg, &c. Fiirstcnt- 
humben und Landen hieniben in Franken vnd auf dem Geb'i'rg verordnet, 
vees sie das volck wider etliche verfiirische lere der widertaiiffer an den 
Feyertdgen auff der Cantzel zum getreulichsten ttnd besten aus Gotlicher 
schrifft vcrmancn und vnterrichicn sollen. 


Turks, which he proclaimed would result in the destruction of 
the Empire. While this was in progress the associates were 
to keep hidden, but show themselves as soon as the Turks had 
done their part in the work to be accomplished. He even 
went so far as to give an exact date for the beginning of the 
millennium, viz., Whitsuntide, 1528. 

This was no chimera. The Turks really were approaching. 
The Sultan Suleiman came in 1529 instead of 1528; but 
though he succeeded in seizing Hungary he did not penetrate 
so far as Germany. He was driven back before the walls of 
Vienna, to the affliction not only of the zealous Anabaptists, 
but also of the more energetic among the Emperor's princely 
opponents, especially Landgrave Philip of Hesse, so much 
extolled by patriotic historians. 

The communists, therefore, were not the only " traitors to 
their country." 

The sympathy for the Turks shown by a section of the 
Anabaptists did not make public sentiment more favourable 
to them, above all in countries under the sway of the Emperor. 

Persecution of the Anabaptists was the chief after-effect of 
the Peasant War ; for it had aroused the thirst for blood and 
revenge among the ruling classes quite as much as it had 
terrorised them, and after its close they looked upon every 
sympathiser with the lower classes, however submissive and 
peaceable he might be, as a deadly enemy, who could not be 
too bitterly resisted or too cruelly punished. 

Protestants and Catholics emulated each other in their 
persecution of the unfortunate sect. " The greatest amount 
of blood flowed in Catholic countries," writes Cornelius 
{Munsterischen Aufruhr, ii. p. 57). " In Germany the Protes- 
tants surpassed even the Catholics in rigorous and bloody 
persecution," says Beck {Die Geschichtsbiicher der Wieder- 
tdufer, xviii.). Neither of the two parties, indeed, could 
boast of gaining the advantage in this respect. 

Though in the year 1526 the persecution of the Baptists 
was limited to a few isolated cases, it increased in rigour with 
the accession of adherents to the sect. The year 1527 saw 
many executions of the Brethren, but the universal, cruel 
chase really began in the following year, with an Imperial 


mandate of the 4th of January, which imposed the death 
penalty on all who espoused Anabaptism. This mandate was 
ratified by the Reichstag of Speir in 1529 — the one at which 
the evangelical party protested against every act of intoler- 
ance directed against them, and thus led to their being called 
" Protestants." 

In pursuance of the sixth clause in the decree of this 
Reichstag, the Baptists were to be killed like wild beasts as 
soon as captured, without the sentence of a judge, and even 
without judicial inquiry ! 

This decree did not remain a dead letter ; indeed certain 
States added to its severity while carrying it out. 

" Some," writes one of the chroniclers of the Anabaptists, 
" were racked and drawn asunder ; others burnt to ashes and 
dust ; some roasted on pillars, torn with red-hot pincers or 
locked in together and burnt. Others were hanged on trees, 
beheaded with the sword, or thrown into the water. Many 
were gagged so that they could not speak, and in this manner 
led to their death. 

" They were led to the slaughter and the shambles like 
sheep and lambs. Some either starved or rotted in darksome 
prisons ; very many, before they were killed, being tormented 
with all sorts of torture. Some who were deemed too young 
for execution were whipped with rods, and many lay for 
years in dungeons and prisons. Numbers had holes burnt in 
their cheeks, and were then sent away. The remainder, who 
had escaped from all these things, were hunted from one 
country and place to another. Like owls and ravens, which 
dare not fly by day, they were often compelled to dwell in, 
and hide among rocks and clefts, in wild forests, or in caves 
and pits. In some places their Scriptural books were inter- 
dicted, and in many burnt." 

We may judge of the fury of the persecution from the fact 
that, with the exception of those who escaped by a natural 
death, nearly all the prominent Baptists came to a violent 
end. Among those who avoided this fate were the invalid 
Conrad Grebel, who died in Graubiinden, in the summer of 
1526, and Denck, who was carried off by the plague in Bale 
at the end of the year 1527. 


As has already been mentioned, the first martyr to the 
cause was Felix Manz ; to be followed on May 21, 1527, by 
the erudite Michel Sattler of Staufen, in Breisgau, who had 
been a monk, but had joined the Brethren in 1524. He was 
taken prisoner at Rothenburg on the Neckar, " torn with red- 
hot pincers and afterwards burnt, steadfast in God." Hans 
Hut met his fate in Augsburg while attempting to escape 
from prison; and in 1528 BrodH and Hubmeier suffered a 
martyr's death. In 1529 Langenmantel was executed, 
Blaurock burnt at the stake at Klausen in Tyrol, and Hatzer 
beheaded at Constance. 

All who were sentenced to death met their end steadfastly 
and courageously ; even Hubmeier, who, it is true, had 
previously exhibited considerable weakness. He was seized 
at Nikolsburg, in Moravia, in the summer of 1527, and 
dragged to Vienna, at the instance of Ferdinand (brother to 
the Emperor Charles), who had been in possession of the 
power of the Hapsburg House in Germany since 1521, and 
King of Hungary and Bohemia since 1526. In imitation 
of his conduct at Zurich in 1525 Hubmeier now sought to 
save himself by a recantation of his errors ; even declaring 
his willingness to submit to the judgment of a Church 
Council as regards Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and 
simultaneously offering his good services to Ferdinand, the 
persecutor of heretics. In a memorial — his "account" — to 
the King, of January 3, 1528, after lauding Ferdinand's 
well-known clemency, he prays that " Your Majesty would 
graciously and compassionately pardon me, an imprisoned 
and afflicted man now lying in a dungeon, in great sickness, 
cold, and tribulation ; for with God's help I will so conduct, 
dispose, and restrain myself that it shall meet with your 
Royal Majesty's approval. I promise with exceeding earnest- 
ness and diligence to direct the people to devotion, godly 
fear and obedience, as I have always prevailed upon myself 
to do." I 

But all petitions and promises were in vain. As leader of 
the Waldshut opposition, Hubmeier had been a rebel to the 

' Quoted by Loserth in Dr. Balthasar Hubmeier und die Anfdnge der 
Wiedertdufer in Mdhren, Brunn, 1893, p. 180. 


Hapsburgs, and this was a crime never forgiven by that 

When Hubmeier saw that his doom was sealed, he took 
courage, inspired by his brave wife EHzabeth, daughter of a 
burgess of Reichenau, on Lake Constance, whom he had 
married at Waldshut in 1524. She exhorted him to be 
brave, and he perished at the stake in Vienna, steadfast in his 
faith (1528). Three days afterwards his faithful wife was 
thrown into the Danube and drowned. 

The weakness displayed by Hubmeier was very rare among 
the Baptists. One is astonished at the firmness and joy with 
which as a rule they went to their death. The Baptists glory 
in their heroes quite as much as Christian writers, who point 
to the noble deaths of the martyrs of primitive Christianity 
in proof of the sanctity and sublimity of their cause. 

All this steadfastness and heroism, however, had but one 
consequence — viz., the enormous increase of Anabaptist 
martyrs, who, according to Sebastian Franck, already 
numbered 2000, in 1530. 

It is commonly asserted that ideas cannot be stamped out 
by violence. There are many proofs of the truth of this 
dictum, and it is comforting to all who are persecuted ; but 
in this unqualified form it is not true. Admittedly, an idea 
itself cannot be annihilated by violence ; but by itself alone 
an idea is a mere shadow, without any effective force. The 
strength to which a social ideal attains — and it is only this kind 
of ideal which is under consideration — is dependent upon the 
individuals who uphold it — t.e., upon their power in society. 
If it is possible to annihilate a class which upholds a given 
idea, then that idea will perish with its advocates. 

The sixteenth century belonged to governmental abso- 
lutism. Even in the few free cities, the power of the executive 
authority amongst the lower classes became continuously 
more unlimited. If absolutism had succeeded in mastering 
the opposition of the knights, peasants, and petty burgesses, 
it could easily have crushed the communistic agitations of 
a few proletarians and powerless idealists. Anabaptism 
vanished in South Germany quite as suddenly as it had 
arisen. Relentless persecution was one of the causes, and 


indeed the most active cause of its rapid disappearance ; but 
this was aided in no small degree by the circumstance that 
at the very moment the persecution began the Baptists 
found, outside of Germany, an asylum to which they flocked 
in large numbers. This asylum was Moravia — the America 
of the sixteenth century. 

V. T^e A nabaptists in Moravia. 

Moravia offered very favourable conditions for the develop- 
ment of the Baptist power. Being under the same rulers as 
Bohemia, the Margravate had shared the fate of that country 
during and after the Hussite Wars. The conflicts which rent 
Germany asunder in the first decade of the sixteenth cen- 
tury had long ago been fought out in the countries under 
the Bohemian Crown, and had led to a compromise between 
the old and new faiths, and to the consequent prevalence of 
religious toleration. Side by side with the Catholics and 
Utraquists the sect of the Bohemian Brethren had arisen, 
without in the slightest degree endangering the State or 
society, and to the great economic advantage of the barons in 
whose districts they dwelt. 

In Bohemia and Moravia a new sect did not need the 
protection of government to secure its toleration. Since the 
Hussite Wars the sovereigns had been powerless, while the 
higher nobility enjoyed almost complete independence. If a 
sect had gained the good graces of a baron, it might settle 
quietly in his domain, let the sovereign think what he might. 
This condition of things was not changed until Bohemia and 
Moravia fell into the hands of the Catholic Hapsburgs 

In spite of these favourable circumstances, the Anabaptists 
never gained a firm foothold in Bohemia. This is explained 
by the relations between the nationalities composing the 
population of that country. In the sixteenth century the 
national antagonism which had attained to such a height 
in the previous century was still very strong, and Germans 
could have hardly felt quite at ease among the Czech popu- 
lation. In Moravia, on the contrary, national antagonisms 



had never been so intense, and Germans could more easily 
find a home there. 

Early in the autumn of 1526 Hubmeier, with a large 
following, went from Augsburg to Moravia, and was hospit- 
ably received at Nikolsburg, in the domain of Baron Leonhard 
von Lichtenstein, who himself received baptism. A com- 
munity was there organised, and — this is particularly 
significant — a printing house immediately established, in 
which Hubmeier's works were printed. 

The fame of the new " Emmaus " soon spread on all sides 
among the Brethren, and led many a one to escape persecu- 
tion by a flight to the promised land. Freedom and pros- 
perity however tended only to increase the already existing 
schism. The antagonism between the strict and moderate 
parties, which had previously appeared in Germany, but had 
been forced into the background by the persecution, came to 
its full development in Moravia. The respective leaders of 
the two parties were Hubmeier and Hut, both refugees from 

The impending war with Turkey made the rupture wider. 
A war-tax was levied to carry on the war with the un- 
believers. Should the Baptists pay this ? They deprecated 
war, and the strengthening of the Imperial power against the 
Turks accorded ill with Hut's plans, as he expected to derive 
benefit for his sect from the invasion of the infidels. A series 
of discussions on this subject took place at Nikolsburg. 

The chronicles of the Anabaptists inform us that : " After 
the cry went forth in 1527 that the Turks intended laying 
siege to Vienna, the Brethren and elders of the community 
assembled in the courtyard of the parsonage at Pergen, near 
Nikolsburg ... to hold a conference on the above-mentioned 
matters, but did not arrive at a unanimous decision." And 
in another place : " Hans Hut and others met in the castle of 
Lichtenstein at Nikolsburg, to take counsel concerning the 
sword ; whether or not they were to use or to wear it, and 
whether the war-tax should be paid, besides other mandates ; 
but they could not come to an agreement, and consequently 

"As Hut could not and would not agree with Baron 


Leonhard von Lichtenstein that the sword was necessary, he 
was detained against his will in the castle. Some well-wisher, 
however, who had his interests at heart, managed to lower 
him from his prison window in a net. The following day 
great murmuring and complaint arose among the townfolk 
against Baron Leonhard and his adherents, because he had 
violently detained Hut in his castle. This induced Balthasar 
Hubmeier and his colleagues to deliver a public discourse in 
the hospital, explaining why they had been unable to come 
to an agreement touching the sword and tax." ^ 

Thus it appears that affairs among the peaceable Brethren 
had at that time reached a very critical stage. 

Hans Hut did not remain in Moravia. In the autumn of 
1527 we find him once more at Augsburg, where he was 
seized, and, as already related, put to death. Hubmeier, 
however, continued his campaign against the more severe 
tendencies. His publication. Concerning the Sword, is 
devoted exclusively to polemics against his opponents among 
the Brethren. 

At the same time he published controversial treatises 
against Zwingli and his followers, and one of these shows 
that his communism was of a mild type. In his Discourse 
upon Master Ulrich Zwingli's Pamphlet concerning Infant 
Baptism he says, in reply to the reproach that he advocated 
" the community of goods," = — i.e., communism : " I have 
always, and in every way, taught that community of property 
means that one man should have compassion on another ; 
that he should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, 
and clothe the naked ; for in truth, we are not masters 
of our possessions, but stewards or dispensers only. Cer- 
tainly none could think that we ought to take from another 
what belongs to him, and make it common property, but 
rather give the cloak in addition to the coat." It is 
not very satisfactory, however, that Hubmeier, when he 
was arrested, sought in his Account to recommend himself 

' Beck, Die Geschichisbiicher, &c. pp. 49, 51. 

' Ein Gesprech Balthasar Huebmorsvon Friedbcrg, Doktors. auff Mayster 
Ulrich Zwinglens zu Zurich Taufbiiechlein von detn Kindcrtauf. Nikols- 
burg, 1526. 


to the favour of King Ferdinand by particularising his 
sharp opposition to Hans Hut. He there speaks of " the 
Day of Judgment," which in the language of that age meant 
nothing less than revolution. " Although Christ has given us 
many signs by which to recognise how near at hand is the 
day of His coming, still no one knows this day but God alone. 
I have been almost severe against Johannes Hut and his 
adherents, because they have fixed a definite time for the last 
day — viz., next Whitsuntide ; because they have preached to 
the people, and induced them to sell houses and property, to 
forsake wife and child ; and have prevailed upon the foolish 
to leave their work and run after him — an error which has 
arisen from a great want of right comprehension of the 
Bible." Out of the three and a half years spoken of in 
Daniel, Hut had made four ordinary years, which was a great 
mistake. According to Hubmeier's calculation, one day of 
Daniel's year equals one of our ordinary years ; therefore 
these three and a half years would amount to 1277 ordinary 
years. " What I laid before him plainly and earnestly was 
that he had persuaded and misled the poor people, and for 
this I reproved him." The revolutionary who awaited a 
revolution only after 1277 years was, at any rate, not a 
dangerous member of society. 

The strife between the two opinions was in no way ended 
by the death of both the great adversaries, even though it 
died down for a time — t.e., when the transitory persecution of 
the Baptists extended to Moravia itself, and public attention 
was at the time drawn to the Turkish invasion. 

Many Brethren set forth from Germany for Moravia during 
these troubles, and a " people " settled down at Rossitz 
under Gabriel Ascherham, after whom they were called the 
Gabrielists. Finding themselves too circumscribed there, a 
portion, chiefly inhabitants of the Palatinate, withdrew to 
Auspitz under the leadership of Philip Flener, and were in 
consequence called Philippists. Being opposed to the more 
severe views, both communities had joined the milder sect, 
but they could not agree among themselves. Among the 
Nikolsburg townsmen, the dispute between the two parties 
continued to be carried on, and the stricter faction now 



received the nickname of Communists {Gemeinschaftler) or 
Staffists {Stilbler), and their opponents that of Swordists 

On the side of the latter was Leonhard von Lichtenstein ; 
but when the quarrel became too bitter even for him, he 
compelled the strict communists, now risen to two hundred 
strong, to quit the district (1524). The moment the latter 
turned their backs on the old community, they gave free play 
to their communism. "At that time these men spread out 
a mantle before the people, and every one laid down his 
possessions on it for the support of the needy, under no com- 
pulsion or pressure, but with hearty willingness, according to 
the teaching of the Prophets and Apostles." ^ 

They withdrew to Austerlitz, where the Picards had settled 
themselves as early as 151 1. Here they were received with 
open arms by the lords of Kaunitz, in whose territories Aus- 
terlitz lay, and were soon followed by numerous partisans, 
this town becoming the capital of the Baptists in Moravia. 

Disputes, however, could not be avoided even among the 
people of Austerlitz. Wilhelm Reublin of Auspitz gives us 
a graphic description of this in a letter to his friend, Pilgram 
Marbeck (the above mentioned mine-magistrate), written 
January 26, 1531 ; wherein he relates how and why he and 
his adherents were driven out of Austerlitz (January 8th). 
Among other things, he reproaches those who remained 
behind with " managing the community of temporal and 
personal property dishonestly and fraudulently. . . . They 
were respecters of persons, permitting the rich to have their 
own little houses, so that Franz and his wife led a life like the 
nobles. At meals the ordinary Brethren had been content 
with peas and cabbages, but the elders and their wives had 
roast meat, fish, fowls, and good wine ; many of their wives I 
have never seen at the common table. While some might be 
in want of shoes and shirts, they themselves must have good 
breeches, coats, and furs, in abundance." 2 

Reublin and his adherents withdrew to Auspitz, and there 

' Beck, Geschichtsbilcher, p. 75. 

= The letter has been printed in full as Supplement V. to Cornelius, 
Miinsterischcr Aufruhr, vol. ii. p. 235. 


formed a community of their own ; but having kept back forty 
gulden which he had brought with him from Germany, instead 
of paying them into the common fund, Reublin was soon 
declared to be a " lying, unfaithful, malignant Ananias," and 
was accordingly expelled. In 1531, the disturbances in 
Baptist localities in Moravia reached their culminating point. 
Franck, who published his Chronik at that time, characterises 
the position of the Moravian Brethren very exactly in the 
passage already quoted (p. 164), in which he points out that 
a great many in their community were anathematised, and 
expresses his doubts as to whether there was "just distribu- 
tion " in Austerlitz. 

" The Fraternity have proceeded from one carnal license to 
another," relates the Baptists' historian in Moravia of those 
times : " They have become exactly like the world." ^ 

But what appeared to be a process of dissolution was in 
reality one of fermentation, which produced clear and lasting 

The effect of all these contests was a communistic organi- 
sation which maintained itself for nearly a whole century, and 
which was only ultimately crushed by superior force. The 
chief merit of the definitive Baptist organisation is due to the 
Tyrolese immigrants, who flocked by hundreds into Moravia 
in 1529, and impressed their stamp on the movement there. 
Prominent among their leaders was the hatter Jakob, called 
after his trade Huter (frequently confounded with Hans Hut). 
His influence upon the organisation was so great that a com- 
munity in Moravia was called after him, being known as the 
Huter Fraternity. How far Huter's genius alone impressed 
itself upon the new organisation, or how far he was the 
executor of the will of the numbers who stood behind him 
and lent him their strength, it is very difficult in these days to 

In the autumn of 1529 Jakob Huter and Schiitzinger with 
their adherents came from the Tyrol to Austerlitz, and entered 
into close connection with the community there. Perceiving 
that circumstances were favourable to their party in Moravia, 
Jakob returned to the Tyrol in order to despatch " one small 
• Beck, GeschicMsbiicher, p. 99. 


community after another " to the land of his adoption. These 
new-comers brought enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, and discipline 
with them, and formed the kernel of the communistic com- 
munities which fused the other internal elements into a peace- 
ful and steady harmony. 

In August, 1533, Huter himself returned with numerous 
followers, for in Tyrol " tyranny had reached to such a height 
that it was impossible for the faithful to remain any longer." 
Such was the opinion of the Brothers who were assembled at 
the Congress in the district of Gufidaun (Tyrol) in the July 
of that year. The real work of the organisation now began, 
and must have been carried on with the greatest energy and 
with the fullest consciousness of the aim for which they were 
working. We may judge so at least from the fact that the 
peculiar characteristics of the Baptist community remained 
unchanged up to the time of their rising in Munster. This 
insurrection spurred on the sharpest persecution of the Ana- 
baptists, which horrified for a time even a portion of the 
Moravian nobility, so that they withdrew their protection 
from the Baptists. The first great persecution began in 
Moravia, the result of which was that the Baptist community 
was obliged to dissolve itself, and its members were banished. 
We learn through this circumstance how large the Fraternity 
had grown at that time, its numbers amounting, as it was 
estimated, to from three thousand to four thousand. 

Huter also was forced to take refuge in flight. The protest 
against the persecution of the Brethren which he sent on 
May I, 1535, to the Governor-General of Moravia, shows the 
exceeding boldness of the man. " Alas and woe ! " he ex- 
claimed, among other things, " and again eternal woe to you, 
ye Moravian lords, that you should have promised and agreed 
to the demands of the tyrant and enemy of divine truth, 
Ferdinand, to drive the pious and god-fearing out of the 
country, and that you should dread mortal, vain man more 
than the Almighty and the Lord." ^ 

This protest could produce but one result, that of making 
the pursuit after Huter more keen. "The authorities have 

' The protest is printed as Supplement XVII. to Loserth's Anabaptis- 
mus in Tyrol bis zum Tode Huters, pp. 171-175. 


hunted down Brother Jakob in a most determined manner, 
often exclaiming, 'If we only had Jakob Huter!' as though 
they wished to imply that if he could be got rid of, everything 
would return to the old condition." ^ 

Huter managed, however, to escape to the Tyrol, though 
he was no safer there than he had been in Moravia, being 
finally taken prisoner in Klausen, November, 1535. Of his 
treatment the Brethren relate : " They made him sit in ice- 
cold water, and afterwards led him into a hot room and beat 
him with rods. They also wounded him in the body, and 
after pouring brandy into his wounds, set him alight and let 
him burn," &c., &c. He was burnt early on a morning of 
March, 1536, with great secrecy, for fear of the people. 

Though their leader had fallen, the community possessed 
sufficient internal strength to enable it to surmount this and 
many another blow. In 1536 the Baptists were again allowed 
to assemble in Moravia, as the lords upon whose properties 
they had settled had recognised the economic importance of 
these industrious and skilful workmen during the persecution, 
and were glad to summon them back. Forth they came, 
therefore, out of all their hiding-places, and before long were 
able not only to repair the old injuries, but to take measures 
for the founding of fresh communities. 

Far from doing the Baptists any harm, the persecution 
seemed on the contrary to have strengthened them, as it had 
eliminated all doubtful elements from among them. Their 
unanimity was much greater after the year 1536 than it had 
been before that date, and they thenceforth made great strides, 
all the other branches being finally absorbed into the Huter 

The strictest communism was now the basis of the organi- 
sations of Moravian Baptists. To possess even the most 
trifling things as personal property was considered a sin. 
" On being condemned to death, Hans Schmidt sent his ear- 
pick to his Magdalena as a remembrance, provided i^e 
Brothers had no objection. This same Hans Schmidt paid 
for his faith in the community of property with his head. 

"Whosoever joins himself to the Baptists is obliged to 
' Beck, Geschichtsbiicher, p. 117. 


relinquish all his possessions, and give them over to the 
appointed directors. The communities consist chiefly of poor 
people, work-people, and trades-people ; but we learn from 
the public records in the Tyrol that, quite apart from a few 
isolated members of the nobility, some really opulent peasants 
turned towards the new teaching." ^ 

Whatever a member might present to the community 
belonged to it absolutely, and was not merely capital 
advanced. Even should the donor retire or be expelled, he 
could not receive the contribution back. 

In State and military affairs the stricter doctrines remained 
triumphant ; the regulation being that in all equitable things 
the authorities were to be submitted to, but that God was to 
be obeyed rather than man, i.e., the Baptists reserved to them- 
selves the right to decide the cases in which obedience was 
justifiable. They continued, therefore, to repudiate any share 
in the executive power, such as the carrying on of war, or 
even the payment of a war tax. 

"If any n;ian require of us something which God has not 
commanded, such as a iax for war, or an executioner's wages, 
or other things which are not becoming to a Christian, and 
which are not authorised by Scripture, we must in no wise 
consent." Such was the declaration of the Baptists in 1 545, 
in a memorial to the Moravian Diet. 

The development among the Baptists was different from 
that among the Bohemian Brethren. Among the latter the 
moderate side triumphed in the battle between the two con- 
flicting opinions, while among the former the strict faction 
gained the mastery. 

The causes for these differences must be sought in the 
circumstances in the midst of which the two sects lived. 

The Bohemian Brethren worked among their own nation, 
and as soon as their community began to thrive and spread, 
the sibility naturally occurred to them (accompanied by 
the de^i ;) of gaining the whole nation to their cause. Every 
attempt of practical efficacy in this direction led, however, in 

• Loserth, Dcr Kommunisinus dcr MahiiscJien Wiedaidufer im 16 tin d 
17 Jahrhundeii, pp. 102, 106. Wieu 18. 



those days of rising commercialism, to a modification of their 
communistic tendencies and their abstention from politics. 

The Baptists in Moravia, on the contrary, were Germans in 
the midst of a Czech population, and chose to remain so. 
They felt themselves strangers in a foreign land and could 
reconcile themselves without effort to remaining a small sect ; 
a tiny circle of the " elect " and " godly " in the midst of the 
heathen. They had but few points of sympathy with their 
surroundings, and even these had no attractions for them, but 
drew them closer to each other. 

It is a familiar phenomenon that even without communistic 
organisation, people of similar origin or similar language, living 
ir the midst of a foreign population, experience a greater 
sense of solidarity than they feel while in their own homes. 

Hence still, another condition of things arose. Among the 
Bohemian Brethren, the advance of moderate views went hand 
in hand with the admission of men of letters into the Brother- 
hood. The learned men thus admitted within the community 
formed the most determined champions of the moderate 
opinions, perhaps because their views were broader, perhaps 
because they felt most keenly the loss of social status which 
the sect had suffered. 

The learned men among the Anabaptists also were, in the 
majority of cases, holders of the moderate opinions. But the 
first persecution in Germany, which began in 1527 and lasted 
till the commencement of the Thirty Years' War, swept away 
nearly all of them, and they have had no followers. From 
that time no men of letters are to be found among the 
Baptists, nearly all the persons of consequence being thence- 
forth simply working people. The hatred of learning, which 
had always been perceptible in most of the communistic sects 
during the Middle Ages and the period of the Reformation, 
could now display itself among them unhindered. 

" The profound contempt of the Anabaptists fnjr all 
literary subjects," says Loserth, " for universities an -irned 
individuals, has astonished their contemporaries." ^^'ischer, a 
Catholic priest, and a bigoted enemy of the Anabaptists, 
exclaims : " Are not these Anabaptists then chiefly wine- 
dressers, peasants, tradesmen ; uncouth, coarse, ignorant, 


illiterate people, scarcely distinguishable from the common 
rabble ? Do they not despise all the liberal arts as well 
as the Holy Scriptures, i.e., when the latter are of no use 
to them ? Do they not contemn all the universities ? Do 
they not hinder the influence of all the learned ? Do they 
not repudiate all history ? " There is much truth in what 
Fischer asserts. In the numerous judicial trials, and in the 
epistles to the communities in Moravia, they expressed un- 
hesitatingly their contempt for the learned professions ; nay, 
they even treated their learned judges and the missionary 
priests of the different Confessions somewhat disrespectfully 
for the same reason.^ 

The fact that after the first persecution no more learned 
men joined the Baptists is chiefly attributable to the cir- 
cumstances which this persecution called into existence. 
From 1527 every one who professed the faith of the 
Baptists was outlawed from respectable society. If he 
could not make up his mind to become a peasant among 
peasants, a workman with workman, or to banish himself 
to the limits of the civilised world, then it was wiser for 
him, however strong his convictions of the truth of the 
Baptist faith, to keep them closely concealed within his 
own breast. 

Next to these circumstances another point comes into 
consideration which explains the triumph of the stricter 
opinions among the Baptists. 

The same persecution which exterminated literary men 
in the Baptist movement drove the great mass of the 
Tyrolean Brethren into Moravia ;^ amongst them were 
numerous miners, who had passed^ through the school of 
capitalistic exactions, and had learnt systematic discipline 
and co-operation in that industry. About the same time 
the weavers appeared, among whom communistic enthu- 
siasm had always been particularly strong. Thus it is 
chiefly due to the pressure of these circumstances that 
the stricter communism of the Moravian Fraternities 
gained the upper hand. 

Like all the various kinds of Fraternities hitherto con- 
' Loserth, Kommunismtts der Wiedertdiifer, p. 144. 



sidered, the fundamental principle of this sect was the I 

association of the consumers and the community of the '^ 
means of consumption. With this was necessarily 
combined the abolition of the private family ; but the 
Moravian Baptists certainly never arrived at the abolition 
of individual marriages. One form of this abolition — 
celibacy — was forbidden to them in consequence of the 
practice being a tenet of the Romish Church, which 
they opposed on the ground that it would have placed 
them on a level with the monks, the most detested of all 
the defenders of the Papacy, and the champions of the 
worst sort of exactions and corruptions of those times. 
The free intercourse of the sexes was even more opposed 
than celibacy to the convictions of the petty citizens, and 
that small peasant world, in whose sphere of thought the 
proletariat of that time also moved. 

Greater freedom in love or marriage was more appre- 
ciated by the upper revolutionary classes — the princes, 
merchants, and humanist savants of the sixteenth century 
— than by the elements from which the Baptists were 
recruited. Happiness and the consciousness of their 
position in life were possible among the upper classes, 
and all the conditions of society only engendered self- 
satisfaction more strongly and actively, encouraging 
individualism and a hatred of every kind of restraint. The 
communists among the ill-used and downtrodden classes, 
on the other hand, could only hold their ground in the 
conflicts of their times (to some extent, at all events) by 
sinking their personality in a great association. These ' 
communists, with their gloomy asceticism, looked upon 
sexual pleasure, as upon every other sort of pleasure, 
as something unworthy a thought ; and they considered 
the self-assertion of individualism to be also sinful, 
rejecting it the more carefully in that it appeared to 
them to be united with wantonness and arrogance among 
the upper classes. The modern conception of individual 
sexual affection was at that time in its infancy, and its 
preliminary conditions were to be found rather among some 
of the upper classes than among the lower. 


Thus in the Reformation the courtiers of the princes 
were the very ones who urged the easier dissolution of 
marriage. Luther and Melancthon even held that plurality 
of wives was permissible, and Luther himself declared that 
illicit sexual intercourse was more deserving than chastity. 
" All nuns and monks, who are without faith, and trust 
in their purity and their order, are not worthy to rock a 
baptized child, or to make pap for it, even if it be a 
bastard. Why ? Because they have not God's Word for 
their Orders or their life ; neither may they boast that 
God is pleased with what they do, a boast which a woman 
may make even if she bear an illegitimate child." 

Amidst the communists of that time, on the contrary, 
the greatest strictness with regard to marriage prevailed, 
with few exceptions. Adultery was a serious crime, and 
marriage was held to be indissoluble. '* What God has 
joined together let no man put asunder," said the Baptists. 
In a case of adultery, not only was the guilty party 
punished with temporary exclusion, but the guiltless 
husband also came in for his share of condemnation. He 
might no longer have anything to do with the guilty 
party, at all events as long as the latter was not com- 
pletely absolved. Any lapse with regard to this regulation 
drew down upon him a relentless sentence of expulsion. 
Thus, for example, we are told in the Chronicle of the 
year 1530, of one Jbrg Zaunring, the successor of Wilhelm 
Reublin in the headship of the Auspitz community : 
'* When one, to wit Thomas Lindl, had committed 
adultery with the wife of Jorg Zaunring, they [perhaps the 
elders] only banished these two secretly ; and Jorg, during 
the time of his wife's punishment, renounced and withheld 
himself from her. But as soon as the two were again 
admitted and had received the pardon of their sins, 
Zaunring took his wife back again as before ; and this 
being publicly known, the community could not suffer this 
disgrace of adultery and harlotry to be so lightly punished. 
. . . Linhard Schmerbacher, a server of the secular needs, 
pointed out to the community that Jorg Zaunring had 
by this transaction participated in the debauch, and the 


members at once passed sentence unanimously ; because 
the ' members of Christ cannot be the members of a 
harlot,' these two transgressors were justly expelled from 
the community." ^ 

Expulsion was the severest punishment inflicted by the 

There is no trace of any community of wives. They 
were, on the contrary, much stricter on marriage questions 
than the " heathen." But there was little of marriage 
left among the Baptists except the pairing. In conse- 
quence of the gloomy, joyless asceticism which interdicted 
dancing and courtship, individual sexual affection was 
more strange to them than to the mass of the population 
of their times : marriages, therefore, were mostly arranged 
by the elders (the heads of the community) similar to the 
pairing in Plato's Republic, and among the Perfectionists 
of Oneida. 

Apart from the pairing, the essential features of individual 
marriages were done away with by the community of house- 
keeping and the education of the children in common. 

The community was made up of households {Haushaben) 
scattered over the whole of Moravia. At the time of 
greatest prosperity there were seventy of these, in each 
of which from 400 to 600 persons or more lived together, 
and in the largest of them even 2,000. " They all had 
but one kitchen, one bakehouse^ one brewhouse, one school, 
one room for women in child-bed, one room in which the 
mothers and the children were with each other, and so on. 

"In such a household there was one who was host and 
householder, who purchased all the wheat, wine, wool, hemp, 
salt, cattle and every necessary, out of the money of all 
the trades and all the incomes, and divided it according 
to the several needs of all in the house ; food for the 
children, the lying-in women and all other people being 
brought into one room, the eating-room. Sisters were 
appointed for the sick, who carried them their food and 
waited upon them. " 

" The very old were placed apart ; and to them some- 
» Beck, Geschiditsbiicher, p. loi. 


what more was allowed than to the young and healthy, 
but to all a sufficiency was granted according to their 
several wants and the wealth of the community." ^ 

A letter, written to the "Elder Brothers at Wintz," 
gives us some details in regard to the food served at 
these general meals. It was indited at the time of the 
decline of the communities, when, driven out of MoraWa, 
they dragged on a miserable existence in Hungary (1642). 
" How we keep our table with food and drink : we have 
meat at supper every day, and in the mornings once, 
twice, thrice, or four times during the week, according as 
the seasons serve. At the other meals we are content 
with vegetables. 

" Twice every day at meals a luscious drink of wine ; 
otherwise nothing at midday, nor in the afternoon {Marend)^ 
nor in the evening ; but when we go to evening prayers 
we receive a drink, and sometimes even have beer. 

" With the bread, which is generally to be had in the 
house, we are quite content, even if we are not permitted 
to bake anything special during the whole year ; this, how- 
ever, we are permitted to do when there is any peculiar 
reason, such as for the Day of the Lord's Remembrance, or 
the festivals of Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas." 2 

The fare of the Geschwistriget (Brothers and Sisters), as 
the Baptists called themselves amongst each other, was 
simple but abundant. There was no fixed rule for it, 
but, as has been already observed, " every one received 
according to his needs and the common wealth." How 
this was managed is shown us in a food regulation of 
1569 (made for a time of famine), which portioned out 
the food according to age, sex, business, condition of 
health, &c., &c. Even this rough and primitive community 
stands far above the " State-kitchens " with their similarity 
of food and equally large portions for everybody, which 

' Andreas Ehrenpreis, A Circular Letter . . . concerning brotherly Com- 
munion, which is the Jiighest precept of Love. 1650. Quoted by Loserth, 
Der Kommunismus der Mdhrischen Wiedertdufer, p. 115 sqq. Ehrenpreis, 
a miller who was head of the united Fraternity from 1639 to 1662. 

' Beck, Geschichtsbiicher, pp. 406, 407. 



Eugene Richter's fancy has pictured in the democratic 
State of the Future of the twentieth century. 

After the community in housekeeping, the joint training 
of the Baptist children is specially worthy of remark. Beck 
speaks of the " Spartan education of the children, who went 
into the general room from their mother's breasts, and grew 
up strangers to their parents and to all feelings of childhood " 
(Beck's history, p. 17). It would have been more accurate 
if he had called it the Platonic, instead of the Spartan 
education of the children. Many points put us in mind 
of Plato's Republic, and others of More's Utopia, and it 
is not impossible that these were borrowed from them, 
Plato not being unknown to the communists of that 
time. Miinzer refers to him (compare p. 121) as well 
as the Sebastian Franck who was so closely allied to 
the Baptists. The men of letters who were connected 
with the Baptist movement at its commencement certainly 
knew Plato. More's Utopia was also pondered and 
discussed in the Humanist circle at Bale, which gathered 
round Erasmus of Rotterdam, and influenced so many of 
the early learned Baptists. It is not impossible — perhaps 
even very probable — that suggestions from these writings 
were conveyed even to the uneducated Brethren by the 
scholars. This fact has not been proved, however, and it 
is not absolutely necessary to accept it in order to explain 
the similarity between some of Huter's institutions and 
those of Plato and More ; as this may have for its basis 
the fact that the logic of events led the uncultivated 
proletariat in Moravia to adopt the same course which 
the Greek philosopher and the English humanist have 
described as the outcome of their conceptions. 

The followers of Huter did not go so far as Plato in taking 
the child from the mother immediately after its birth, and 
making it impossible for her to recognise it again. There 
was a special room for the lying-in women, another of the 
same kind for women nursing their infants, and the child 
remained with its mother in the latter. Nevertheless, at 
eighteen months or two years of age, we find it already at 
school, in the general institution for education. 


This was one of the points which gave the enemies of the 
Baptists the greatest cause for animadversion. "The per- 
verted Anabaptists act against nature," wrote Fischer, the 
priest, in 1607. " They are less intelligent than the little 
birds, and more unmerciful towards their young than are the 
wild beasts ; for, as soon as the child is weaned, it is taken 
from its mother and given over to the appointed Sisters. After 
that, schoolmasters and cross, ill-tempered governesses, who 
are strangers to it, strike it at times passionately and mercilessly, 
without love, decency, or pity. Children are thus brought up 
with the greatest strictness, so that many a mother, after five 
or six years, neither recognises nor knows her offspring, and 
much incest springs up from this cause." The children 
brought up under such a system are miserably sickly and 
" swollen." 

Facts proved this not to be the case. Fischer even contra- 
dicts himself; for, in other passages, he laments over the 
circumstance that the well-to-do classes in Moravia preferred 
to take women from the Anabaptist schools as wet-nurses 
and children's maids, which they certainly would not have 
done if the results of these schools had been so disastrous as 
he has implied. " God-'a-mercy ! It has come to such a pitch 
that nearly all the women in Moravia must have none but the 
Anabaptist women as mid-wives, wet-nurses, and children's 
maids, as if they alone were the most experienced in these 
things." Nothing could testify more highly to the superiority 
of the communistic education than this admission of a most 
hostile enemy of communism. 

Not only were their women in demand as instructresses for 
the young, but their schools also enjoyed such an excellent 
reputation ^"aX persons of other faiths gladly sent their children 
to them. 

Like other communists, since the time of the Waldenses, the 
Huterites laid the greatest stress upon a sound popular educa- 
tion. Their school regulations and their rules for the masters 
are worthy of notice even in the present day, but they were 
magnificent performances for the sixteenth century, a period 
which, probably, represented the lowest level of pedagogism, 
and exhibited its cruelty and roughness in its schools. 



The Baptists declare : " Hard blows will not effect much ; 
children should be worked upon through teaching ; if men 
possessed the fear of God, so that they could control them- 
selves, they would require no schoolmaster." 

The Baptist schools possessed a numerous staff of school- 
masters and " school-sisters," as well as " children's maids " 
under a " school-mother." These had charge not only of the 
spiritual, but also of the bodily welfare of the young. 

Both training and tuition were regulated by " old customs " 
which were formulated in 1 568, and this school system lays 
great stress upon the physical well-being of youth. It says, for 
example : " If a child be brought to school, its state of health 1 
must be carefully investigated. Should it have any bad ill- C 
ness, such as putrid fever, syphilis, or the like, it must be / 
separated from the other children during sleep, and while \ 
eating and washing." 

" If a school-mother has cleansed the mouth of a sick child, 
she must not examine the mouth of a healthy one with un- 
washed fingers, but before doing so must always cleanse her 
fingers with a clean towel and water." She is also to instruct 
the school-sisters how to clean a child's mouth. 

Great importance was universally attached to the main- 
tenance of a most scrupulous degree of cleanliness. 

The Sisters had to keep watch over the slumber of the little 
ones, and to refrain from striking them if they cried out some- 
what in their sleep. Should one throw off its coverings, it was 
to be recovered, lest it should take cold. During the night 
nothing was to be given to a child to eat, unless it was ill. 
Without real necessity, no sleeping child was to be roused by 
force, &c., &c. 

Children were not to be treated with unnecessary severity. 
Should it be necessary to blame a child a little at spinning, 
instructresses were to refrain from impulsive blows. A 
notice to the schoolmaster was sufficient. The schoolmaster 
punished the big boys; the school-mother the girls. For 
such offences as thieving, lying, and other sins, the degree of 
the penalty was always to be determined with the advice of a 
Brother, and too severe punishments, like blows on the head 
or the mouth, were strictly forbidden. 


The trainin^4- of children was to be individual : "In the 
bringing up of a child, great watchfulness is required, and a 
fine power of discrimination ; for one is best drawn by kind- 
ness, another by gifts, while a third requires strict discipline." 

These extracts from the school regulations should be 
enough to prove that Loserth is correct when he says they 
contain maxims which would do honour even to schools of 
modern days. 

It is not known what subjects were taught by the instruc- 
tors beyond reading and writing — in which all the Baptists 
were fairly skilled. But mental culture appears to have gone 
hand in hand with productive work, the girls at least being 
kept at the spinning-wheel from an early age. 

To what age the school regulations extended is almost un- 
known ; but on leaving school the children were sent into the 
various industries, or agriculture, or into the household. The 
primary duty in all industrial and agricultural work was to 
provide for the necessities of the community. Before these 
were supplied, no work could be undertaken for outsiders. 

The Baptists, however, were excellent and diligent work- 
men, and their labour supplied an important surplus. Their 
achievements were specially prominent in the departments of 
horse-breeding, mills, brewing, and later on in cutlery and 
cloth-making as well, which became their most important 
trade. Here again we find wool-weaving in intimate connec- 
tion with communism. The great proportion of their produce 
was sold, thus affording them the opportunity of steadily 
extending the production of certain commodities far beyond 
their own needs, and thereby attaining to production on a 
large scale in some branches of industry. 

The household system and that of production had at all 
times been in close connection, and in earlier ages was even 
more conspicuous than at the period under consideration, the 
extent of the industrial or rural establishment determining 
that of the family. The capitalistic form of production altered 
all this by separating the workshop from the household, so 
that there was no longer any interdependence between the two. 

The extent of the family, however, did not remain without 
influence upon that of the industrial establishment. 


Communal housekeeping — e.g:, that of the monasteries and 
the Beghard houses — always encouraged the tendency towards 
the establishment of industries and farms on a large scale. If 
about twenty weavers shared in a common household, they 
always bought the raw material in common, and manufactured 
it together in one place. This tendency, however, had but 
little opportunity for developing itself In one of these insti- 
tutions — the monastery — it was checked, because, sooner or 
later, these organisations invariably ceased to be associations 
of workmen, and became communities of idlers. And in the 
others — Beghard houses and similar institutions — the develop- 
ment was hindered by persecutions. Both of these flourished 
as associations for work, in an age when, socially and techni- 
cally, the conditions of wholesale business were not in exis- 

This was not the case with the Anabaptists in Moravia. 
Their institutions were more secure than most of the Beghard 
houses had been ; nevertheless, as strangers who were only 
tolerated and who had suffered from the constant enmity of 
the rulers, they were unable to develop their households into 
communities of idlers, as the monasteries had done. Finally, 
they began at a period when numerous provisions for co- 
operative production were already in existence. The mining 
and smelting houses were already regulated and worked by 
capitalists on a wholesale scale. At that time the crafts also 
were striving in many ways to extend themselves into manu- 
factories, and to burst the barriers raised by the guilds. If 
from one thousand to two thousand persons formed them- 
selves into a common household, that household's inherent 
tendency towards the establishment and development of in- 
dustry and farming on a large scale must have found ample 

In the case of the Anabaptists " everything was carried on 
upon a wholesale basis, and the individual artisans worked 
into each other's hands." It was strictly forbidden to take the 
raw material elsewhere than from the Anabaptists themselves, 
always supposing that they possessed what they wanted. 
Thus with the butchers, the hides of the animals were de- 
livered to the tanners, and by them prepared and handed over 



to the saddlers, harness-makers, and shoemakers. It was the 
same with the cotton department, the weavers, cloth-makers, 
tailors, &c., &c. Only a few raw materials like iron, refined 
oil, and others were bought from the outside world, and thus 
connection with people not included in the community was 
largely due to the fact that some manufactures such as knives, 
scythes, bolting cloths, cloth, shoes, &c,, &c., found eager pur- 
chasers, not only among their own Brethren, but also among 
surrounding neighbours. 

One of the raw materials which they bought, and which 
Loserth (to whom we owe these details) ought to have men- 
tioned, was wool, as it was one of their most important com- 
modities. Their cloth manufacture flourished to such a high 
degree that the Moravian wool was not sufficient to supply 
the demand, and they were obliged to import it, probably 
from Hungary. 

Every trade possessed its purveyors, its distributors (or 
cutters-out) and foremen. The first-mentioned bought the 
necessary raw material wholesale ; the others distributed it to 
the individual workmen, and supervised their systematic co- 
operation in its manufacture. The regulations for these 
offices and for production in general occupied the Brethren 
very much. This is proved by the numerous labour-ordinances 
which they have left ; but, unfortunately, none of those re- 
ferring to the crafts have been preserved. We have, therefore, 
no detailed evidence as to the height to which Baptists' pro- 
duction on a large scale reached ; neither do we know to 
what extent the division of labour and systematic co-operative 
work was carried in particular industries. 

It is certain that they had made a great stride in advance 
of the guild-crafts of that day towards the manufacture system. 
They were always careful to stand abreast with their times in 
technical matters, and for this reason millers, for example, 
were from time to time sent to Switzerland, in order to study 
the business methods of that country. 

Successful as they were in the handicrafts technically, they 
were even more so commercially, particularly as they either 
bought the raw material wholesale, or drew upon their own 
resources. It was also to their advantage that they were able 


to surmount the crises of trade more easily than was possible 
for private producers ; but they could not entirely avoid oc- 
casional overproduction, since they worked wholesale for the 
market. Yet the results of overproduction were not very 
disastrous. It was only necessary for a time to employ the 
overplus of labour in agriculture instead of the industries, and 
there work never failed. 

To all these advantages of the communistic wholesale trade 
as compared with the " individualism " of the isolated trader 
there was naturally joined the fact that the maintenance of 
each individual in large co-operative households cost much 
less than in the small private households of the trade-masters. 
And thus it cannot surprise us that from the time of the 
organisation of the Huter communities of Moravia, the com- 
plaints on the subject of ruinous competition made by the 
guild-masters against the communists were never silenced. 

As early as 1 545 the Fraternity declared in their memorial 
to the Moravian Diet : " Half of the towns, as we hear, com- 
plain and lament about us, as if we took the bread out of the 
mouths of the agriculturalists ; but we know only this — that 
we apply ourselves diligently in everything to honourable 
work, to pay each one his penny, so that our integrity is 
well known in nearly all nations. Therefore, if any one un- 
justly complain of us, we cannot on that account deteriorate 
our work." 

In the year 1600 the Chronik relates : " During this year 
a great outcry from our adversaries has gone abroad in 
Moravia, that the Fraternity increases beyond measure in that 
country, and by their trade do no small damage and hurt to 
the commercial interests of the towns and boroughs. For 
this reason the reigning princes have resolved to forbid us to 
erect new households, and yet they permit the territorial lords 
to make use of the Brothers as workmen." ^ 

As in the system of their schools, so in their methods 
of production, the superiority of the Baptists over their 
opponents was brought most forcibly to light by the com- 
plaints of the latter. We recommend this fact to the 
consideration of all those who maintain that, under no 
' Beck, Geschichtsbiichcr, pp. 171, 331. 


circumstances, can communism be a sound economic prin- 

The same cause which made the town journeymen the 
enemies of the Huterites, won for them the favour of the 
great landed proprietors upon whose estates they lived and 
to whom they paid rent. As it was by and through the 
Anabaptists that the nobility came to wealth and power, 
they became economically indispensable to them. Thus the 
Anabaptists gained economic importance, not only by their 
own produce, but also by their workmen who were hired by 
numerous employers. No small number of Sisters were 
engaged in private service also, as nurses and governesses, 
as we have already seen. At the same time, the Brothers 
were active in private agricultural and industrial esta- 
blishments, such as mills. But they were especially popular 
as managers ; which may probably be explained by the fact 
that the administration of the large households had highly 
developed the talent for organisation and management 
among them. One of their fiercest enemies, Christopher 
Fischer, wrathfully writes : " You have so far captivated the 
nobles in Moravia, that they follow your advice and lead in 
everything, and have given you appointments in all their 
establishments as cashiers, butlers, borough-stewards, millers, 
shepherds, masters of fisheries, gardeners, foresters, and 
bailiffs ; you are high in consideration and repute among 
them, so that you eat and drink with them, and get favours 
of all kinds from them. Is not this what is meant by ' to 
rule and to reign?'" 

The staunch Fischer of course exaggerates, but it is true 
that the Baptists were very much sought after as stewards. 
Strictly speaking, however, it was not isolated individuals 
who were in private service, but the whole community. 
Individuals were employed in private service merely as the 
deputies of the commune. Not only were they under the 
discipline of the community, but they were obliged to yield 
up to it all their earnings ; not merely their salaries and 
wages, but even their gratuities and presents^ whether these 
consisted of money or anything else. 

Generally speaking, the enforcement of this regulation 


seems to have given no trouble, except in the case of the 
doctors. With all their contempt for learning, the Baptists 
greatly esteemed pharmacology and the use of mineral 
waters. Their surgeons had not apparently much to do with 
science ; but they must have been very clever practitioners, 
for they were sought after throughout the whole country ; 
indeed one was sometimes summoned to the Imperial Court, 
in spite of the horror of communism which prevailed there. 

The constitution of the Fraternity was democratic. At its 
head stood clerical and secular officials ; the former, " the 
Servants of the Word," were either "apostles," who wan- 
dered about the world to enlist new disciples, or were 
preachers at home ; the secular functionaries, " the Servants 
of Need," were the purchasers, foremen, householders and 
stewards. The chief authority lay with the community itself, 
but in order that it should not be consulted on every occasion, 
there was a Council of Elders, with whom the servants of the 
Fraternity despatched business of minor importance. At 
the head of the general community was a Bishop. That 
functionary, however, was not elected ; but from among those 
who appeared to be suitable for the post, one was selected by 
the casting of lots, and was called " Chosen of the Lord." 
He could not, however, enter on his office before the 
community had sanctioned the " Will of God," and ratified 
the choice. 

The singular commune here delineated maintained its 
communal existence in full strength for nearly a century, 
and finally fell, no^ from internal deterioration but through 
external force. 

Ever since Bohemia and Moravia had come under the 
sway of the House of Hapsburg it had been in continual, 
though sometimes bloodless, war with the independent nobles 
of these countries. At length there came that decisive 
struggle which ushered in the Thirty Years' War, and ended 
in the complete destruction of the nobles in the Battle of 
Weiss Berg, near Prague (1620). The nobility were almost 
annihilated, and with them fell their prot^g^s, the Bohemian 
Brethren, and the other Huter communities of Moravia. 

On the 22nd of February, 1622, Cardinal Dietrichstein 


issued letters patent by order of Ferdinand, decreeing that " all 
such as are attached to the Huter Fraternity, be they men or 
women, are not to be found, or suffered to set foot, in 
Moravia after the expiration of four weeks from the date 
notified, under pain of extreme penalty to body and life." 

On this occasion the decree of banishment did not remain 
on paper only. The organised Baptist community in Moravia 
came to an end. Many of the Baptists became Catholics, 
although most of them in their hearts remained true to the 
old teachings, and sometimes even transmitted them to the 
younger generation ; others perished through fugitive wan- 
derings in winter ; but a portion at length succeeded, after 
losing nearly all their possessions, in reaching Hungary, 
where, as early as 1 546, a branch of the Brotherhood had 
already established several households. The Hungarian 
chiefs required colonists, and received them gladly. They 
organised themselves in their new homes after the old 
methods, but were never again of any importance. The 
association never recovered from the frightful blow which had 
struck it down and robbed it of all its possessions. The 
state of affairs at that time in Hungary, where Turkish 
inroads and civil wars alternated with each other, was not 
such as to allow a poor community to rise to opulence. It 
therefore declined and perished, and with it perished its 

Whether the community would have stood its ground if 
it had been allowed to develop progressively and unmolested, 
can neither be positively afBrmed nor denied. It is not very 
probable, however, that it would have succeeded in main- 
taining its communism permanently uninjured in the midst 
of the capitalist society with which it was in the closest 
economic relation by reason of its production of commodities 
and the hiring out of its labour. 

In any case, however, the community of the Huterites in 
Moravia has the greatest significance in the history of socialism. 
It is the ripest fruit of heretical communism, and most clearly 
demonstrates to us the tendencies of the Anabaptists. Its 
original lines are still the same as those of the monastic 
system ; the household is only a sort of cloister. But it 


makes some steps beyond this in the direction of modern 
socialism, because it introduces marriage into monastic 
communism and develops industrial production on a large 
scale in such a way that the latter is no longer merely an 
accessory to communism, but begins to form its basis. 

In spite of their importance and singularity, the Anabap- 
tist organisations in Moravia have been lost to remembrance 
for a long time. " It is an extraordinary thing that even the 
recollection of the Anabaptists in Moravia should have 
disappeared so universally from the popular mind, and that 
their memory should have been revived but a short time 
ago, and then only by learned historians." ^ Thus writes a 
Bohemian historian in 1858. Since then learned investiga- 
tions have shed a searching light upon them, thanks chiefly 
to the zeal of Dr. Joseph Beck, who collected extraordinarily 
extensive material on the subject, and himself partly pub- 
lished the Chronicle of the Anabaptists, which has been so 
often quoted here, and which appeared in 1883. After 
the publication, however, his bequest still offered great 
treasures, which Loserth has admirably brought to light. 
But beyond this particular history, the Moravian Anabaptists 
have not yet met with due consideration, while historians of 
the old communism have almost completely ignored them. 

This need not surprise us. These writers were not actuated 
by a desire to comprehend socialism, but to collect materials 
which seemed useful for its condemnation. For such a 
purpose the Moravian Anabaptists were but poorly qualified. 
The Anabaptist insurrection in Miinster appeared much more 
suited to this design. Hence it is this insurrection which is 
set forth in the usual books of history as the embodiment of 
the Anabaptist character. It was referred to by preference 
when historians wished to point out what horrors communism 
of necessity involved. 

As a rule when one hears of the Anabaptists, he at once 
thinks of the outbreak in Miinster ; and whoever mentions 
them, speaks with bated breath, as of some wild Walpurgis 

We will see whether this is justified, and how far it is so. 
' Gindely, Geschichtc der Bdhmischcn Briider, vol. ii. p. 19. 


VI. TAe Disturbances in Miinsier. 

The Reformation movement began to develop itself and 
to let loose the class antagonisms of that era later in North, 
than in South Germany. In a great measure this is attri- 
butable to the economic backwardness of the North Germans. 
In those districts of the North- West which were more highly 
developed, the Reformation agitation was checked by the 
proximity of the Hapsburg Netherlands, from which Charles V. 
could exercise far more adverse influence upon the border 
districts than he could upon the other parts of the Empire. 

The peasants in the North did not join in the universal 
movement, as the events of the year 1525 in South and 
Central Germany found no echo among them, partly on 
account of their being in a better position than their brothers 
in Upper Germany, and partly because single districts were 
more separated from each other, and intercourse between 
them was consequently less frequent than in the more thickly 
settled North. 

Only two aspects of the Reformation were prominent in 
South Germany; t\\Q princely and the municipal; but the 
municipal Reformation in the North was marked by severer 
and keener contests between the municipal and the princely 
authorities on the one side, and on the other between the 
guilds and the municipal patricians. The analogy with 
South Germany goes still further ; for the struggle between 
these conflicting classes could not be fought out without the 
lowest stratum of the urban population taking part in the 

The most celebrated and powerful of the North German 
cities which played a part in the Reformation was the 
Hanse town Liibeck. 

The aristocratic Town Council sided with the existing 
authority, i.e.y the Catholic Church, while the democrats made 
the cause of the "Gospel" their own. In 1530 an insur- 
rection gained the victory over the nobles and Church ; the 
constitution was changed to suit democratic ideas, and the 
Church property confiscated by the town. But this victory 


had been won only by the guilds combining with the masses 
of the " common " people. The leader in the conflict, and 
the most prominent representative of the union was Jiirg 
Wullenweber, Burgomaster of Lubeck, in the year 1533. 
The fact that he had been obliged to rely on the common 
people makes it comprehensible why he should have mani- 
fested sympathy with the Anabaptists. So notorious was 
this sympathy, that when he was Burgomaster of the town, 
the report went through Germany that LUbeck had been won 
over to the cause of the Anabaptists. Whether Wullen- 
weber really did favour the opinion of the Baptists, and if so, 
to what extent, cannot now be ascertained. Certain it is, 
however, that the Anabaptists in Lubeck gained no advantage 
from his sympathy, nor did any of the other North German 
cities in which they were numerously represented. 

In one town only were they temporarily successful, thanks 
to a singular conjunction of circumstances — in Miinster. 

North-Western Germany was particularly rich in ecclesias- 
tical principalities; Cologne, Miinster, Paderborn, Osnabriick, 
Minden, &c. Of these, the Archbishopric of Cologne and 
the Bishopric of Miinster were by far the most important. 

The social and political contests in the ecclesiastical prin- 
cipalities took a special colour. There the reigning prince 
united in his person the ruling powers of both Church and 
State ; though he was by no means an absolute prince in 
consequence. Much more dependent on the Emperor and 
the Pope than a secular lord, he was at the same time more 
of a puppet than a ruler among the nobility and clergy in his 
dominions. The election of Bishops had everywhere been 
monopolised by the Chapter for themselves, and these, like 
the higher and more lucrative places in the Church generally, 
had become a privilege of the nobility (in Miinster since 
1392). Nobility and clergy were in consequence bound 
together in a close association of mutual interests, and they 
presented a far more formidable phalanx against their elected 
ruler than was the case in the secular principalities. The 
constitutional States had, in consequence, more to say in the 
ecclesiastical provinces than in the others ; but in the con- 
stitutional States, again, the nobility and the Church were in 


the majority, when united. The cities were always out- 
voted ; the lesser among them were oppressed, while the 
greater were driven to help themselves in whatever way they 

Under these circumstances the nobility and the higher 
Church dignitaries had the most to lose, and therefore held 
fast to the old faith. They preferred sharing with the Vatican 
the huge amount of wealth which the Church had amassed 
in the ecclesiastical principalities, to losing it altogether. 

The Bishops, on the other hand, were not to be depended 
on. Only too easily did they give way to the temptation 
which the example of their temporal neighbours offered 
them. Conversion to the Lutheran doctrines promised them 
not only independence of the Pope, who taxed them heavily, 
but a free right over Church property and great power over 
the nobles. It is, therefore, not at all surprising that the 
Bishops of Munster, like many of their colleagues, opposed 
the Evangelical doctrines in a very lukewarm and half- 
hearted manner ; and, indeed, not seldom secretly favoured 

When Bernt Rothmann, in 1 531, began to preach Lutheran 
doctrines in the suburb of Munster (St. Moritz) the Chapter 
appealed in vain to Bishop Frederick, petitioning him to 
restrain the mischief which was being done. He certainly 
forbade Rothmann to preach, but did not do the smallest 
thing to enforce his mandate, thus enabling Rothmann to 
continue his ministry undisturbed. Only an Imperial com- 
mand at last induced the Bishop to stop him (in January, 
1532). Rothmann quitted St. Moritz; not to turn his back 
on the country, however, but to be the better able to assail 
the Church in Munster at its centre ; that is, he transferred 
his preaching to Munster itself. 

Munster was a large city, rich and well fortified, the chief 
town, not only of the bishopric, but of the whole of West- 
phalia. Democracy had proved itself particularly strong 
there. Originally, as was the case in every mediaeval town, 
the Council had been exclusively in the hands of the 
patricians, the " hereditary race " (Erdmanner), as they were 
called in Munster. But when the trades and handicrafts 



began to flourish, and the guilds attained to power and 
importance, they also were admitted into the Council, which 
was thenceforward selected annually by ten electors {Korgen- 
sten), who were nominated by the assembled citizens. Only 
half of the four-and-twenty members of the Council were to 
be drawn from the aristocratic class ; but as the management 
of municipal affairs had already become an occupation which 
demanded more time and knowledge than was, as a rule, 
attainable for a man of the lower classes, the twelve seats 
in the Council which appertained to the citizens again and 
again fell to the members of a few wealthy families, from 
among whom, little by little, a second aristocracy was 
developed, less eminent than the Erbmanner, but united to 
them by association of interests. 

Thus the Council gradually became once more exclusively 
representative of the municipal aristocracy ; men who lived 
partly on their rents from the leasing of their landed 
property, and partly by commercial enterprise. But, next 
to the Council, the power of the companies or guilds held 
its ground. There were seventeen guilds in Mlinster, each 
of which possessed its own Guildhall, and made bye-laws for 
its own guidance. The " Schohaus" Guildhall was the central 
point of the assembled civic guilds. In Lent, shortly after 
the election of the Council, the four-and-twenty guildmasters 
met there, and elected two aldermen. " These," says a 
Munster historian of those times, " are the heads and repre- 
sentatives of the whole community of burgesses, and their 
authority is so great that they, together with the guild- 
masters, could reverse the decisions of the Council if they 
wished. Hence the magistrates can hardly decide anything 
of importance in matters concerning the welfare of the commu- 
nity, without the consent of the above-mentioned principals." ^ 

In peaceful times, certainly, the Council was at liberty to 
act very much according to its own sweet will ; but if it 
came to a conflict between the community and the Council, 
or between the clergy and community, the authority of the 
Council vanished very quickly. 

' H. V. Kerssenbroick, Geschichte der Wiedeiidujer zu Milnster. nebst 
eitier Beschreibung dcr Hatibtstadt dieses Landes. iTJ^, vol. i. p. 98. 


This had been practically demonstrated more than once, 
especially in 1525. The mighty struggle in Upper Germany 
did not pass over Lower Germany without leaving its traces. 
In the towns the " common man " everywhere arose ; the 
result of this, in Cologne as in Miinster, was an agitation 
against the clergy, which increased into violent rebellion 
when the Council endeavoured to oppose the movement. 
The people resisted, and nominated a committee of forty 
men, who formulated the demands of the community in 
thirty-six articles ; not concerning religious subjects, but on 
I economic questions ; thus proving that the guilds were the 
'instigators of the movement. 

But though the articles were accepted by the Council (the 
Chapter even signing some of them), they were not carried in 
their entirety. The overthrow of the North German uprising 
brought the South German agitation also to a standstill, 
while, at the same time, it set free the power of the victorious 
princes, and enabled them to help their friends in the South. 
It came to a compromise between the clergy and the town, 
by which the rights of the clergy were restored ; and, in 
return, the latter relinquished all their original claims to 
compensation and security against any contingent future 

Peace was thereby restored, though the opposition of the 
civic elements (particularly the town democracy) to the rich, 
privileged, and tax-imposing clergy continued. The mighty 
catastrophe of 1525 had set the masses in motion, though 
they had taken but little interest in the Reformation up to 
that time. This was the case, not only with Miinster, but 
with the whole of Lower Germany, where the " cause of the 
Gospel " now found a joyful reception. The clergy were at 
the head of the movement, which had originally been purely 
economic, but now began to make use of religious arguments, 
and to assume an apparently purely religious character. 

This is a phenomenon which often meets us in the period 
of the Reformation, and finds its analogy in modern middle- 
class and proletarian movements. 

The cause of this is not difficult to discover. As long as a 
social movement is merely a question of the special demands 


of the moment, its economic character is clearly evident. 
But the deeper its penetration and the greater its expansion, 
the more it seeks to transform the whole of society — i.e., the 
whole of the commonwealth — the greater becomes the neces- 
sity for establishing a rational connection between its separate 
claims. Thoughtful men will feel impelled to be clear as to 
the ultimate aims of a movement whose first efforts represent 
only passing demands, and will endeavour to explain these 
on lofty general principles. In proportion to the limit of 
economic knowledge in any age, and the generally subversive 
aims of the movement, the arguments and theories of the 
agitators appear as a rule more and more mystical, and the 
malcontents more easily lose a right comprehension of the 
economic basis of their agitation. When, for example, the 
cause of a movement happens to be only a question of free- 
trade, or some trifling tax ; or when it concerns shorter hours 
of labour and higher wages, the economic principle is clear 
enough to the most shortsighted. But if the movement has 
to do with the general class-antagonism of the middle class 
or proletariat against existing society, then, to a superficial 
observer, the economic basis is almost wholly lost sight of, 
and it becomes a question of the everlasting principles of 
natural right, reason, justice, &c., &c. At the time of the 
Reformation, the general tone of thought was not legal, but 
theological, and, in consequence, the more radical a social 
movement, the more theological were its party words ; such 
as the " Will of God," the " Word of Christ," and others of a 
similar nature. 

In the year 1529 the democratic Protestant movement in 
Lower Germany received a special stimulus. At that time a 
terrible famine broke out, which lasted till 1531, as Sebastian 
Franck tells us in his Chronicles, published in this year. At 
some places a bushel of rye cost three shillings and sixpence, 
and in the following summer nine shillings. In 1531 the price 
went up still more. In Dortmund in 1530, a bushel of rye 
cost five shillings and sixpence ; in 1531 the price had gone 
up to fourteen shillings. A devastating plague, the so-called 
" English sweating sickness," ravaged the country, at the 
same time as the famine. 


Then ciame the Turkish invasion, which was felt in Lower 
Germany, in consequence of the war-tax, i.e., the "Turkish 
tax," which was at once levied. But in those parts of the 
country which had nothing to fear from the Turks, this tax 
must have been most exasperating, in the midst of so much 
distress, especially as the rate of assessment was not low. 
For instance, in the Duke of Cleves* Principality it was lo 
per cent, on the income. 

This must have intensified the social antagonism im- 
mensely, adding bitterness to the contests of the democracy 
against the wealthy clergy, who knew only too well how to 
avoid taxation themselves, and to whom, in their short- 
sighted avarice, it did not occur to subscribe voluntarily to 
the war expenses. 

In this state of affairs the preaching of Bernhard Rothmann 
found a favourable hearing; and when he withdrew in 1532 
from St. Moritz to Munster, he was received with open 
arms by the democracy, and protected from all attempts at 
violence. The most prominent of the democratic party was 
a rich cloth-merchant, named Bernhard Knipperdollinck ; " a 
stately man, still young in years, with beautiful hair and 
beard ; brave, frank, and strong in appearance, gestures, and 
movements ; full of plans, clever in speech, and swift in deed" 
(Cornelius) ; stubborn, active, and with a propensity for the 

It was very fortunate for the struggling, aspiring democracy 
at a time when they had to put forth all their strength in 
defence of Rothmann, that the clerical authorities were taken 
up with internal affairs which were characteristic of the Church 
at that period. 

Bishop Frederick was an ease-loving noble, whom the office 
of Bishop pleased so long as it occasioned little trouble and 
brought in plenty of money. Now, when the difficulties of the 
Church multiplied, when Pope, Emperor, and Chapter urged 
him to a more energetic policy in defence of the Church, the 
Bishop's chair grew odious to him. He therefore looked 
about for a successor who should take the episcopal com- 
mission off his hands for a good round price ; and such a 
person he at last found in Bishop Eric of Paderborn and 


Osnabriick, a noble as greedy of land as he was capable of 
paying for it, and who gladly seized the opportunity to add 
yet a third episcopal commission to the two he already 
possessed. The Catholic Archbishop of Cologne and the 
Lutheran Elector of Saxony were the intermediaries in this 
clerical traffic (whether they received commission fees is not 
known). The purchase-money was fixed at 40,000 gulden. 
By a gross fraud, these nobles, as pious as they were powerful, 
gained the consent of the Chapter : a counterfeit agreement 
was laid before the latter, instead of the real one, in which 
only half of the true amount was stated as the purchase- 
money. And it was a person of this class who took upon 
himself to defend religion, morals, and property against the 
Anabaptists ! 

After he had received his price, Eric was provisionally 
elected Bishop in 1 531, and Frederick laid down his episcopal 
dignity in March, 1532. 

During this interim the heretics throve gaily in Miinster. 
The entrance of the new Bishop upon his office did not affect 
them much, however, as he looked upon himself in the 
light of a ruler rather than a Bishop, and the spread of the 
Lutheran teaching was even less distasteful to him than it 
'had been to his predecessor. Moreover, he was the close 
friend of the Elector John of Saxony (one of the inter- 
mediaries in the purchase of the Bishop's chair) and of 
Landgrave Philip of Hesse, both leaders of the Evangelical 
movement in Germany. In fact, so little did he hesitate to 
manifest his Protestant sympathies, that he acted as a witness 
to the marriage of Graf von Tecklenburg with a nun who had 
quitted the cloister. 

The election of the Bishop strengthened the Protestant 
cause in Miinster enormously, but also led to a division of 
the movement into two parties. Much as Eric inclined 
towards the Reformation, it was not the Reformation of the 
lower classes, but of the higher, that he favoured ; a reforma- 
tion which increased the power of the rulers, but not that of 
the democracy, at the expense of the Church. 

Against the clerical party and the knighthood, Eric sought 
for the support of the town patricians and the Council, with 


its adherents ; the two together forming a " moderate party " 
which coquetted with the Lutherans. 

So long as all their adversaries were Catholics, the urban 
democracy were willing to make the Lutheran doctrines serve 
as the foundation of their faith ; but now that Lutheranism 
threatened to be turned from a weapon of defence into one in 
the hands of their most dangerous enemies, viz., the Bishop 
and the patricians, they began to lose their sympathy with 
Luther's teachings, and to turn towards Zwinglianism, which 
was better suited to their wants, 

Eric and the Council considered it most important that 
they should get the upper hand of the municipal democracy ; 
and by beginning in this way they were sure of the assistance 
of the clergy. On the 17th of April, 1532, the Bishop issued 
a mandate, in which he offered a prospect of speedy reform 
in the Church ; but asked, first of all, that the preacher 
whom the community had so arbitrarily protected should be 

The Council, thereupon, gave orders to Rothmann to 
discontinue his sermons ; but the community would not 
consent, declaring that they would retain their preacher 
under all circumstances (April 28th). 

Again the democracy were in luck. "In fact," writes the 
good episcopalian, Kerssenbroick, " this upright Bishop would 
have effected much in this matter by means of his own 
authority and the support of his friends, if he had not been 
prevented by a premature death. Making more merry than 
usual at his castle of Flirstenau, situated in the Diocese of 
Osnabruck, he suddenly became ill ; though some assert that 
he died suddenly, on May 14th, after having emptied a large 
beaker of wine." ^ 

This event was the signal for an insurrection in all the 
three bishoprics which had been harassed and oppressed 
during the lifetime of him who had expired in so holy 
a manner. In Osnabruck, Paderborn, and Miinster the 
people rose, drove away the Catholic priests, and appointed 
Protestant pastors of their own way of thinking ; the Council 
being nowhere in a position to check them. In Osnabruck 
' Kerssenbroick, op. cit. vol. i. p. 204. 




a compromise was effected between the clerical party and the 
town by the interposition of the knights. Paderborn was 
utterly crushed by force in October, 1532, by the Archbishop 
Hermann of Cologne ; but in Miinster, on the contrary, the 
rebels understood better how to carry out their plans. 

The Chapter had immediately elected Franz v. Waldeck 
to succeed Eric ; and on June 28th a letter from him arrived 
in MiJnster, summoning the town to return to its allegiance. 
The assembly of the hereditary aristocrats declared itself 
ready to submit ; but that of the guilds decreed (July ist) 
the formation of a confederacy for the defence of the gospel. 
The appointment of the committee of thirty-six men so 
frightened the Town Council that they joined it, and 
granted the demands of the community. The committee 
of thirty-six immediately urged the reorganisation of the 
Church on Evangelical principles, and sought for help from 
abroad, finally concluding an alliance with Philip of Hesse ; 
and when, in October, Bishop Franz, supported by the 
clerical and secular aristocracy, made preparations to over- 
come Miinster by force, the community compelled the 
Council to make counter preparations ; three hundred 
soldiers were enrolled and the fortifications repaired. 

There were unimportant collisions between the parties ; 
but the Bishop shrank from a decisive advance upon the 
strong city, which threatened him either with defeat or with 
foreign intervention and the loss of his independence. More- 
over, his coffers were empty, and the greedy clergy refused 
to make sacrifices for him. The Emperor, the most powerful 
protector of Catholicism in that region, was himself financially 
embarrassed at that time, in consequence of the Turkish war. 
Bishop Franz therefore endeavoured to return to the policy 
of his predecessor, and to make peace with the Council, 
entering into negotiations for this purpose. 

Self-interest inclined the Council to make concessions, but 
the people would hear nothing of the kind. " Not a step 
backwards ! rather let us kill and eat our children ! " cried 
Knipperdollinck ; and the masses supported him. 

In order to manage the negotiations with more chance 
of success, the Bishop had betaken himself to the little 



town of Telgt, in the neighbourhood of Munster, But the 
proximity of the Bishop incited the warlike community to 
anything but peace. A sudden attack on Telgt was secretly 
planned and successfully carried out on the night of December 
26th ; but the Bishop himself was not captured, as he had 
accidentally left Telgt the day before. A great number, 
however, of the most illustrious representatives of the Catholic 
cause — ecclesiastical and secular aristocrats and fugitive 
hereditary patricians from Munster — were taken prisoners. 

This victory had important results. By the interposition 
of Philip of Hesse a treaty was concluded (February 14, 1533), 
of which the chief stipulation was that the Bishop, Council, 
and knights should permit the democratic party such advan- 
tages as they had gained in the insurrection. Munster was 
thenceforth recognised as an Evangelical town. 

VII. The Anabaptists in Strassburg and the Netherlands. 

The democratic guilds had been victorious in Munster, but 
having won all their successes solely through the help of the 
lower masses of the population, they could not, as had often 
happened before in similar cases, throw aside the tools which 
had been used as soon as they had attained their object. 
The victory had been won by a lucky stroke of fortune, 
not by a decisive defeat of the adversary in open fight. 
Peace, therefore, merely meant a temporary cessation of 
hostilities, while the prospect of more severe battles loomed 
up before the middle-class democracy, making them afraid 
to drop their connection with the proletarian democrats. The 
convictions of the latter found their most congenial expression 
in Anabaptism. The prominent position which the proletariat 
had attained in Munster made that town the centre of the 
Baptist faith in Lower Germany. 

Zwinglians having made their appearance in Munster 
during the year 1532, in addition to Catholics and Lutherans, 
the Baptists joined them. The two centres from which 
Anabaptist doctrines spread into Lower Germany were 
Strassburg and the Netherlands. 

In Strassburg, which was in close economic and political! 


intercourse with the great towns of North Switzerland, the 
Zwinglian State Church triumphed in 1525. The struggle 
of Zwinglianism against Catholicism and Lutheranism assisted 
the Baptists in Strassburg, as in other South German towns. 
After Augsburg, as we have already seen, Strassburg became 
the most important centre of the South German Baptist 
community. It there held its ground longer than in other 
places, thanks to the power possessed by the " common man," 
and to the fear of an insurrection, which prevented the 
Council from taking decisive measures against the Baptists. 
So strong were these people in this powerful capital, that 
the most important of the Church leaders there, especially 
Capito, continued the policy at first followed by Zwingli, and 
for a long time showed a great inclination towards Baptist 

During the great persecution Strassburg was a city of 
refuge for those " Brothers " who did not emigrate to Moravia, 
and after the Baptist community in Augsburg had been cruelly 
suppressed, it became the metropolis of the movement in 
South Germany, so long as such a movement could be said 
to exist. 

Nearly all the prominent men among the South German 
Baptists passed through the new metropolis at various times ; 
but the most important of them all was the journeyman 
furrier, Melchoir Hofmann, from Hall in Swabia, a man who 
had travelled a great deal. In 1523 he had preached the 
Evangelical doctrines in Livland, and had become a preacher 
in the German community at Stockholm. Driven from 
there, he took refuge in Holstein, where King Frederick of 
Denmark granted him the means of livelihood and freedom 
to preach. But when he changed from Lutheranism to 
Zwinglianism, he was banished from the country (1529), and 
turned towards Strassburg, where he was soon carried away 
by the Baptist opinions, becoming one of the community in 
1530, and, after the old chiefs had fallen or been driven out, 
rising to a position of the highest prominence among them. 

An eccentric and visionary enthusiast, he took up with Hans 
Hut's views on the millennium, which must now have found a 
still more favourable soil among the Brethren, as the persecu- 


tion against them was still raging. In fact, if there had not 
been some signs of a speedy deliverance, it would have been 
difficult to remain steadfast in the midst of the cruelties of 
the hunt for heretics. But the fiercer the persecution, the 
stronger grew their faith in the promises which foretold the 
approaching collapse of the existing state of society — that 
most passionate desire of their hearts. Nothing more, how- 
ever, was to be expected from the Turks. 

Strassburg was looked upon as the heavenly Jerusalem by 
Hofmann ; for it was confidently expected that power would 
fall to the Baptists, in that place, within a very short time, 
perhaps in the year 1533. 

But Hofmann agreed so far with the Baptists' usual mode 
of thinking, that he declared himself against all employment 
of force. He relied upon the effect of his propaganda, which 
was that God would bring about victory, and that all rebellion 
was sinful. 

At first Hofmann met with angry resistance in the com- 
munity. Two different parties were formed, of which his 
finally triumphed, perhaps more from his success in the 
Netherlands than from the force of his arguments, or the 
innermost needs of the Brothers. 

He was too restless, however, to remain long in Strassburg. 
In 1530 he went down the Rhine to promulgate his new 
conviction in the Netherlands. 

The Netherlands was the home of heretical communism 
north of the Alps. There Beghardism had its origin ; there 
" the Brothers of the Common Life " had worked, and educated 
the people. But the rapid economic development of the 
country which led to the creation of communism there, also 
matured a strong government, the most dangerous enemy of 
communism. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the 
government was far more powerful and absolute than in the 
neighbouring part of Germany. 

The Burgundian House, and, after its extinction in 1477, 
its successor, the House of Hapsburg, had united the seven- 
teen provinces of the Netherlands into one whole, by the 
most diverse means — through inheritance, by purchase, and 
by conquest. 


Moreover, in 1504, the Hapsburgs had also succeeded to 
the throne of Spain, in which country despotism had already 
made great progress. The Church especially was there 
reduced to almost total dependence upon the Crown. The 
Inquisition, which nowhere exercised such terrible power as 
in Spain, had become a blind tool of a despotism which 
crushed all intractable elements. Abroad the strength of the 
Spanish power was so great at that time that it ventured to take 
up the quarrel with France about Italy and the Papal rule. 
As kings of Spain, the Hapsburgs had even more reason 
for supporting Catholicism than they had in their capacity 
as rulers of Austria (then threatened by the Turks) and 
Emperors of Germany, whose power was undermined by the 
Evangelical princes, for the Catholic Church had become 
one of the most important, if not tke most important of their 
instruments of power. 

They had, therefore, every reason for being decidedly 
opposed to Protestantism ; but they could attack it with more 
energy in the Netherlands than in Germany. As Emperor 
of Germany, Charles V. united the Netherlands to the 
Spanish kingdom in 15 16. Besides the highly efficient 
means of governmental power which the Netherlands offered 
him, he had at his command the forces of the Spanish throne 
with which he could crush all opposition in any of his 
dominions. Without outwardly touching the old forms of 
government, he took from them every vestige of political 
freedom. The despotism which assumed such terrible pro- 
portions under Philip II., and which later on could be put 
down only by a sanguinary war of nearly a hundred years' 
duration (i 561-1648), and then in only a portion of the 
Netherlands, was initiated by Charles V., who, whenever it 
appeared necessary, relentlessly enforced his autocratic power. 
The lower classes were kept down with an iron hand, and 
rendered powerless so long as there was no great conflict 
among the rulers themselves. This was the reason why the 
native land of heretical communism apparently remained an 
unfruitful soil for communistic propaganda during the first 
decade of the German Reformation. The mind of the people, 
however, was well prepared, and communistic tendencies 


were widespread before Hofmann appeared on the 

At the end of the fifteenth century "Waldensian" secret 
societies were reported to exist in Flanders and Brabant, 
and were called " Turlupins," or " Pifles," often also (and 
this is worthy of notice) " Tisserands " (weavers). " They 
were strict in their morals, charitable towards all men, and 
harboured no revengeful feelings. Many joined the Dutch 
Anabaptists, and added much to their strength." ^ 

According to their own tradition, the Baptists had spread 
their propaganda to the Netherlands as early as the year 
1534, and indeed it is known that three " Brothers" suffered 
martyrdom for the cause in Holland in 1527. 

Hofmann's importance lay, not in his introduction of 
Anabaptism into the Netherlands, but in the courage he 
imparted to the members of the sect to propagate their 
doctrines. This courage flowed from his convincingly con- 
fident prophecy that the end of the existing order of society 
was at hand, and that the year 1533 would see the inaugura- 
tion of the new state of things. The effect of his preaching 
was enhanced by the pestilence and famine which had been 
prevalent since 1529, as well as by the democratic movement 
in the adjacent provinces of Lower Germany, especially in 

It is worthy of remark that the new sect (called Melchior- 
ites, from Melchior Hofmann) could never obtain a firm 
footing in Flanders and Brabant, where economics and 
politics had reached an advanced stage of development, and 
where the executive power was strong and concentrated. 
The centre of the movement lay in the towns of the 
Northern provinces — in Holland, Zealand, and Friesland, 
which, though backward in politics and economics, had for 
that very reason preserved a large measure of municipal 
independence, and which, unlike Flanders and Brabant, were 
afterwards successful in freeing themselves from Spanish 
domination. Amsterdam became the seat of the leading 
community of Anabaptists. 

' A. Brons, Urspriuig, Entwickelnng und Schicksale der altevangelischen 
Taiifgesinntcn oder Meniwniten, Harden, 1891, p. 57. 


The Melchiorites had hardly begun to be numerous, when 
they divided themselves into two parties. All of course 
believed in the imminent coming of the New Jerusalem, but 
the more practical among them were forced to admit that it 
would not come of itself, by means of a miracle, but that the 
proletariat must free itself. They maintained that they must 
fight their opponents with the same weapon which had been 
used in the subjugation of the people : that the sword, which 
the godless had drawn from its scabbard against God's 
people, should now be turned against the hearts of their tyrants. 

So taught Jan Mathys, a baker of Haarlem, who was the 
first of the Melchiorites to counsel violent measures. "Jan 
Mathys was the first to demand and inaugurate the use 
of arms and force against the authorities," said Jan van 
Leyden to his judges ; and in an earlier confession, he tells 
of the dissension which had arisen between Mathys and 

The doctrines promulgated by Mathys were favoured in the 
Netherlands by the circumstance that class antagonisms were 
much more acute in that province than in Switzerland, the 
native land of the Baptist sect. In the Netherlands, hardly a 
single representative of the upper classes was to be found in 
the ranks of the order, the movement in that country being 
eminently proletarian in character, and among classes who 
had nothing to lose but their fetters ; a fact which must have 
increased both the strength of their resistance and their 
eagerness for it. 

Mathys succeeded in firmly establishing himself in the 
community of Amsterdam, and also gained many adherents 
outside that community by the instrumentality of his 
messengers, the number of which increased with the growth 
of the Melchiorites. By far the most prominent among them 
was the before-mentioned Jan Bockelson of Leyden. His 
mother, who was a tradeswoman from the neighbourhood of 
Munster, had been servant to Bockel, mayor of Soevenhagen, 
to whom she bore a son — Jan. (1509)- 

-Berichte dcr Augenzcugen ttber das Miinstmschc WiedeHduferrcich. 
Edited by C. M. Cornelius, vol. ii. of Geschichtsquellen des Bisthume 
MiUister, 1853, pp. 370, 399- 


She subsequently married Bockel, after having bought her 
freedom. Jan learned the craft of tailoring in Leyden, but 
received a very scanty mental training. His extraordinary 
natural endowments, however, compensated for this. After 
studying Munzer's works, he took a lively interest in the 
stirring questions of his day, and was especially enthusiastic 
concerning communism. His mental horizon was broadened 
by extensive travels also. As a journeyman tailor, after 
going to Flanders, he visited England, where he remained 
four years. On his return home, he did not pursue his craft, 
but married the widow of a mariner, and set himself up in 
trade. Business took him to Llibeck and Lisbon ; but having 
no luck, or perhaps lacking the requisite business capacity, he 
became a bankrupt just at the time when the Baptist sect 
made its appearance in the Netherlands. With all the ardour 
of youth, he now embraced the doctrines with which he had 
always been in sympathy. Much as he had seen and expe- 
rienced, he was not yet twenty-five years old when he was 
won over to the cause of Jan Mathys (November, 1533). 

Handsome, vivacious, enthusiastic and of captivating 
eloquence, he soon made conquest of hearts. Enjoyment of 
life and of the beautiful was a conspicuous trait of his 
character, in striking contrast to the bulk of his associates, 
who favoured a gloomy puritanism ; in this respect he also 
completely differed from Thomas Miinzer. From early youth 
he had manifested poetical talent, and Kerssenbroick informs 
us that "he had also written all sorts of plays, which, as 
was customary in that country, he produced on the stage 
before the whole people, to gain money." His proclivity and 
aptitude for theatrical affairs were afterwards displayed in 

Kerssenbroick, however, has little cause for deriding him as 
a " tailor " and " theatre king." The masters whose devoted 
servant Kerssenbroick was, trembled for fear of the tailor 
and theatre king ; for to the characteristics just described, the 
dictator of Munster united an inflexible will and a penetrating 
acuteness, which made him an opponent to be dreaded. 

Before Bockelson became a partisan of Mathys, the latter 
was at the head of the Melchiorites in the Netherlands, Hof- 


mann having left in the beginning of the year 1533 to return 
to Strassburg, as the time for the commencement of the New 
Jersualem had arrived. Hofmann hid prophesied that he 
should be taken prisoner and remain confined for half a year, 
but that then the Redeemer would come. The first part of 
the prophecy was soon fulfilled, as he was arrested in May. 
The Brothers were now on the tenterhooks of expectation, 
and looked forward with feverish impatience to the time 
when, at last, there should be an end to all sorrow and want. 

The remainder of the prophecy lacked fulfilment. The 
year 1533 drew to its close, and all continued to be quiet in 
Strassburg. As a chief result of Hofmann's agitation, the 
Council was spurred on to energetic measures against the 
Baptists. All their wavering adherents fell away from the 
sect, and their cause from that moment continued to lose 
ground in the town.^ Just at this time, however, an impetus 
was given to the enthusiasm of the Brothers, which made 
it blaze up once more ; for " throughout the Netherland 
communities a report was spread that the Lord had rejected 
Strassburg on account of its unbelief, and had in its stead 
chosen Miinster as the seat of the New Jerusalem" 

Let us now see what had meanwhile been transpiring in 

VI IL How Miinster was won. 

As early as the year 1532, Baptist and other similar 
tendencies had become noticeable in Miinster, and during 
the following year rapidly gained in definiteness, strength, 
and range. 

The Town Council was divided in its policy ; for the election 
of March 3, 1533, had introduced into its midst a number 
of decidedly democratic elements. One of the two Burgo- 
masters, Hermann Tilbeck, a patrician by descent, but a good 
democrat in opinions, was a partisan of these, and he subse- 
quently joined in bringing about the union between the 

' Hofmann never regained his freedom. After long years of imprison- 
ment, he died in a dungeon. 


radical section of the burgess democracy and the Ana- 

The guilds were quite as disunited, vacillating, and uncer- 
tain as the Council, knowing that the Bishop and clergy were 
only watching for a favourable opportunity to regain their 
control of the town. A part of the body of the guild- 
burgesses, however, began to feel anxious concerning the 
poor population, whose aggressiveness was stayed by no 
consideration of privilege or possession, and would, therefore, 
make no exception of the property of the guilds. This body 
weighed and compared the respective dangers threatening 
them from the masses on one side and the aristocracy on the 
other. Those among the democrat burgesses who had most 
to fear from priestly and aristocratic domination, remained 
true to their alliance with the proletarian elements ; others 
joined the Lutherans and even the Catholics of the town ; 
while the majority of the guild faction oscillated unceasingly 
hither and thither, concerned alone in keeping the mastery 
out of the hands of any of the other parties. 

This condition of affairs was highly favourable to the 
Baptists, as it prevented all decisive action against them on 
the part of the Town Council ; and they were not slow in 
taking advantage of their opportunity. Their zeal for the 
cause left nothing to be desired, and their numbers were 
augmented not merely by the accession of proselytes from 
the town, but (and this is worthy of remark) by the influx of 
immigrants, at first from neighbouring districts, but after- 
wards from distant ones, and especially from the Netherlands. 
These immigrants came partly as refugees from persecution 
and partly because they were impelled by a desire for great 
deeds ; for they were not only in less danger in Munster than 
elsewhere, but there was greater scope for their activity in 
aid of the good cause. They became of the highest impor- 
tance to the development of affairs in MUnster, as they 
belonged to the most courageous and energetic party, and 
gave an important moral and military support to the Baptists 
in the town. Gresbeck, who was an eye-witness of events, 
ascribes to them the leading part in the triumph of 
Anabaptism and in all the incidents which took place in 


the town under the communist regime. He invariably 
speaks of the strict Baptists in Miinster as " the Dutch and 

The "party of order" (as we may briefly designate the 
opponents of the Baptists) dwindled away from day to day ; 
for a panic had seized the wealthy inhabitants, and every 
advance made by the democracy drove some of them away 
in flight. 

The propertied classes now displayed a disposition to 
combine ; but each endeavoured to turn the agitation to its 
own profit alone, and in spite of their co-operation they 
never could overcome a certain mutual distrust ; for while 
each member of the league wanted to deceive his associates, 
he also feared being deceived by them. Even when Miinster 
had fallen into the hands of the Baptists, it was not easy to 
combine the propertied classes into a solid body. 

As soon, however, as the beginnings of a " party of order " 
became visible, the more radical among the middle class 
democratic elements, under the leadership of Rothmann and 
Knipperdollinck, found it necessary to bind themselves more 
closely to the proletarian factions, and consequently went 
over to Anabaptism. On September 5, 1532, Rothmann, 
who had hitherto combated the doctrines of the Anabaptists, 
wrote to Busch : " I have had some trouble with the Ana- 
baptists, who long since left us, threatening, however, to 
return with greater power. But ' if God be with us, who shall 
be against us?"'i 

As early as May in the following year, Rothmann declared 
himself opposed to infant baptism. 

The Town Council endeavoured to overcome the Baptists 
with " spiritual weapons." They induced Melancthon to 
write to Rothmann, in order to bring him back to the true 
faith. As this and similar letters bore no fruit, the Council 
ordered a disputation for August 7 and 8, 1533, which of 
course did not convert the Baptists, but rather encouraged 

The Council now resorted to sharper measures. A 
number of municipal preachers had joined the Baptists. In 
' Quoted by Kerssenliioick, vol. i. p. 183. 


September the Council threatened them with dismissal if 
they refused to baptise infants : to which the pastors replied 
that they must obey God rather than man ; whereupon the 
Council endeavoured to carry out its menace. First of all, 
Rothmann was deprived of his office of preacher in the 
Lamberti Church ; but the attitude of the community was so 
threatening, that the Council installed him in another Church 
in October, The Baptists had thus gained their first victory. 

In the beginning of November there was another trial of 
strength between the contending parties. The Council at 
that time made an attempt to combine all the different 
opponents of Anabaptism in united action. It invited the 
guildmasters and Catholic patricians to a conference on the 
best means to be adopted for gaining the mastery over the 
Baptist faction. At this conference it was agreed that an 
armed attack should be made on the following day. 

In pursuance of this agreement the members of the party 
of order met under arms, and sought first of all to get 
possession of the Baptist preachers. Now, however, certain 
extreme reactionists (probably Catholics) demanded that 
all members of the Council in sympathy with the Baptists 
should be banished from the town, together with the 
preachers. Burgomaster Tilbeck was especially named. 
Not a word had been uttered to this effect on the preced- 
ing day, and the moderates among the party of order 
were so startled by the demand that they began to 
distrust their colleagues. In the meantime, the Baptists 
assembled and intrenched themselves in the Lamberti 
Churchyard. The following day the Council entered into 
negotiations with them, and the conflict which was to 
have ended in the dissolution of the Baptists, really ter- 
minated in a few insignificant concessions to them. Some 
of their preachers left the town ; but, though inhibited 
from preaching, Rothmann was allowed to remain. 
While open propagandism of Baptist doctrines was for- 
bidden, the party of order had to submit to the retention 
of the leaders in the town. Thus the Anabaptists had suc- 
cessfully withstood a second and far more dangerous assault. 

Kerssenbroick informs us that : " Although the compact 


of November inhibited Rothmann from preaching, he did 
not cease to do so ; first of all secretly and by night, but 
afterwards, when his adherents grew in number, by day 
also, in the houses of some of the burgesses. The time 
of preaching was announced by musket-shot, and no 
one was admitted to the gathering who was not tainted 
with Anabaptism " (vol. i. p. 453). 

The propaganda was carried on not only by these oral 
means, but also by printed pamphlets ; a printing-press 
being secretly set up in Rothmann's house, where it was 
afterwards discovered by the authorities. 

Attempts at a practical realisation of communistic ideas 
were now initiated. The rich among the Brethren " laid all 
their wealth at Rothmann's feet, tore up and burned all 
written evidences of debt, and absolved their debtors from 
payment. And this was done not only by men, but by 
women as well, who at other times were wont to throw 
nothing away. Frau Brandsteinin, Knipperdollinck's 
mother-in-law, a very wealthy woman, was so moved by 
the spirit of God as to restore their bonds to her debtors, 
'together with the interest already paid on them." ^ 

Unselfish enthusiasm of this kind must have powerfully 
influenced the masses, and as a result the Baptists soon 
became so strong that they could openly defy their 
enemies. On the 8th of December the journey-smith, 
Johann Schroder, began to preach Baptist doctrines in 
public. On the 15th, he was arrested by order of the 
^' Council ; but the guild of smiths assembled, marched to 
the town hall, and extorted his release. Though Roth- 
mann had been banished, he remained quiet and 
unmolested in the town. At the end of the year the 
preachers who had left in November returned, but were 
again exiled by the Council, January 15, 1534. They 
were led out by soldiers through one of the town 
gates, only to be brought back again through another by 
the Brethren, with whom the Council did not dare to 
interfere. As a matter of fact, the Baptists were already 
masters of the city. 

^ Kerssenbroick, vol. i. p. 455. 


It is not surprising that the Brethren everywhere now 
admitted that Strassburg had been rejected by God, and 
that Miinster was to be the seat of the New Sion. The 
centre of the movement was consequently transferred 
thither from Amsterdam, In the beginning of the year, 
Jan Mathys sent a series of messengers to Miinster, among 
whom was Jan Bockelson, of Leyden, who arrived on 
January 13th. In February we find Mathys himself there. 

Complete despair now seized the party of order. They 
saw only one possible means by which the swelling flood of 
communism could be checked ; they threw themselves into 
the arms of the Bishop, and treacherously surrendered to him 
the freedom of the town. 

The solemn compact by which Bishop Franz had 
guaranteed freedom of religious worship in Miinster had, 
from the very first, been regarded by him as a mere 
scrap of paper, to be torn in pieces at the first favourable 
opportunity. The more democratic the town became, the 
more he longed to break the treaty. As early as December, 
I533> he had begun to make preparations for taking the 
Miinster democracy by surprise and annihilating it ; hence 
the treacherous proceeding of the party of order was most 
opportune for him. 

" When, therefore," writes Gresbeck, " my gracious Lord 
of Miinster saw that the Anabaptists in the town would 
neither listen to the Council nor plead for pardon of the 
Bishop, he came to an agreement with the Town Council, 
and some of the other burgesses who did not hold with 
the Anabaptist doctrines, that they should leave two gates 
to the town open for the Bishop ; namely, the gate of our 
Blessed Virgin and the gate of the Jewish quarter. Then 
were these gates opened for the Bishop, so that he brought 
into the town from 2,0CX) to 3,000 footmen, and a force of 
horsemen, and my gracious Lord of Munster became master 
of the city." ^ 

This occurred on the loth of February. The Bishop's 
forces, which had thus so treacherously fallen upon the town 
in the midst of peace, were joined by the " order loving 
' Berichte derAugenzcugeii, pp. 14, 15. 



burgesses " who had been awaiting them and wore armour 
under their clothing. By previous arrangement they had 
hung wreaths of straw on their houses that they might be 
spared from the pillage of the town which it was expected 
would be carried out by the " defenders of property." 

Success at first attended the conspirators, who laid hold 
of Knipperdollinck and a few other Anabaptists, and cast 
them into prison. 

The Baptists, who had been taken completely by surprise, 
soon assembled, however, and showed that the spirit of the 
war-like party of Jan Mathys still lived in them. They 
gained the upper hand in the street combat which ensued ; 
the Bishop's troops fell back offering to come to terms, and 
" the footmen and horsemen were cleverly and skilfully 
driven out of the city" (Gresbeck). Their treachery had 
turned against the traitors themselves, and as a result the 
town, which had already virtually belonged to the Baptists, 
now fell into their military power, captured, not in aggressive 
riot, but in self-defence. 

The fight of February had two results. From that time 
war was waged between the town and the Bishop. On the 
28th of the month, Franz and his troops moved into Telgt, 
to begin the siege, and on the same day the legally-prescribed 
election of magistrates took place in Miinster, which, with- 
out any alteration in the electoral views, ended in the 
complete triumph of the Baptist party. Knipperdollinck 
and Kippenbroick (a cloth -maker who had repeatedly 
distinguished himself in the Baptist cause) became Burgo- 
masters. " The leaders of the movement were consequently 
raised by legal methods to the highest power, and the 
chief town of Westphalia lay at the feet of the new 
prophets " (Keller). 

IX. Tke New Jerusalem. 

(a) Our Sources of Information. — According to the repre- 
sentation usually given in the accounts of historians, the 
seizure of Miinster was followed by frenzied orgies of 
debauchery and bloodthirstiness. " When the city fell into 


their hands," writes Bishop Franz, in an official report, " they 
overthrew all godly and Christian law and justice, all rules of 
Church, and secular government and policy, and substituted 
a bestial manner of life" This is the way in which these 
events have generally been depicted from the time of the 
MUnster " commune " down to the present day. 

A recent writer, the anonymous author of Schlaraffia 
politica,^ tells us with awe : " Munster became the theatre 
of the lowest debauchery and bloody butchery ... A power 
was thus established which carried into practice communism 
and polygamy ; a government in which spiritual insolence 
and fleshly concupiscence, bloodthirsty barbarism and base 
epicurianism, were associated with pious renunciation and 
self-sacrifice. The infamies of which the women of Munster 
were victims, the Nero-like debaucheries and barbarities of 
Jan van Leyden and his colleagues, are the historical 
illustration " of the aim of modern socialism. Neverthe- 
less our writer thinks that in the socialist society of the 
future " the Saturnalia of Munster will doubtless be sur- 
passed " (pp. 68, 70). 

This is the key-note of nearly all representations of the 
Munster commune. The closing sentence of the above 
quoted passage discloses one of the reasons why middle- 
class historians have found it difficult to deal impartially 
with the Anabaptist communism. It bore for them too 
close a resemblance to modern socialism. 

Another obstacle to impartiality respecting that order is 
presented by the character of our sources of information. 
The historians were too easily convinced of the truth of 
everything told by witnesses of the Anabaptist rule. Yet 
it is precisely here that the greatest caution is necessary in 
the use made of the evidence. 

From the loth of February, the day of the decisive 
Baptist victory, Munster was a beleaguered town, cut off 
from the outer world. After it was recaptured by the 
besieging forces, almost the whole population was mas- 
sacred. No defender of the Baptist cause escaped a 

^ Schlaraffia politica, Geschichte der Dichtungen voni Besten Staat. 
Leipzig, 1892. 


bloody grave, who was in a position to give a literary 
account of the events of the siege. All the descriptions 
proceed from the enemies of the Anabaptists. 

There are three main sources of information. Immediately 
after the fall of Munster a work appeared entitled : Wa/ir 
haftige historie^ wie das Evangelium zu Munster angefangen 
und darnach, durch die Widdertauffe vers tort widder aufgehort 
hat, &c. Beschrieben durch Henricuni Dorpium Monasterie- 
meem, 1536. (" A True History of the Introduction of the 
Gospel into Munster, and its subsequent Destruction by the 
Anabaptists," &c. ; " written by Henry Dorpius of Miinster.") 
In his treatise on the " Sources of the History of the Munster 
Insurrection," forming the introduction of his Berichten der 
Augenzeugen (" Accounts of Eye-witnesses "), Cornelius thus 
characterises the work : " It is a Wittenbergian partisan 
production, printed in Wittenberg, and with a preface by 
Luther's chief' coadjutor and delegate for South Germany, 
Johann Bugenhagen . . . The object of the book is to 
compass the complete moral defeat of his opponents, and 
by this means advance the interests of his party " (pp. 16, 
17). Even the title contains a falsehood. Cornelius points 
out that even if the author were named Dorpius, he was not 
a resident of MUnster, although " the book makes it appear 
that he had himself been in Munster, and had personally 
experienced that which was, in fact, only reported to him " 
(pp. II, 12). Hence he was a swindler, whose "book is 
not to be regarded as an accurate and unprejudiced 
account of the whole course of events." ^ 

Kerssenbroick's work on the Munster Anabaptist regime, 
of which the Latin original is still in manuscript, is of far 
greater importance. When it was about to be printed in 
1573, its publication was prohibited by the Munster Town 

I The Protestant Hase endeavours to free Dorpius from the re- 
proaches of CorneHus, but, in our opinion, unsuccessfully. {Heilige 
und Propheten. Leipzig, 1892, vol. ii. p. 291, sqq.) In other respects, 
Hase's account and the often quoted work by Keller are relatively the 
best which have appeared from the middle-class side. The classical 
work by Cornelius on the Munster rebellion was unfortunately not 
completed, but breaks off just at the capture of the town by the 



Council. It has been preserved in transcriptions only, but 
a translation appeared in 177 1, of which we have availed 
ourselves. Born in 1520, Kerssenbroick went to the 
Cathedral school of Miinster from 1534 until the Ana- 
baptist victory, and was rector of the same school from 
1550 to 1575. In the latter capacity he wrote his history, 
which has an importance on account of the numerous 
public documents given in it, but which, while uncritical 
and careless as regards the sources of information, is, in 
addition, full of party spirit. The following passage is 
enough to show this. Kerssenbroick affirms that he has 
not written for fame, but " to serve my country and 
posterity, so that the brilliant deeds may not be for- 
gotten, which were done to the destruction of the most 
barbarous and infamous heresy, by the most Reverend 
Count and Lord in Christ Frantz — that righteous Bishop 
of the Miinster Church, and branch of the ancient 
Waldeck stem. I furthermore give this history to the 
world, that all righteous people may avoid and detest the 
abominable and infamous madness of the Anabaptists." 
His purpose, therefore, is not to give an objective repre- 
sentation, but to glorify the Bishop and to vilify the 
Anabaptists. Hence everything is extolled which re- 
dounds to the credit of the hero, while, where possible, 
silence is maintained on all that might cast a slur upon 
him. On the other hand, the author eagerly seeks for 
the most pitiable gossip unfavourable to the Anabaptists, 
and, without examination or verification, inserts it in his 
work, even exaggerating it when he can. 

Let us give an example. He tells us : " Just about this 
time " (the beginning of February) " the prophet Jan Mathys, 
who was an extremely sensual man, secretly called together 
the Anabaptists of both sexes by night in KnipperdoUinck's 
rather spacious house. When they had assembled the prophet 
stood in the centre of the room before a copper candlestick 
fastened to the floor, in which three candles were burning, 
instructing the surrounding crowd, and by his prophetic spirit 
fanned into full flame the fire smouldering in the hearts of 
many. He then explained the first chapter of the first Book 


of Moses, and when he had read the words of the twenty-eighth 
verse, ' Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth,' the 
lights were blown out. What infamies were then practised 
may be inferred from the fact that on one occasion the 
prophet was found lying in a most indecent attitude in the 
lap of a maiden. They called this assembling together the 
* Fiery Baptism.' T/izs is no fiction ; for though mention was 
made of the Fiery Baptism here and there in the town, no 
one knew what was meant until a certain woman was induced 
to investigate the matter by a bribe from my landlord, Wesse- 
ling. After learning the Anabaptist sign this woman gained 
admission to the above-mentioned house, saw everything, and 
related it to us afterwards " (i. p. 504). Our trustworthy rector 
considered this sufficient ground for his assurance that his 
account of the Fiery Baptism is "no fiction "! Let us deliberate 
a moment. For the sake of a gratuity some woman relates any 
tale she likes to the landlord of the house in which Kerssen- 
broick lived when a youth of fourteen ; a generation later he 
writes it down from memory, and asks us on this single 
unsubstantiated piece of evidence to attribute the most 
unbridled licentiousness to the Anabaptists : scientific his- 
torians, too, scrupulously reproduce this woman's gossip — if it 
be not something worse — because in this way communism 
is to be " scientifically " annihilated ! 

The fact, to which we shall again allude, that in a particular 
work the Munster Anabaptists pronounce all such accusations 
" shameless and scandalous lies " does not seem to have been 
noticed by any one ; and quite as little that Kerssenbroick 
himself in other passages gives prominence to the puritanism 
of the sect. 

"After he had gone over to the Baptists, Rothmann's 
morals became quite changed, because he had taken upon 
himself to propagate Anabaptist doctrines, and consequently 
displayed greater holiness and fear of God than formerly. 
He renounced all feastings and all sensual intercourse with 
the other sex ; in a word, all that could cast on him a 
suspicion of frivolousness. ... In order, however, to make 
his teachings tally with his morals and to arouse the people 
to deeds of charity, he proclaimed in all his sermons that men 


should use their possessions in common and render each 
other service," &c. (p. 429). 

This is exactly the picture of the typical Anabaptist and 
heretical communist in general with whom we have already 
become acquainted. At all events this description is accu- 
rate ; but how is it to be reconciled with the accounts given 
us of orgies ? 

Kerssenbroick seems to have been particularly impressed 
by the gossip of the anonymous woman, as he expressly relies 
upon it to prove that he is relating " no fiction " ; and this is 
one of the few instances in which he finds it necessary to tell 
whence he obtained his knowledge. He generally gives none 
of the sources, so that these may have been of an even more 
lamentable kind ! 

By far the most important of the sources of infor'mation 
regarding the Anabaptist government is Gresbeck's narrative, 
already cited.^ A joiner by trade, Gresbeck returned in 
February, 1534, to his native town, Miinster, which he had 
left in 1530. He remained until the 23rd of May, 1535, and 
was consequently in a position to disclose the most eventful 
occurrences there, from personal observation ; but he wrote, 
perhaps eight or nine years after the end of the Anabaptist 
regime, entirely from memory and without any collateral aid. 
Hence he frequently confuses events. Moreover, the clear- 
ness of his memory was dimmed by one serious. circumstance ; 
for Gresbeck was the man who betrayed Miinster and brought 
the Bishop's forces into the town. He naturally hated his 
former associates, whom he had betrayed, more than they 
were hated by their open enemies. He almost invariably 
speaks of them as " miscreants " and rogues. This is the 
way with renegades and traitors. Quite as naturally he tries 
to distort facts, so as to make it appear that he had by 
merest accident come to Miinster — when all the world was 

' Summarische ertzehtngk unci bericht der Wiederdope und wat sich binnen 
derstat Miinster in Westfhalen zngetragen in j air, mdxxxv. Cornelius was 
the first to recognise the importance of this work, which is preserved 
in several hand copies. He reproduced it in the already quoted 
Berichic der Angeiizeugen iiber das Miinstcrische Wicdertdnfcrreich, of 
which it forms the most prominent part. 


full of the news that the town was in the hands of the Ana- 
baptists — and joined them under the influence of fear alone ! ' 
Hence he paints the picture of the reign of terror in the 
coarsest tones possible, and by this means succeeds not only 
in appearing blameless for his treachery, but in giving it the 
aspect of a highly meritorious deed. 

These are the chief sources of our knowledge concerning 
the Munster episode. Although they should be used only 
with the greatest circumspection, they have fallen into the 
hands of historians who from the outset accepted as proved 
the statement which these authorities wished to prove, viz., 
that communism of necessity engenders wildness and atrocity. 
It is not surprising that under this method of writing history 
the reign of the Anabaptists presents itself as a frenzy not 
only of hideousness and vulgarity, but of inane and aimless 
vulgarity and hideousness. 

Nevertheless even these sources make it possible to com- 
prehend the Anabaptist regime in Munster, provided they are 
critically examined and compared with the scanty remains of 
other contemporaneous testimony ; and if a view is kept both 
of the generic character of heretical communism and of the 
peculiar conditions prevalent in the town at that time. 

(b) The Reign of Terror. — It is of the first importance to 
remember that a state of war existed in Munster from the 
day the Bishop surprised it on February loth. A war 
must be a remarkably insignificant affair, else how comes 
it that historians who are acute enough to discover the most 
trivial circumstance of possible moment to the often puerile 
actions of a monarch almost invariably forget to take 
account of the state of war, when they concern themselves 
with the actions of a democratic and even communistic 
commonwealth fighting for its life ? We refer in proof 
of this to any of the traditional descriptions of the up- 
risings of the Paris Commune in 1 871, or of the Reign of 
Terror during the great French Revolution. 

' In a letter written by him during the siege he admits that his 
master's mother warned him against going to Munster, telling him that 
he would assuredly allow himself to be baptized {Berichte dcr Aiigen- 
zeugen, p. 323). 


Precisely the same thing has happened with regard to the 
Anabaptists in Munster. If, however, we would understand 
them, we must not measure them by the standard of a con- 
dition of peace, but of a state of siege ; and indeed a sz'eg-e of 
peculiar severity. They could not appeal to the customary 
laws of war ; they were precluded from making an honourable 
capitulation ; they had only the choice between victory and 
a most agonising death. 

Together with this peculiar situation favourable to violent 
deeds, regard must be had to the characteristics of the 
century, which was one of the most, if not the most, blood- 
thirsty in history. The Anabaptists gained ample knowledge 
of this from personal experience. They — the most peaceable 
of all men — were hunted down like wild beasts, and handed 
over as victims to the most atrocious cruelties. It is not 
surprising that among this suffering people a party should 
have finally arisen who became wearied with sheepish patience 
and counselled violent resistance. The only cause for wonder 
is that this spirit was so long in developing itself and that 
it never affected more than a portion of the persecuted 

A series of fortuitous circumstances had now placed a 
fortified town in the hands of this maltreated sect. Already, 
however, complete destruction threatened them from without. 
Let us see how they acted under these circumstances. 

Janssen tells us (with a proper show of indignation) that 
' On February 27th the Reign of Terror began with the pro- 
clamation of a decree that all the inhabitants must either 
receive the new baptism or leave the town." He then quotes 
the Bishop of Munster, who in a certain document grows 
wrathful over the fact that the " pious citizens " were driven 
in poverty from the city ; and affirnis that " in no land, even 
of infidels, or Turks, or heathens, had such unheard-of and 
inhuman barbarities taken place." ^ 

So great is the rage of the Catholic historian that he quite 

forgets to mention that the tender-hearted Bishop was at that 

time laying siege to Munster, nay, that on the 13th of 

January he had already issued an edict commanding his 

' Janssen, Geschichte des dentschen Volkes, iii. p. 30. 


officials to treat all "disobedient and rebellious" persons 
conformably to the Imperial decree, that is, to slay them. 
Moreover, this edict was rigorously carried out. Kerssen- 
broick exultantly tells us that "in order satisfactorily to 
execute the Imperial decree and the ordinances of Justice 
the Anabaptists remaining in various localities in the diocese 
were severely punished, for at that time five women and one 
man belonging to Wollbeck were thrown into the water and 
drowned ; in Bewergern four women were drowned and two 
men burnt. Many of those whom Rothmann had secretly 
baptized were also punished, as they deserved, by being put 
to death " (i. p. 517). Janssen says not a word concerning all 
this, and in this respect affords us a specimen of traditional 
representation. Of course Janssen is also silent about the 
conspiracy entered into with the Bishop by the opponents of 
the Anabaptists within the town to open the gates on the 
loth of February for the passage of the Bishop's troops. 
After the siege had begun the traitors were not executed, in 
conformity with the laws of war and the good Bishop's 
example, but were invited to leave the town ! And this, 
forsooth, is called the " reign of terror " ! Was there ever 
more pitiable cant? 

In the course of the siege a rigorous government became 
necessary within the city, and a series of executions took 
place. If the cases adduced by Kerssenbroick and Gresbeck 
are examined they will be found in every instance to relate 
to offences against the safety of the town ; such as treacherous 
communication with the enemy, offences against discipline 
and attempts to desert, or to discourage the populace. With- 
out doubt an execution is a cruel deed, but no more cruel 
than war. The Baptists had not sought this war ; it was 
forced upon them, for on all occasions they earnestly asseve- 
rated their love of peace." ^ 

A " reign of terror " existed not only in Miinster, but also 

• In a pamphlet issued to the besieging mercenaries they proclaim : 
" Hear ye, 5'oung men and elders, who have encamped yourselves 
against our city, as we wish not only to live in feaec with every one, but 
also to prove by our acts our brotherly love in Christ for all men, ye must 
take heed how ye shall answer before pious persons— not to speak of 


in the domain of the Bishop ; and the comparison between 
the two does not redound to the credit of the latter. 

The Bishop was the aggressor, the Baptists the defenders ; 
the Bishop slew for his own gain ; the Baptists slew that they 
might not be themselves slain. They fought for their lives. 
While the Bishop delighted in inflicting cruel modes of death 
upon the Baptists (especially drowning and burning) the con- 
demned in Munster were not tortured, as there existed only 
two modes of execution, viz., beheading and shooting, and no 
less offensive form of capital punishment has been advanced 
in even the humane nineteenth century. 

It has been regarded as evidence of a peculiarly strong 
spirit of bloodthirstiness that the heads of the town, " King " 
Jan van Leyden, and his lieutenant, Knipperdollinck, carried 
out the executions with their own hands. This betrays a 
gross misconception of the feeling and the thought of that 
period. If the great lords, who at that time generally de- 
cided matters of life and death, did not themselves execute 
the condemned, it was not from humane sentiments, but 
because the loathsome and filthy work of the executioner's 
calling seemed too base for them. The executioner, whose 
trade was the handling of corpses, was everywhere looked 
upon as the most despicable of men, with whom all inter- 
course was anxiously avoided. If, then, the leaders of the 
movement in Munster undertook the office of executioner, 
they thus performed an act of unexampled self-abasement — 
an act which, far from evidencing a cruel disposition, merely 
exhibited a high feeling of equality. 

That this is " no fiction " (to use Kerssenbroick's expres- 
sion) is borne witness to by that worthy man himself, whom 
we can trust on this point. " Just at this time," he writes, 
" the prophet and man of God, Jan Bockelson, for the terror 
of evil-doers, handed over the sword to Knipperdollinck, 
whom, before the assembled multitude, he dubbed the 'bearer 
of the Sword ' / for as all the high were to be laid low, and 
Knipperdollinck had hitherto been burgomaster and head of 

God — for having laid violent siege to us and murdered us, against all 
written and signed treaties of peace, and without proper declaration of 
war. The whole pamphlet is reproduced by Kerssenbroick, ii. p. 9. 


the city, it was now the will of the father that Knipperdol- 
linck should fill the office of public executioner, so ill 
esteemed by mankind" (i. p. 545). 

It is impossible to speak more plainly. The carrying out 
of executions with his own hands by Knipperdollinck, sprang 
from the same principle that caused him and the " Queen " 
to wait upon the multitude at the public meals.i 

Where then, after all, is the unheard of Nero-like cruelty 
of the Anabaptists ? Upon close inspection it vanishes like 
vapour. Far from being exceptionally cruel, they show 
themselves to have been unusually lenient for their time, 
and in view of their peculiar situation. Their cruelty lay 
in not patiently allowing themselves to be slaughtered — an 
unpardonable crime of course! Shooting them was a service 
of love, as Luther said ; every shot on their part was an 
iniquitous brutality ! 

The charge of tyranny is closely related to that of cruelty. 
It is said that Miinster shows us whither the freedom and 
equality of communism lead. 

We have seen that the Baptists at Miinster acquired their 
mastery by strictly legal means, the Council being composed 
of adherents to their cause. But for the very reason that the 
election was legal, it took place within the limits prescribed 
by the ancient electoral law, which restricted the franchise by 
a rule of eligibility ; resident burgesses alone being repre- 
sented in the Council, There was no representation of the 
proletarians or of the immigrants, who were about equal in 
number to the remaining population capable of bearing arms, 
and who bore their full share of the burdens of the conflict. 
On the other hand, the civil government was established for 
a time of peace, and was unequal to the demands set up by 
the siege. 

A state of siege has always led to the temporary suspension 
of civil rights and privileges, and to the transference to the 

' We have found no authentic evidence of the horrible story related 
by Kerssenbroick, that Jan van Leyden beheaded one of his wives ; 
those remaining afterwards dancing round the corpse. It probably 
belonged to the same category as the "Fiery Baptism" spoken of by 
Jan Mathys, 


military authority of an unlimited power over the life and 
property of the people ; so much so indeed that the words 
"state of siege" imply the setting aside of freedom and 
ordinary judicial methods. Communism has, unfortunately, 
not yet discovered the miraculous elixir which shall make 
this necessary consequence of a state of siege superfluous. 
Neither could it prevent the siege of Munster leading to a 
military dictatorship. 

Besides conducting the very formless Church service, the 
preachers in the town gave their attention to questions of 
legislation and government. It was through their influence 
that a popular assembly was instituted apart from the Town 
Council, composed of members from the different parishes, 
in the election of which the non-guild portion of the popula- 
tion had votes as well as the burgesses. After the death 
of Mathys the preachers also proposed the formation of a 
" Committee of Public Safety," the members of which were 
appointed by them, subject to the approval of the community. 

Gresbeck tells us that " the prophets and preachers wanted 
to abolish all government in the town of Munster. Prophets 
and preachers, Dutchmen and Frieslanders — the villains ! — 
who were the true Anabaptists, wanted to be the only rulers. 
To this end they decreed that twelve from among the wisest 
elders, who were to be good Christians, should govern the 
people and take precedence of them ; and that these twelve 
elders should have power in the city. They thus supplanted 
the burgomasters and council (whom they had installed) as 
well as all guilds and aldermen, so that these were no longer 
to have any authority" (p. 35). Kerssenbroick expressly 
mentions among the elders three foreign brethren, of whom 
one was a Frieslander, the patrician Hermann Tilbeck, who 
was a member of the old Council, and indeed one of the 
two burgomasters of 1533, and who had from the outset 
sympathised with the Baptists. 

As none of the community had received a classical educa- 
tion, but, like all heretical communists and democrats, based 
their order on the Old Testament, they did not call the 
members of the committee senators, or directors, or dictators, 
but "the elders of the twelve tribes of Israel." These 


were endowed with unrestricted power in judicial, legislative, 
and administrative affairs. 

As a consequence of the state of siege, however, the 
supreme power fell into the hands of the commandants of 
the fortress, of whom the first was the prophet Jan Mathys. 
After he had fallen, fighting most bravely, in the sortie of 
April 5th, Jan van Leyden took his place, and, as the result 
shows, filled it satisfactorily. 

In his capacity of commander-in-chief of the military 
forces, he became the autocratic ruler of the town. On the 
31st of August, after a heavy cannonade, a severe attack was 
made upon the city, which was repulsed. After this success, 
Rothmann and the twelve elders, in the presence of the 
community, handed over their authority to Jan van Leyden, 
at the instance of the goldsmith and prophet Dusentschen, 
and with the consent of the most prominent Baptists 
(Knipperdollinck and Tilbeck, together with Henry and 
Bernt Krechtinck — two brothers who had immigrated in 
February). In so doing they only publicly recognised the 
state of affairs already existing. ^ 

That the Baptists found no more suitable name for their 
municipal chief than " King of Israel," was due to their 
one-sided Biblical training, already noticed. Pious minds 
should least of all see evil in this ; and loyal historians should 
be especially sympathetic with those communists who make 
to themselves a king. These writers will in vain seek for the 
smallest trace of monarchial tendencies among Anabaptists 
while living in a state of peace {e.^., the Moravians). 

Like a good general, Jan van Leyden concerned himself 
not only about the sufBciency of military equipment and the 
drill of his troops, but also about the good psychological 
training of the people. In order to counteract the depressing 
inactivity and anxiety of the siege he endeavoured to keep them 

' According to Kerssenbroick, of course, the whole Anabaptist 
government was arbitrarily framed by Jan, merely that he might 
become its ruler. "Jan Bockelson, of Leyden, had long striven for 
such things. For that reason he also repudiated and contemned all 
authority, and, to the same end, ordered that all citizens should share 
possessions in common, at the same time seizing them for himself," &c. 
(ii. p. 47). 


employed and to amuse them. The first object was attained 
by work upon the entrenchments and the razing of superfluous 
churches and old buildings. We are told by Kerssenbroick — 
not, of course, without his customary suspicion, " In order, 
however, that the inhabitants of the town might have no time 
for thinking of an insurrection against the king, they " (the 
chiefs of the city) "unceasingly burdened the people with 
labour ; and that they might also not grow too petulant gave 
them only bread and salt to eat.^ As at that time " (January 
I5> 1535) "there were no new entrenchments to build nor 
old ones to repair, the people were set to work razing the 
churches, and old huts, and other low houses in the orchards, 
and to digging up all the walls. To that end they began on 
January the 21st to remove the upper roof from the church ; 
whereas previously their whole time had been occupied in 
work on the fortifications " (ii. p. 142). 

Jan, however, made provision for amusement as well as for 
work. Together with military and gymnastic exercises he 
arranged public meals, games, and dances, festal processions, 
and theatrical representations. In these matters his joyous, 
artistic nature stood him in good stead. His appearance and 
actions at these popular entertainments, especially in the 
processions, may well appear theatrical to the modern spec- 
tator ; and we know, indeed, that he was at home on the 
stage, and understood scenic effects. Jan should not, how- 
ever, be viewed with modern eyes. 

Festal shows seem somewhat theatrical to us because we 
get our ideas of them from the theatre only, whereas three 
hundred or four hundred years ago they were a common 
feature of social life. Church, sovereigns, and nobility then 
vied with each other in pompous display. The Anabaptists, 
like all other heretical communists, repudiated this splendour, 
as it could be maintained only by spoliation. They not only 
wore the very simplest clothes, but in Moravia even refused 
to make sumptuous clothing for others.^ In Mlinster, how- 

* Thus out of the simple fact that provisions were^ short in the 
beleaguered town, our objective historian contrives to twist a halter for 
the Anabaptist leaders, 

' A Moravian Baptist states : " Concerning the making of clothes, we 


ever, abnormal conditions prevailed in this as in other 
respects. The sumptuousness of attire displayed by Jan 
and his people was not kept up by the spoliation of labourers. 
This "tailor-like," "theatrical" splendour had existed 
previously. " The Counsellor of the King (Jan van Leyden)," 
says Gresbeck, "had obtained possession of the garments 
formerly belonging to the wealthy persons who had been 
driven from the town " (p. 89, with which compare 1 36, where 
the former owners of the clothes are spoken of as burgesses 
and young noblemen). Kerssenbroick moreover informs us : 
"They seized and appropriated gold and silver whether it 
belonged to the town or to the burgesses, as well as the holy 
embroidered silken purples and all other ornaments employed 
in divine worship. They also appropriated everything else 
belonging either to the town or the burgesses, and even slew 
those who resisted and would no longer suffer and endure 
such robbery. Thus did they deck and adorn themselves for 
their own gratification, regardless of the fact that the means 
for this had been obtained by others through hard toil" 
(ii. p. 58). 

Hence the pomp displayed by the Anabaptists was habitual 
in Munster ; those who displayed it had alone changed. 

The study of the Apocalypse must also have encouraged 
the development of pomp among the MUnster Baptists. In 
that Book the New Jerusalem is depicted as being full of gold 
and precious stones ; " And the kings of the earth do bring 
their glory and honour into it" (Rev. xxi. 24). It was 
imperative therefore in Munster to prove that the town was 
truly the long yearned-for New Jerusalem. 

Imagination should not picture the splendour of Munster 
as being so excessive as is generally represented. Were the 
descriptions by Gresbeck to be believed, Jan and his soldiers 
must have carried about an incredible quantity of gold and 

ought to and will serve our neighbour with all zeal in his necessity, to 
the praise of God and to the end that our diligence may be known ; 
but that which conduces to pride and arrogance only, such as sloped, 
bordered, and fringed work, we will make for no one, in order that our 
consciences may be kept undefiled " (Loserth, Dcr Kommunismus der 
Mdhrischcn Wiedertdiifer, p. 126). 


silver. Whoever takes these descriptions literally will, on 
close inspection, be quite as much disappointed as were the 
Bishop's soldiers, whose mouths had been made to water by 
similar stories of booty. There was, for instance, a renegade 
from the Baptists, who related that " the king had a great 
treasure of gold, silver and money." Five or six tons of gold 
awaited them in the town ! When, however, Munster had 
been taken, they found barely half a ton ; and it availed 
them nothing that they tortured Jan and his treasurer, and 
beheaded the soldier who told the silly tale ; they got none 
the more. 

There could be no question of the treasure having been 
buried ; for the town had been captured by a night surprise, 
and the besieged had found barely time to seize their weapons, 
much less to bury treasure. 

The theatrical representations carried out by Jan's orders 
are characteristic. One of them is described by Gresbeck. 
It is a didactic play : " As the common folk found great 
pleasure in anything that whiled away the time, the king 
caused them to be assembled in the cathedral. Men and 
women all obeyed the summons (with the exception of those 
who had to keep watch on the walls) in order to see the great 
show, and the wonderful thing that was to take place. The 
king had caused a stage with curtains to be erected in the 
choir where the High Altar stands, and so placed that it could 
be seen by every one ; and on this stage was performed the play 
of ' The rich man and Lazarus.' They began the piece and 
played it through, holding speech with each other. When 
the rich man had finished speaking to Lazarus, three fifers 
stood at the foot of the stage and played a three-part piece 
on German fifes. Then the rich man began once more to 
speak, and again the fifers played. Thus the play went on to 
the end. Then the devil came to fetch the rich man, body 
and soul, and dragged him away behind the curtains. There 
was great laughter in the cathedral when the people saw the 
great show" (p. i68). 

The other popular entertainments, of which Gresbeck 
writes, were as harmless as this one. He is malicious and 
crabbed enough in regard to this cheerful scene, but makes no 
mention of licentiousness or even frivolity. 


The most wicked of the " orgies," described by him, is the 
following:—" After the election by the people of the twelve 
gate-commanders, called dukes, the king held a feast, to which 
he invited all his dukes and counsellors, and the counsellors 
and handmaids of the queen, and all the highest servants of 
the king. , . . After having assembled, they behaved as if 
they were to remain at the head of the Government for their 
lives long. When the banquet was ended, they paid court to 
each other and danced, eack with his own wife. The king 
banqueted with the dukes, and they all ate, drank, and were 
merry" (p. 184). 

This is reproduced by Keller, with the words : " The king 
assembled at his residence all the dukes, counsellors, stadt- 
holders, and holders of office, with their wives, at a great feast, 
and caroused with them in great splendour and superabun- 
dance." '^ 

In this way is history written ! There is not one word 
about " carousal, splendour, and superabundance " in the 
whole account ! 

It appears from the context that it was not Gresbeck's pur- 
pose to call attention to the carousal, but to stigmatise the 
fact that the king and his retinue had enough to eat and 
'drink, while the populace were starving ; for he continues : 
" The common folk fled from the city through hunger, and a 
part began to die of starvation." 

This is Gresbeck's most heinous charge against Jan van 
Leyden ; not that he indulged in wild orgies, but that he 
withheld the necessary means of subsistence from the hunger- 
ing population, while he himself had plenty to eat, 

Gresbeck was not a personal spectator of these scenes, for 
he belonged neither to the king's entourage, nor to the officers 
of the army, nor to the Government officials. He, therefore, 
speaks of the above-mentioned " banquet " as of Jan's private 
luxury in general, only from hearsay. That many in the 
town grew discontented as the rations got lower and lower is 
extremely probable, and it is equally probable that they gave 
utterance to their discontent in evil reports about their com- 
manders ; but it is remarkable that the farther removed 
persons were from the "king," the more positive they 
' Geschichte der Wiedertdufer, p. 237. 


became in their assertions respecting his luxury in the midst 
of misery. 

For example, Justinian von Holzhausen, a Burgomaster of 
Frankfort, who was in the camp before Mlinster, wrote to his 
father, June 8, 1535 : "The cows in the town ^ are eaten by 
the king and his people unknown to the public. We wonder 
that the king's deception has not been discovered^ 2 How then 
did the Burgomaster come to discover it in the camp outside 
the town ? 

Gresbeck betrays himself on one occasion by his reference 
to the fact that Jan shared in the universal want : " Most of 
the women, therefore, had fled the town through great hunger. 
The king had fifteen wives, to whom, with the exception of 
the queen, he gave leave of absence, telling them that each 
should go to her friends, and that all were to obtain food 
wherever they could." ^ Gresbeck relates this immediately 
after his account of the "great banquet." He had not ac- 
quired the art of writing history "systematically." 

(c) Communism. — Community of goods was the basis of 
the whole Baptist movement. For its sake the great fight 
was waged at Mlinster. It was not, however, the chief factor 
in determining the character of the Mlinster Baptist govern- 
ment, that factor being the siege. The town was a great war- 
camp ; the demands of war took precedence of all other matters, 
and sentiments of freedom and equality were active only in 
so far as they were compatible with military dictatorship. 

Hardly had the city fallen into the hands of the Baptists 
on February lOth, when they sent letters in all directions, 
inviting comrades holding similar views to come to Mlinster. 
In one of these missives, still preserved, it says : " Here shall 
all wants be satisfied. The poorest amongst us, who were 
formerly treated like beggars, now go as sumptuously at- 
tired as the highest and most prominent with you or with us. 
Hence the poor are, through God's mercy, become as rich asj 
the Burgomasters, or the wealthiest in the town." 

* He writes on May 29th that the town still had 200 cows. 

» Beridite derAugenzeugen, p. 354. 

3 This passage alone confutes the dreadful story before alluded to, of jj 
the beheading of one of his wives by the king. If he assembled themj 
to their full number, and gave them permission to leave, he could notj 
previously have murdered one of them. 


This communism, however, stopped short in its beginning. 

Historians are fond of assuming that all private proprietor- 
ship was abolished in Miinster. Private property in gold, 
silver, and money was alone completely abolished. The pro- 
phets, preachers, and Council (the twelve elders had not yet 
been inaugurated) " came to an agreement, and decreed that 
all possessions should be in common ; each one should bring 
forward his money, gold and silver, and this was finally done" 
(Gresbeck, p. 32). This money served to defray the expenses 
of intercourse between the town and outer world, and 
especially the sending out of agitators, as well as proselytising 
among the mercenaries. 

The single household, however, remained in existence, and 
private proprietorship, in articles of consumption and pro- 
duction, was abolished only to the extent demanded by the 
exigencies of the war. 

That rights of inheritance were not abrogated is shown by 
the following regulations of the elders, recorded by Kerssen- 
broick (ii. p, 80) : " If any one should, by God's dispensation, 
be shot, or in other way fall to sleep in the Lord, no one shall 
dare to take away his property for himself, be it in arms, 
clothes, or other things ; but it shall be brought to the Sword 
' Bearer, Knipperdollinck, who shall spread it before the elders, 
so that, by their instrumentality, it may be adjudged to the 
rightful heirs." 

Even a portion of the war-booty might become private pro- 
perty. The fourteenth of the twenty-four articles submitted 
by Jan van Leyden to the people (January 2, 1535), 
directed that : " If booty be captured from the enemy, no one 
shall keep it for himself, or dispose of it after his own caprice ; 
but, as is fit, he shall notify the authorities in the matter. If 
they give him a part of it, he may, without injustice, use it for 
his own needs." 

The next article says : " Under penalty of the last judg- 
ment, no Christian is to trade with his brother, or buy any- 
k thing from him for money ; nor shall any one act deceitfully 
or fraudulently in exchange and barter." 
After the abolition of money, exchange and barter became 
inevitable, if private proprietorship in articles of production 


and consumption was to be preserved. How little this right 
had been abrogated is shown by the following incident, which 
occurred after the raising of Jan to the kingship, and is 
narrated by Gresbeck(p. 144): "Then came Knipperdollinck 
to a shopkeeper, zv/to still carried on his trade. Knipperdol- 
linck said to him : ' Thou wouldst be in truth holy, yet art 
not willing to give up thy shop. There thou sittest, and 
ponderest how thou canst get profit from it. Thy shop is thy 
God. Thou must yield it up if thou wouldst be holy." From 
this it appears that shopkeeping was not deemed honourable ; 
but the " government of terror " was far from resorting to 
violent measures to make it impossible to keep a shop. 

It is true that we find common repasts in Munster ; but 
these were in part occasional festal assemblages of the 
populace, and in part a war regulation. " Before every gate 
there was a house belonging to the community, in which 
every one took his meals who kept watch at the gate, or 
worked on the walls, or in the trenches. A sermon was 
preached every morning in these houses, the management of 
the food being undertaken by the deacons, each of whom had 
his own gate. 

" Each parish had its community house, for which a 
manager was appointed whose duty it was to cook and take 
care of the house. At noon a young man stood up and read 
aloud a chapter from the Old Testament or the Prophets. 
After they had eaten they sang a German Psalm, then rose 
and went back to their watch " (Gresbeck, pp. 34, 35). 

Not only men, but women shared in these meals ; for 
women also took an active part in the defence. The picture 
of these " bacchanalia," drawn by Gresbeck, is completed by 
the regulation prescribed by the elders and given by Kerssen- 
broick (ii. p. 5) : " That a due regard to order may be had 
in the management of eating and drinking, not only shall 
those who serve the meals be mindful of their duty, and give 
the Brothers what they have hitherto received, but the Brothers 
and Sisters are always to sit apart at the tables assigned to 
them, preserving fit modesty and asking for no other food 
than that which shall have been provided." According to 
Kerssenbroick, not a word was spoken at table, attention 
being given to the reader. 


All this reminds us more of a meeting of pietists than 
of libertines ; but it accords with the general character of 
heretical communism. 

The expenses of these common meals were thrown upon 
the Catholic Church and the emigrants from the town, the 
provisions being taken from the monasteries and deserted 

Three deacons, were appointed for each parish (by whom 
chosen Gresbeck unfortunately does not tell us, but probably 
by the populace), whose duty it was to look after the poor. 
Christian communism has never gone beyond that limit in 
communities which retained the system of single households. 
" The deacons," Gresbeck informs us, " sought out the poor 
in their respective districts and supplied all needs. They 
made a good show in Munster of allowing no one to want for 

" These deacons went into every house and made a written 
memorandum of what it contained in the way of food, grain, 
or meat. When all had been recorded, the householder had 
no further control over the provisions" (p. 34). This regulation 
was not an outcome of communism, but a war measure, always 
absolutely necessary in a beleaguered town where the military 
authorities must know the quantity of provisions available. 
This very regulation presupposes the existence of a single 
household. Only afterwards, and under the pressure of 
necessity, was it ordered that all superfluous clothing should 
be delivered up as well as the stores of provisions. This 
measure did not, however, do away with the single house- 
hold ; for the deacons had to give to each family its share in 
the common store, of bread as well as of meat, so long as 
these lasted. " They killed a number of horses, and had the 
meat carried to the house to which the people went for their 
provisions. The deacon first asked how many persons there 
were in each house, and then served out the meat accordingly, 
writing down what had been given, so as to prevent any one 
from being served twice " (Gresbeck, p. 1 74). 

Moreover, such land as necessity compelled them to culti- 
vate was not held in common, but was allotted among the 
households. " The king appointed four administrators of land, 


who went over all the farms, and allotted from them one or 
two pieces of land to every household, according to the 
number of its inmates. These allotments were planted with 
cabbages, turnips, roots, beans, and peas. The owner of a 
large farm was not allowed to use more of it than had been 
allotted to him by the land administrators. They had even 
proposed to move all hedges and fences from the farms inside 
the town area, so that these might be in common " (Gresbeck, 
pp. 175, 176). This last measure, however, was not carried 
out. The regulation that all house doors should be left open 
day and night was probably of a moral rather than an 
economic nature, and designed to increase the feeling of 

The preservation of the single household was closely 
allied with the maintenance of the disciplinary power of 
the house-master over the members of the household. In the 
Middle Ages a family consisted of more persons than the 
married couple with their children. The large households 
of that period demanded a staff of servants, and hence, in 
Munster, we find the authority of the husband over the wife 
combined with that of the master over the servants. In one 
of the edicts of the elders, the third clause treats of "the 
dominion of the husband and the subjection of the wife " ; 
while the fourth deals with " the obedience of house-servants 
to the house-masters, and the duties of house-masters to their 
servants'' (Kerssenbroick, ii. i). The common meals were 
participated in by " each Brother and his wife, together with 
his house servants" (Gresbeck, p. 106). 

There was no abolition of the distinction between master 
and journeyman, nor of production in single petty shops, 
so closely bound up at that time with the single household. 
In an already quoted edict of the elders, certain crafts- 
men were designated to work for the town and populace. 
This should not be regarded as a socialistic organisation of 
labour, but as a regulation engendered by the exigences of 
war ; z.e., the specified craftsmen were exempt from guard 
duty (Kerssenbroick, p. 221). The edict says: "No one 
shall carry on the trade of fishing except the master fisher- 
men, Christia Kerckring and Hermann Redecker, together 


with their men, who, moreover, when necessary, shall not 
refuse fish to the sick and women with child. . . . Hermann 
Tornate and Johann Redecker, with their six journeymen, shall 

make shoes for the New House of Israel Johann Coesfeld 

and his journeymen shall make iron keys" (Kerssenbroick, 
ii. p. 6). 

Hence historians are by no means accurate in asserting 
that " a far reaching community of goods " was inaugurated 
in Munster.i That it did not arrive at that stage may be 
explained in the same way as the small activity in social 
affairs of the Paris Commune of 187 1. It was an inevitable 
consequence of the siege, which left its evil trail at every step 
and laid claim to every thought and act. A time of war has 
never yet proved itself to be the suitable moment for the 
inauguration of a fundamentally new order of society. 

In so far as the introduction of a new state of things was 
concerned, the Anabaptists were as unsuccessful in ecclesias- 
tical matters as they had been in those relating to economics. 
Keller wonders at this. "It was to be expected," he says, 
" that their activity would begin with the promulgation of a 
new Church discipline, or with a regulation concerning the 
form of divine worship, or similar affairs ; yet not only was 
there a lack of all necessary provision for these things at the 
inception of their government, but, so far as we know, no 
regulation of Church ritual was ever made " (Geschichte der 
Wiedertdufer, p. 202). This does not seem so surprising to 
us. We ascribe this circumstance in part to the war, but in 
part also to the indifference to the form of divine worship 
shown by the Anabaptists, quite as much as by the Bohemian 
Brethren and the disciples of Munzer. 

The predilection for the Old Testament shown on every 
occasion by the Baptists is quite in harmony with the uni- 
versal spirit of heretical communism, as is also their con- 
tempt for erudition, evidenced by their burning of all books 

' Lamprecht, Deutsche Geschichte, vol. i. p. 356. Lamprecht contrives to 
delineate the " grotesquely abominable conditions " in Munster without 
in the least connecting them with the state of siege, this being after- 
wards mentioned in two lines as an insignificant trifle, having no effect 
on the internal life of the town. 


(with the exception of the Bible) and all letters found in the 
town. Moreover, they confirmed the rule that disdain for 
learning among the committee went hand in hand with care 
for popular education. In spite of the siege, they established 
five or six new schools " where children, youths, and maidens 
were made to learn German Psalms, and read and write. All 
their instruction appertained to Baptism, and was given in 
the manner of the sect " (Gresbeck, p. 47). 

Mysticism is once more met with among the Munster 
Baptists, e.£:, the belief of some few enthusiastic Brothers in 
direct intercourse with God, and in revelations and prophecies. 
In regard to Knipperdollinck, Jan Mathys, Bockelson, and 
other prophets of the New Jerusalem, many features of 
morbid ecstasy are recounted which, although in many cases 
distorted and exaggerated, are probably not wholly without 

However great may have been the resemblance of their 
conduct in these matters to that of their peaceable forerunners 
in Moravia, they were (if we may trust their Chronicles) com- 
pletely dissimilar in one respect, viz., their dissoluteness. We 
have already had frequent occasion to touch on this point, but 
will now examine it more closely. 

(d) Polygamy. — Modern sentiment is generally offended 
by the austerity and puritanism of the Anabaptists, but it 
has had no reason to complain of their dissoluteness. 
If these characteristics were prominent among peaceable 
Baptists, it may, at the outset, be anticipated that they 
were not weakened by the exigencies of a siege demand- 
ing, before all things, the strictest discipline. Closer 
inspection confirms this, and we should not allow ourselves 
to be misled by the accounts of the popular entertainments 
already mentioned. 

That good behaviour and discipline were zealously pre- 
served, is proved by some of the twenty-eight articles of 
January 22, 1525, in which among others we read: — 

"6. No one who fights under the standard of Justice 
should defile himself with the infamous and hateful vice of 
drunkenness, with disgraceful shamelessness, with fornication 
and adultery, or with gambling — a vice which betrays a 


greed for gold and often engenders dissension and hatred ; 
for such sins shall not go unpunished among the people 
of God." 

" 16. No Christian " (z>., no Anabaptist) "shall be admitted 
from one society or community into another, unless he 
shall have previously shown that he is blameless, and has 
not been guilty of any crime ; if, however, the contrary is 
discovered he shall be punished without forbearance." 

" 20. No Christian shall resist a heathen " (?>., a non- 
Anabaptist) "authority who has not yet heard the Word 
of God, nor been instructed therein ; nor shall he do the 
said authority any injury, provided it forces no one into 
disbelief and ungodliness. On the other hand, the Baby- 
lonish tyranny of priests and monks and all their partisans 
and adherent?, who darken the justice of God with their 
violence and injustice, shall be crushed in every possible 

"21. If, after the commission of a crime, a heathen shall 
fly to the community to escape punishment, he shall not 
be admitted by Christians, but so much the more certainly 
be punished, provided it is proved that he has acted 
directly against God's command, as it is not to be 
permitted that a community of Christians should be a 
refuge for the doers of infamous deeds and crimes " 

(ii. pp. 133-137)- 

As lovers of peace, they exhorted to obedience where it 
was possible, and carefully guarded themselves from asso- 
ciation with common criminals. Drunkenness, gaming, and 
every kind of illicit sexual intercourse were severely pun- 

A striking example of the strict discipline maintained in 
Munster is given by Gresbeck : "On the 28th of June, 1534, 
it so happened that ten or twenty soldiers were seated in a 
house in the town, where they had a drinking-bout and had 
become merry. They were frolicsome, as soldiers are wont to 
be, and consequently the landlord and his wife would draw 
no more for them ; whereupon the soldiers said, ' Landlady, 
if you will not draw, then we will,' and upbraided her. Upon 
this the landlord and his wife went before the twelve elders, 


and accused the soldiers of having been violent in their house, 
and of having chidden the landlady. The twelve elders 
immediately had the soldiers arrested and thrown into prison. 
The next day a congregation was convened in the Cathedral 
yard and the soldiers were brought before it Then the 
chancellor, Heinrich Krechting — the rascal ! — proclaimed 
what was said to have been done by the soldiers, who imme- 
diately sued for pardon. At last the door of mercy was a 
little opened ; some received pardon, but six had to die " 

(p. 36). 

This case of severe discipline is adduced by Keller as a 
proof of " the criminal character of their proceedings." Yet 
only two pages further on he is forced to praise this disci- 
pline, whose stern punishments so operated that drunkenness 
was hardly ever seen among the Baptists, while in the Bishop's 
camp it raged to such an extent that it caused many military 
operations undertaken by the besieged forces to be successful. 

We will cite only one more passage from Gresbeck's work 
illustrative of the spirit prevalent among the Baptists : " Now 
the Anabaptists often used to sally out for a skirmish with 
the soldiers ; at such times they held themselves as boldly 
as if they had done twenty years' service, and moreover 
did everything with sagacity, dexterity, and calmness. For 
the prophets, preachers, and head men of the town sharply 
forbade any one daring to drink himself full, so that they 
always retained their senses, were never drunk, and were 
invariably calm. When, therefore, they sallied out they acted 
with wisdom and skill " (p. 50). 

It is this that constitutes the "brutal dissoluteness," and 
" wildness," delineated by an eye-witness who was least of all 
given to palliation. 

But how is it with regard to unchastity — polygamy ? On 
this point at least, it is possible to speak of brutal dissolute- 

We have now reached the most difficult and obscure phase 
in the history of the Miinster Anabaptists. Polygamy is so 
opposed to the generic character of that sect (^.^., the Mora- 
vians, and indeed to heretical communism in general) that we 
were at first inclined to assume the existence of a misappre- 


hension, based upon a confusion of terms. There is, in fact, 
no more difficult task for an observer than that of correctly 
and impartially estimating the features of an unusual relation 
between the sexes. Nowhere does the extraordinary produce 
such repulsion and repugnance as in sexual matters. To 
this prejudice is chiefly due the fact that only within the last 
generation has it been possible to conduct a scientific and 
unprejudiced investigation into the sexual relations of the 
folk of primitive times and among modern savages and 
uncivilised races. 

Those who know what nonsense has been proclaimed to the 
world by missionaries concerning the intercourse between 
the sexes in the South Sea Islands, might well surmise that 
the assumption of the prevalence of " polygamy " in Munster 
was based upon a confusion of that term with a sort of 
community of wives similar to that existing among the 
Adamites — a form of sexual intercourse associated, as we 
know, with many kinds of communism in the means of 
consumption. This surmise, however, is untenable, as 
there never was any talk of a community of wives in 

The edict with which the twelve elders inaugurated their 
government, imposed the dea^A penalty on adultery and the 
seduction of a maiden. At about the same time the Munster 
community must have published their written defence en- 
titled : Bekentones des Globens und lebens der gemein Christe zu 
Munster ("Confession of Faith and Life of the Community 
of Christians at Munster"). ^ In the chapter On Marriage 
(pp. 457 sqq.) it says : "In respect of that with which we 
are charged, and the malevolent lies by which many good- 
hearted persons are led to suspect that we live in illicit 
wedlock, together with numerous fabricated and slanderous 
accusations unnecessary to repeat, we wish herewith to set 
forth our judgment and usage concerning the holy state of 
matrimony. . . . 

" Marriage we say — and we hold by the Scriptures — is a 

' Reproduced in Berichte dcr Augemeugen, pp. 445-464. Concerning 
the probable date of this document, compare V. W. Bouterwek, Zur 
Literatur und Geschichte der Wicdertliufer. Bonn, 1864, p. 37. 


union and an obligation between man and woman in the 
Lord , . . 

" God in the beginning created man ; ' male and female 
created He them,' and joined the two in holy matrimony, 
so that the two souls were to be one flesh. For this reason 
no man may sunder such a union. . . . 

" Marriage is an image of Christ and His holy bride, 
z.e., the congregation of His believers. As Christ and His 
congregation care for each other and hold to each other, 
so those who are married in the Lord and joined together 
by God, should care for and hold to each other. While 
then it so stands with the married state, we make a dis- 
tinction between it and the marriage of heathens and 
disbelievers, which is sinful and unclean, and is not marriage 
in the sight of God, but only harlotry and adultery. . . . 

" For as is plainly seen, they marry only for the sake of 
friendship and kinship, or for money and possessions, or 
for the flesh and adornment. Nay, they seldom or never 
rightly consider what true marriage is, or how one should 
be married ; much less do they see to it that they are truly 
married and keep their vows. . . . 

" Since then marriage is a glorious and honourable state, 
no one should be frivolous respecting it, but enter into it 
with pure and true heart, so that nothing but God's honour 
and will be sought for, as, thanks and praise be to God, 
is the custom with us, and shall be spread abroad to the 
glory of God. 

"We hear that many other evil things are imputed to us: 
that we have our women common to all in a platonic way, 
or after the manner of the Nikolaitans " (Adamites), "toge- 
ther with sundry other vile accusations, as if we made no 
distinction in matters of blood-relationship. But this is a 
shameless lie, as are all other abusive and wicked things 
published with intentional deceit respecting us.^ We know 

' Master Gresbeck found it necessary to spread these miserable lies (p. 
80) ; it did not trouble the worthy gentleman that he thereby contra- 
dicted his other deductions regarding the married state in Miinster. 
They seemed suitable for compromising his opponents, and that was 
his chief purpose. 


that Christ said : ' Ye have heard that it was said by them 
of old times, Thou shalt not commit adultery ; but I say 
unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after 
her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.' 
Were such a one to be found among us — which God forbid — 
we should in no wise suffer him, but excommunicate him, 
and deliver him unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." 

We see that the " sensuality " (called " Neronic " by a 
modern German author) declares even flirting with a maiden 
to be sinful. The opinions prevalent in Miinster are in com- 
plete harmony with the austerity in sexual matters which 
characterised the majority of other Anabaptists. Jan van 
Leyden ratified these views on January 2, 1535, in his 
Twenty-eight Articles already mentioned, by providing for 
the punishment of adultery and harlotry (the latter word 
implying not only prostitution, but every illicit intercourse 
between the sexes). Moreover, this was at a period when 
polygamy had already been introduced. 

How, then, is the apparent inconsistency to be accounted 
for ? The usual explanation, based upon the assumed innate 
sensuality and immoderation of communists, is very con- 
venient, but it has one defect — it has no certain foundation. 
The explanation rests wholly and solely on the thing to be 
explained. Everything else contradicts it, for we have seen 
that abstinence and discretion were conspicuous characteristics 
of the Anabaptists. 

Neither can the solution be found in the character of 
Baptist communism ; on the contrary, it makes the matter 
more inexplicable. There remains nothing but to seek for 
the elucidation in the peculiar relations between the sexes in 
Miinster during the siege. Moreover, these relations were of 
such a strikingly singular kind, that it would have required an 
incredible degree of obduracy or a great lack of good intention 
to prevent their being recognised. 

We must remember the large emigration from Miinster of 
aristocratic and middle-class citizens. The men went, but 

kthey left their women and female servants behind. There 
was thus an excess of women over men, which, from the 
figures given by Gresbeck, must have been enormous. He 


writes of an evening meal on Mount Sion : " Men, old 
persons, and youths were there to the number of two 
thousand. The number of men in Munster capable of 
bearing arms was never greater than fifteen hundred. The 
women in the town, old and young, numbered eight or nine 
thousand, more or less — I cannot be exact about the children 
who could and could not walk, they were perhaps one 
thousand or twelve hundred." ^ 

The situation was further complicated by the fact that 
quite half the men were unmarried ; such being the case 
with the majority of the numerous immigrants, and of 
course with the soldiers who came as prisoners or deserters, 
and joined the sect. 

In face of the strictness of the Baptist in sexual matters, 
these conditions must, in the course of the siege, have become 
insupportable for the majority of the marriageable population, 
cut off as they were from the outer world. The very strict- 
ness which threatened all illicit sexual intercourse with severe 
punishment, finally made a revolution in the relations between 
the sexes unavoidable. 

The very persons who cannot show enough indignation 
over the polygamy of Munster look upon prostitution as a 
self-evident necessity. This vice was of course prevalent 
under the reign of "respectability." In the Thirty-six 
Articles formulated by the Munster insurrectionists in 1525 
(compare p. 265), the eighteenth required that : " All lewd 
women and the concubines of the priests shall be dis- 
tinguished from virtuous women by certain marks." 

' P. 107. The Baptist Werner Scheiffurth von Merode, who was 
made prisoner in a sortie, gave a smaller number in his judicial examina- 
tion on December 11, 1534: "The men, women, and children in the 
town number approximately between eight thousand and nine thousand, 
of whom about fourteen hundred are able to bear arms" (Bcrichic der 
Atigeuzeugen). This number of men available for the defence nearly 
agrees with that named by Gresbeck, and the estimate of the total 
adult male population is probably correct, as he gives it with great 
preciseness. They had evidently been counted. If to this we add 
one thousand children, the number of marriageable women must still 
have been from five thousand to six thousand, and therefore twice 
or thrice as great as the number of men. 


These "lascivious debauchees" put an end to prostitution. 
Prostitution and communism are two reciprocally incom- 
patible conditions. The various forms of communism are , 
compatible with the most diverse kinds of sexual intercourse, 
but not with one kind — venal love. Where there is no pro- 
duction of commodities for sale, where nothing is bought or 
sold, the body of woman, like the power to work, ceases to be 
saleable ware. Incomplete as was the communism of MUn- 
ster, no maiden of that town was forced to sell herself during 
the reign of Anabaptism. The wenches who from habit 
would gladly have obtained the gains of the trade they 
carried on under the old society, found no buyers in 
Mtinster, where no private person possessed money. Such 
women were forced to seek their pay among their old 
customers in the camp of the "defenders of morality and 
order," i.e., among the soldiers, the reputable burgesses, and 
the secular and spiritual aristocracy. 

The natural working of communism was, in addition, 
favoured by the sexual austerity of the Baptists. Is it 
conceivable that prostitution should not have existed among 
the thousand and more unmarried men and several thousand 
husbandless women living together for months in a town 
which, according to modern ideas, was of small size? It 
was inevitable that adultery and illicit sexual intercourse 
should make their appearance. The severest penalties must 
have been powerless to prevent it. There was only one 
means by which the destructive sexual confusion could be 
remedied, viz., a new regulation of the condition of marriage. 
In July, the fifth month of the siege, and after long opposition, 
the elders and preachers set about the work. 

The task was a difficult one, nay almost impossible ; for it 
concerned the making of marriage-laws in harmony both 
with the austere morality of the Anabaptists in matrimonial 
matters, and the unique sexual conditions existing in Miinster. 
It was quite in conformity with this difficulty, that the new 
marriage law did not appear in the form of a unified and 
completely elaborate statute, but in numerous regulations, 
partly supplementing and partly abrogating each other. The 
Anabaptists never got beyond the search for a suitable form of 


marriage, and indeed could not do so under the abnormal 
conditions of their existence. 

Gresbeck follows their uncertain gropings after a marriage 
law, but his account is so confused and so full of contra- 
dictions and absurdities, that it is difficult to get a clear 
picture from it. ^ It enables, us however, to distinguish two 
features of this search. One consists in the effort to make 
marriage a free union. First of all it was necessary to pro- 
nounce all marriages invalid which had been contracted before 
the adoption of the Anabaptist faith ; otherwise a new 
marriage union would have been impossible for the wives of 
the burgesses who had emigrated. This decree of invalidity 
came the more easily from the Anabaptists, since although 
they declared marriage to be an indissoluble union, they held 
" heathen " marriage to be no true marriage, just as infant 
baptism was said to be no true baptism. Hence they now 
required a renewal of vows on the part of those who had 
been married before joining them. 

The second feature shows itself in the attempt to bring all 
the women into the married state ; at the outset, however, not 
in a corporeal, but in an economic state. 

In order to understand the " polygamy " of Munster, it 
must be borne in mind that the single household was never 
abolished. As a result of the emigration of burgesses, it 
came about that there were many households which contained 
no man, and indeed some in which there was no mistress, but 
only maids. In a beleaguered city holding so many un- 
married soldiers, this state of things must have entailed 
numerous disadvantages ; hence it was ordered that no 
woman should be without male protection and also male 
guardianship. For as the Munster Anabaptists did not do 
away with the system of single households, they were 
quite as little advocates of the emancipation of woman as 

' Kerssenbroick's account is absolutely idiotic. He relates that a 
soldier had surprised Jan van Leyden as the latter was creeping to 
one of Knipperdollinck's maids. To save himself from falling into bad 
odour, Jan thereupon persuaded Rothmann and the other preachers 
(" who were not less given over to lasciviousness and lewdness "), to . 
introduce simply — polygamy ! 


emancipation of the flesh. The third clause of the already 
quoted edict of the elders, which treats of " the sovereignty 
of the man and the subjection of the woman," says, "Husbands 
love your wives. Let wives be subject to their husbands, as 
to their lords. And let the wife fear the husband." i 

In this connection . Rothmann expresses himself very 
drastically in his Restitution — a pamphlet which appeared in 
October, 1534.2 "The husband is therefore to accept the 
sovereignty over his wife with manful feeling, and to keep 
his marriage undefiled. In most places wives have the 
mastery, and lead their husbands as bears are led. ... It 
is highly needful that wives, who almost everywhere now 
wear the breeches, should humble themselves in right and 
becoming obedience ; for it is agreeable to God that every 
one should keep in his place — the husband under Christ, and 
the wife under the husband." 

The women who are without masters were now ordered to 
attach themselves to households in which there were men ; 
not as drudges or servants, but as companions of the wives. 

This regulation was not based upon actual conditions — 
.they were not so materialistic in those days — but upon 
Biblical precedent. There was, however, but one example 
in Scripture which in any way suited their case, viz., the 
polygamy of the ancient Jews, more especially of the 
patriarchs ; and they appealed to this with the greater 
confidence as the patriarchs had undoubtedly been highly 
pious men, whom God had honoured with personal visits, 
or with visits from His angels. That which had been done 
by these prototypes of Christianity could not possibly be 
sinful. Moreover, the Baptists could rely upon the most 
prominent evangelical lights of the Church for support to 
this mode of thinking. On August 27, 1521, Melancthon 
had advised the King of England to take a second wife 

' Kerssenbroick, ii. p. i. 

" Eyne Restitution edde Eyne wedderstellinge rechter unde gesundc 
Christliche leer, gelanens unde lencns nth Gades genaden durch dc 
gemcynte tho Miinster, an der Dach gegenen . . . Miinster, 1534. A 
long extract from this work, with many quotations, is given by 
Bouterwek in his Literatur und Geschichte der Wiedertdufer, pp. 15-34- 


in addition to his first, and had declared that " polygamy- 
was not forbidden by Godly law." ^ 

The true character of Munster " polygamy " has been much 
obscured by its religious dress. It has, moreover, been made 
no clearer by the pile of odium, slanders, and distortions 
heaped upon it by antagonistic chroniclers ; while the 
unfair interpolations of partisan accounts have completely 
concealed almost every trace of the true nature of this 
regulation. Fortunately, however, the chroniclers were too 
shortsighted to remove every vestige of the truth. A few 
statements which they have handed down to us suffice to show 
that the aim of the Baptists in introducing " polygamy " was 
the uniting of several women in one household, but not in one 
marriage-bed ; though it is not to be denied that the latter 
condition was favoured by the former. 

It is highly important to point out the fact that eve^y woman 
was obliged to seek a man ; not only those who were suitable 
for sexual intercourse, but the old and those who had not yet 
reached the age of puberty.^ 

This is not the only point in support of our views. Another 
is the following communication by Kerssenbroick, " In the 
beginning of October the wife of one Butendick was 

^ Even after the introduction of polygamy into Munster had caused 
such scandal, and been everywhere condemned, Luther and Melancthon 
declared to Landgrave Philip of Hesse that : " What the Mosaic law 
permitted is not forbidden in the Gospel." He might, therefore, be 
tranquil with regard to polygamy. (See also numerous similar quotations 
by Keller, Die Reformation, p. 454 sqq.) It was, therefore, not polygamy 
itself which so enraged pious persons against the Baptists, but their 
impertinence in transforming it from a privilege of rulers to a common 

= Gresbeck is of the opinion that the last measure had for its aim the 
forcing of young maidens into sexual intercourse. It is not impossible 
that some heads of households (perhaps rough soldiers) abused their 
position. Even Kerssenbroick said no more than this. Similar things 
may happen elsewhere. That, however, the aim of the regulation was 
the ravishing of young children, we must have more than a Gresbeck to 
make us believe ; for however valuable many of his statements are when 
they deal with facts, he can only adduce odious and unsupported gossip 
respecting the motives and aims of the Baptists. We hold that those 
eminent gentlemen who levy maiden-tribute in our modern Babylons 
are incapable of demanding the enforcement of this brutahty by law. 


publicly accused by her lord and husband. The cause 
was that she resisted him, and insulted him with many 
slanderous and abusive words, saying that he lived with 
the rest of his women and fellow-sisters not in a spiritual 
but in a fleshly manner, and often had carnal intercourse 
with them." She was found guilty and sentenced to death, 
but pardoned after having asked forgiveness of her husband 
(p. 80). ^ . ^ 

Hence a distinction was made between a lawful wife and 
the sisters of the community living with her. Not all female 
members of a household were the lawful wives of the head of 
the house, although they were designated as his wives. 

Meanwhile, it is presumable that, with the prevalence of 
such intimate life in common, the same state of things arose 
which is not absent elsewhere, viz., that the husband sometimes 
remained unsatisfied with his lawful wife alone, which was the 
reproach brought against Butendick by his wife. This was 
made more probable by the austerity of the Baptists, which, 
under certain circumstances, prohibited sexual intercourse 
even between husband and wife, e.g:, when she was barren or 
pregnant, on the ground that sexual intercourse was not to 
serve for the gratification of sinful lust, but solely for the 
perpetuation of the human race.^ Hence, in certain cases, 
a man was allowed to make natural wives of those women 
who had been commended to his protection, in addition to his 
first wife. Thus Rothmann says in his Restitution, " If a man 
should be so richly blessed of God as to impregnate one wife 
and, in consequence of God's commands, should not wish to 
abuse such a blessing, then, on necessity, he shall be free to 
take to himself several fertile wives ; for to know a woman 
out of wedlock is adultery and harlotry." 

It is, however, always possible to distinguish clearly between 
this sexual polygamy and that which was of an economic 
character. In the former the man chose the women ; in 

' Rothmann says in his Restitution: "That a man neither should nor 
ought to know a woman who is pregnant or barren can be proved, in the 
first place, by the fact that God commanded mankind to increase and 
multiply ; and for that end alone should husband and wife employ the 
blessing of God, and not for lust." 



the latter the women chose the man whom they wished 
to acknowledge as their protector and master. The former 
kind was, under certain conditions, allowed ; and, in the state 
of things described, impossible wholly to prevent. The law- 
givers of Munster contented themselves with the effort to 
keep it in the paths of regulated marriage. The polygamy, 
on the contrary, which was for a long time prescribed by law, 
was economic ; that is, the union of several women under 
the protection and guardianship of one man. The Munster 
marriage-law imposed on women the obligations of the latter 
kind of polygamy, but not those of the former. Moreover, 
this compulsion soon ceased, as is proved by the Twenty-eight 
Articles promulgated by Jan van Leyden. We will give those 
which treat of marriage, as they are highly characteristic of 
the spirit of the Munster marriage law : — 

" 24. No one shall be forced to marry ; since marriage is a 
voluntary compact, entered into more from a natural instinct 
and the bonds of love than through mere words and outward 

"25. If, however, any one is afflicted with epilepsy, venereal 
disease, or other complaints, he shall not marry unless he 
previously makes known his malady to the person whom 
he wishes to marry. 

" 26. No one who is not a virgin shall give herself out to 
be such, and deceive and entrap her fellow-brothers. More- 
over, such deceit shall be severely punished. 

" 27. Every unmarried woman, or those who have not their 
regular husbands, shall be authorised to choose a guardian or 
protector from the congregation of Christ." 

The final clause contains a prophecy, "The voice of the 
living God has instructed me that this is a command of the 
All Highest : The men shall demand a confession of faith, as 
well from their legal wives as from those whom they are 
charged to guard and protect ; not that which is commonly 
recited — * I believe in God the Father,' but a confession of 
faith of the marriage-union in the New Kingdom — why 
and to what purpose they were baptised. They shall show 
and disclose all this to their husbands" (ii. pp. 138, 139). 

This is the last form of the marriage-law among the Munster 


Anabaptists. It completely agrees with the sober and rational 
simplicity which we have learnt was their distinguishing 
characteristic; and the most dexterous and unscrupulous 
annihilator of socialism will find it a hard task to produce 
therefrom a trace of unbridled licentiousness. 

These Articles of January 2nd contain an important 
amelioration of the marriage-law introduced on July 23rd 
of the previous year. By the latter, every woman had the 
obligation imposed on her of seeking a protector and master, 
whose household she was compelled to join. This regulation 
seems to have had manifold disadvantageous consequences, 
as it was abrogated in the autumn of the same year, and 
those women who wished to do so were allowed to leave 
the " lords " to whom they had attached themselves. From 
the obligation resting upon women there grew up a right 
which they were free to exercise. 

Whatever mental picture one may make of this "polygamy," 
it should in no case be that of an Oriental harem. The latter 
implies the complete enslavement of the woman. There was 
no question of such a thing in Miinster ; indeed, it was the 
women who had free choice of their husbands, protectors, and 
guardians. How little they were oppressed by the new 
regulations may be seen from the circumstance that the 
majority of them were numbered among the most enthusi- 
astic combatants for the New Kingdom. 

Some, of course, were discontented. Not every one had 
remained in the town through conviction ; and the new 
marriage law, which engendered such an abnormal state of 
things, was in too sharp contradiction to deeply-rooted 
sentiments. Moreover, the new regulation could not set 
aside existing complications without now and then creating 
fresh ones. Nevertheless, we very rarely hear of any resist- 
ance on the part of the women, ^ while we very often hear 

' How well some historians contrive to exaggerate this resistance 
may be seen from the following example. Keller writes in his Gcs- 
cliichte der Wiedertiiufer, p. 211: "It is certain that many women, 
married and unmarried, showed the greatest repugnance to the new 
regulation. It is related that one of them chose a voluntary death to 
escape from the infamy to which it was proposed to subject her." 
What is actually related ? Gresbeck writes : " On one occasion a. 


of the enthusiasm with which they embraced the new order 
of things. 

An example of this is afforded by the Mollenheck insur- 
rection. This is represented as an uprising of the moral 
portion of the citizens against polygamy. " Though the 
complete community of wives was not introduced," says 
Bezold, "the command of the prophets, that no woman 
should be without a husband, led to the institution of a 
kind of polygamy which was not much better. The feelings 
of the native-born Brothers revolted against these horrors ; 
but their attempt at insurrection was frustrated in blood, 
and the distribution (!) of the women (who formed by far 
the larger part of the population) among the male 
minority — the 'lords' — was proceeded with" {Geschichte 
der deutschen Reformation, p. 710). 

What are the facts ? Mollenheck, a former guild presi- 
dent, "gathered round him a part of the burgesses, pious 
inhabitants and soldiers," not merely to do away with the 
new marriage law, but " that every one might receive back 
his property, the Burgomasters and Council be reinstated 
in their control of the town, and things in general be as 
they were previously " (Gresbeck, p. 73). The deserters 
from the besieging army were in the vanguard of this 
movement, which, ostensibly in defence of chastity, was in 
reality a counter-revolution. Success attended the first 
efforts of the insurrectionists, who even went so far as to 
make prisoners of Jan van Leyden and Knipperdollinck. 
Gresbeck further says that if they had immediately opened 

woman was found lying in the water, drowned and floating on the 
surface of the water in her clothes. The common people did not know 
how she came to that pass ; whether the prophets and preachers had 
caused her to be drowned, or if she had done so of her own will. The 
people of the town were of the opinion that she had drowned herself, 
because she was grieved by the marriage regulations. I am not able to 
write more concerning the true cause of her misfortune " (pp. 64, 65). 

Hence it was " related " simply that a drowned woman was found in 
Miinster. Whether it was a case of crime or suicide (or a mere acci- 
dent, in regard to which possibility Gresbeck is strangely silent), is 
totally unknown. From this, forsooth, a tale of murder is concocted ; 
and this single story of murder serves as proof that many women 
" showed the greatest repugnance to the new regulations ! " 


one of the gates, the Bishop's forces would have obtained 
possession of the city ; but the revolutionists were thinking 
of plunder only. " They were more anxious to get hold of 
booty than to capture a gate. They had their sleeves full 
of money, and sat the whole night drinking wine until they 
were drunk. This was the cause of their defeat by the 
Frieslanders and Dutchmen." 

The saddest feature of the overthrow of this counter- 
revolution is the circumstance that while the soldiers ven- 
tured their lives for " chastity and morality " in drunkenness 
and pillage, those whose cause they were espousing — the 
" down-trodden women " — fought most resolutely against 
them in defence of "rape and incest" When the rebels 
barricaded themselves in the town-hall, it was women who 
brought heavy guns to the market to blow in the doors. 

Kerssenbroick and Gresbeck give numerous proofs of the 
enthusiasm and joyfulness with which women fought on 
the walls when an assault had to be repulsed. Moreover, 
they were ready to take part in the sorties. On one occa- 
sion Jan van Leyden made preparations for a sortie in 
force to assist the relieving army which he expected from 
the Netherlands, and called for volunteers for the hopeless 
undertaking from the women as well as the men. " The 
next day those women who wished to take part in the 
sortie assembled in good order three hundred strong in the 
Cathedral yard armed with various weapons, one having a 
halberd, another a pike, and so forth. As the king did not 
wish to take all, he had them mustered and selected fifty- 
one, a written list being made of their names. 

"The next day all women who wished to remain in 
the town, were ordered to assemble in the Cathedral 
yard. These also came with their weapons, and marched 
about in good order, like soldiers." After being divided 
into as many sections as there are gates to the town, 
each section, together with a body of men, was detailed 
to guard a gate. They thereupon marched off singing the 
Marseillaise of the German Reformation, the Psalm: £me 
fest Burg ist unser Gott (" A tower of strength is our God ") 
(p. 128). 


This was the way in which the women of Munster defended 
themselves against the " infamies heaped upon them." 

Enough has been said respecting the " woman question " in 
Munster. There is still much to clear up, many lacunar still 
to be filled ; but what has been given is, we think, sufficient 
to make the new regulation of sexual matters in Munster 
quite comprehensible, and to show that in spite of its imper- 
fection, its simplicity, and even its crudity, it had much that 
was in sympathy with modern sentiment. The defenders 
of the society of to-day have least cause of any to grow irate 
over the "shameless licentiousness" of the Munster Ana- 
baptists ; those defenders of a society which has for one of its 
supports the most shameless and debauching form of sexual 
intercourse, viz., the taking advantage of the poverty and 
ignorance of young girls, for the noble purpose of debasing 
them to passive instruments for the gratification of men, and 
to a condition in which they are helplessly abandoned to 
every form of lust. But for this high-minded regulation, 
where would be the prosperity of a great number of our 
industries, and where the virtue and modesty of our middle- 
class maidens? 

The picture by middle-class historians of the sexual licen- 
tiousness of Munster is in reality a picture of the present 
time. It is a true portrayal of what takes place day by day, 
in every modern civilised town ; and the last exhibition 
of wisdom in our society is — the regulation of these " Satur- 
nalia " by law ! 

X. The Fall of Munster. 

Our investigation into the character of the Munster " com- 
mune " has grown wider in its range and more polemical than 
was originally intended, or than quite suits the plan of this 
work ; but no little labour is required to remove the mountain 
of falsehood which rests on the true picture of the Anabaptists 
of that town. It is impossible to preserve scientific equa- 
nimity when one sees how an originally quiet and peaceable 
people are systematically stigmatised as a band of blood- 
thirsty and lascivious villains, simply because on one 
occasion, under the oppression of constant maltreatment and 


danger, they did not passively submit to destruction, but rose 
in energetic resistance, and not only suffered but fought for 
their convictions, opposing fierce attack by fierce defence, 
and exhibiting much military heroism ! 

After the treacherous surprise of February loth had been 
repulsed. Bishop Franz undertook the siege with a light heart, 
for he felt sure of soon making an end of the crowded mob 
of starving vagabonds, as he regarded the mass of Ana- 
baptists. He had at his disposal several thousand veteran 
troops under experienced generals, and before Whitsuntide 
had assembled about 8,000 men.^ But the Baptists, though 
inferior in numbers (they were never more than 1,500 strong) 
and without military experience, had an advantage over 
their opponents not only in the strength of their fortifi- 
cations, but in discipline, spirit of self-sacrifice, and 

Examples of the state of discipline in the Bishop's camp 
have already been given. Drunkenness proved especially 
prejudicial to all their military operations, as was shown 
by the first assault on the town. 

The first bombardment began May 21, 1534, and lasted 
five days. On the 25th the besiegers attempted to storm 
the town ; but some of their soldiers, being drunk, advanced 
prematurely, and were driven back, throwing those behind 
them into disorder. In spite of this the rear-guard reached 
the walls with their scaling ladders, only to meet with such 
powerful resistance that they fell back in confusion and 
retreated to their camp. 

Shortly afterwards the besieged forces made a sortie 
against an outpost, surprised the soldiers while they were 
gambling and drinking, drove them off, spiked the guns, and 
attacked the main body of the army (which had hurried 
to the scene) so vigorously that it did not dare to pursue 
them, but allowed them to return unmolested to the town. 

The besieging army fared no better at the second storming, 

which took place on August the 3 1 st, after a violent cannonade 

lasting three days. It led to a furious battle and ended m 

the complete defeat of the attacking force, whose loss was 

' Jorg Schenck's account {Berichte der Augenzeugen, p. 260). 


enormous, amounting to forty-eight in officers of rank 
alone. ^ 

From that day the besiegers abandoned all hope of taking 
the town by assault, and limited their operations to main- 
taining a blockade, for the purpose of starving it into a 

Yet in the end t^e entire German Empire was engaged in 
the war against this one town. 

At the outset the different enemies of Anabaptism showed 
an unwillingness to come to an agreement. It soon became 
clear, however, that the forces of the Bishop alone were 
insufficient for the capture of Miinster. Franz, therefore, 
sought allies among both Catholics and Evangelicals ; but 
each member of the league being eager to get the better of 
the others, the fight over the bear's skin seriously retarded the 
fight against the still living bear. Meanwhile, in spite of all 
intrigues, the number of the besiegers and the strength of 
their military equipment continued to increase, through the 
instrumentality of diplomatic adjustments and the decrees of 
Congresses and Diets, until finally the German Reichstag 
met at Worms, April 4, 1535, and conferred the dignity of 
an Imperial affair on the siege of Miinster by levying a tax 
for carrying it on. In addition to this, the burgomasters of 
Frankfort and Nurenberg were despatched to the besieged, 
with orders to summon them to surrender in the name of 
the Empire. All idea of surrender, however, was repudiated. 

Yet the position of the town was already hopeless. From 
the outset the Miinster Baptists must have known that, in 
face of the embittered enmity of the propertied classes 
throughout the whole Empire, their insurrection could be 
maintained only by ceasing to be local and spreading to other 

* In a folk-song of that period a soldier who was present is made to 

" Die Landsknect waren in grossen Noth, 
Da bliebcn wohl dreitausend todt 
Zu Miinster unter den Mauern." 

(" The soldiers were all in dire need, 
A good three thousand lay there dead, 
Under the walls of Miinster,") 


parts of the nation. Their prospects in this respect were by 
no means unfavourable, for they had numerous adherents in 
all the towns of North Germany ; in fact, in Llibeck the 
reins of government were in the hands of a party friendly to 
their cause. Messengers were sent out in all directions, and 
endeavours made to operate on the outer world by means of 
circulars and pamphlets. We have already quoted from one 
written by Rothmann, which is worthy of special mention. 
It was entitled, Restitition oder Wiederherstellung der rechten 
und gesunden chrislichen lehre, Glaubens und Lebens (" The 
Restitution or Restoration of True, and Sound Christian 
Doctrine, Belief, and Life"), and appeared in October, 1534, 
as a vindication of the Baptist tenets and institutions. It 
advocated the use of the sword against the " godless," and in 
defence of communism and polygamy. The pamphlet was 
smuggled out of the town and distributed so freely that 
within a short time a second edition became necessary. 

In December a tract appeared entitled, Das Buchlein von 
der Rache ("A Tract on Vengeance").^ Vengeance, it says, is 
at hand ; it will be accomplished on those who have hitherto 
been in power, and when it is accomplished, the New 
Heaven and the New Earth will appear to the people of 
God. The pamphlet ends with a summons to revolt : " Now, 
beloved brethren, the time for vengeance is come to us ; God 
has raised up the promised David, armed for vengeance and 
the punishment of Babylon and its people. You have heard 
how it shall come to pass ; what a rich reward awaits us, and 
how gloriously we shall be crowned if we only fight bravely 
and manfully, and know that whether God grants us life or 
death, we cannot be lost. Wherefore, beloved brethren, arm 
yourselves for the fight, not only with the humble weapons 
of the apostles, for suffering, but also with the glorious 
armour of David, for vengeance ; and with God's might and 
help destroy the Babylonian power and all that godless 

' Eyn gantz iroefilick bericht van der Wrake wide straffe des Babilonis- 
Chen gruwels, an alle ware Israeliten uudc Bundgenoien Christi, her wide 
dar vorstroyet, durch de gemeinte Christi tho Miinsfer. Reproduced in its 
entirety and in the original tongue by Boutenwek, in his Zur Literatur 
und Geschichte der Wiedertaufer, pp. 66-80. 


estate. . . . All wisdom, plans, skill, and methods must be 
employed to grieve the godless enemy of God and strengthen 
the standard of the Almighty. For consider what they have 
done to you ! But this can you again do to them ; yea, with 
what measure they meted, shall it be measured to them again ; 
and, what is more, shall be poured into the same cup. Take 
heed that you make no sin of that which is not sinful. Now, 
beloved brethren, make diligent speed to hold to the cause 
with zeal, and hasten, as many as possible, to come under the 
banner of God. May God, the Lord of the army hosts, who 
hath decreed this from the beginning of the world and pro- 
claimed it by His prophets, arm you and all His Israel as 
pleaseth Him, for His praise and for the increasing of His 
Kingdom. Amen." When this stirring appeal was issued, 
all the insurrectionary movements in German towns had 
already been suppressed. Since the occurrences at Munster, 
the municipal authorities had been particularly cautious, and 
had succeeded in either opportunely checking all Baptist 
uprisings, or in putting them down by violent measures, e.g:, 
in Warendorf, Sveft, Osnabruck, Minden, Wesel, Cologne, 
&c. In May, 1534, however, war broke out between the 
Lubeck democracy and Denmark, making it thenceforth 
impossible for that town to lend more than moral aid to the 
Munster struggle. Moreover, this war soon took a turn 
highly unfavourable to the ancient Hanseatic city, whose 
ultimate overthrow led to the downfall of democracy and to 
Wullenweber's ruin. 

At the end of the year 1534 the Munster Baptists had no 
further expectation of help from Germany. One hope still 
remained, viz., assistance from the Netherlands, from which 
country the Munster insurrection had already derived so 
much of its strength. 

When Munster had fallen into the hands of the Baptists 
the movement had become powerful in the Netherlands, 
especially in Amsterdam, which, after Munster, was looked 
upon as the metropolis of the sect. It had a foothold also 
in other towns of Holland and Friesland. " In April it was 
estimated that two-thirds of the population of Monnikendam 
were adherents of Jan Mathys, and a like state of things 


existed everywhere in the environs of the capital of the 
Netherlands." I They were also strong in Oberyssel, and 
particularly so in the town of Deventer, where in fact the 
Burgomasters joined them. 

On the 6th of February, 1534, Erasmus Schetus wrote from 
Amsterdam to Erasmus of Rotterdam : " In these provinces, 
and above all in Holland, we are made extremely anxious 
by the Anabaptist conflagration ; for it is mounting up like 
flames. There is hardly a spot or town where the torch of the 
insurrection does not secretly glow." 2 

These revolutionary masses, however, were not like the 
Brothers in Munster, confronted by a powerless executive, 
and a mingling of princely and municipal authorities, but 
by a strong central government, which at once summoned 
all the means- at its command to crush the impending 
revolt. It is impossible to give the long list of executions 
which then ensued ; the same cruel things repeat them- 
selves ad nauseam. But in spite of all these, the Govern- 
ment did not succeed in preventing the formation of 
armed bodies, whose plan was to proceed to Vollenhove 
(mostly by water) with a view to marching to the relief of 

On March 22nd thirty vessels, with armed Baptists on 
board, arrived at Vollenhove from Amsterdam. These were 
followed on the 25th by twenty-one others carrying three 
thousand men, many partisans going at the same time in 
vehicles or on foot. The Netherland authorities, however, 
who had got wind of the affair, attacked and dispersed each 
of these bodies separately. 

In this way the attempt at relief was frustrated at the 
outset. But the great victories of the besieged at Munster on 
May 25th and August 31st revived the Baptist agitation in 
the Netherlands, which was also fanned by emissaries from the 
beleaguered city. Jan van Leyden proposed a bold plan for 
relieving the scarcity of provisions which had begun to make 
itself felt in the winter of 1534-35- The associates in the 
Netherlands were to rise ; he would cut his way through the 

' Cornelius, Miinsterischer Anfruhr, p. 234. 
= Berichtc dcr Augemcugen, p. 315. 


besieging army with a part of his men, join tlr-^, relieving 
forces, spread the insurrection, and thus set Munster free. 
We have seen that he called on volunteers for this hopeless 
undertaking. He exercised his troops for this purpose, and 
had a special fort constructed, made of army waggons, to be 
used in the sortie. 

But the scheme ended in failure. One of Jan's envoys, 
the " apostle " Johann Grass, a whilom schoolmaster, turned 
traitor. Despatched for the purpose of assembling the 
Brethren outside the town and leading them to Deventer, 
whence they were to push on to MUnster, he left the latter 
place on New Year's Day, 1535, only, however, to go straight 
to Bishop Franz, divulge the plan, and betray the names of 
the most prominent associates in the Lower Rhine country, as 
well as their places of meeting. Thus the attempt to raise 
the siege was nipped in the bud. 

Once more Jan van Leyden endeavoured to carry out the 
plan. On this occasion the ardently longed-for relief was to 
come on Easter Day. Keller, who has accurately followed 
up these movements, informs us that : " It is related that 
the Baptists proposed having four banners raised at a time 
previously agreed upon ; one at Eschenbruch, near the river 
Maas in the Julich district ; one in Holland and Woterland ; 
the third between Masstricht, Aachen, and the district of 
Limburg, and the fourth near Groningen in Friesland. 
Until the stipulated time had arrived the brothers were to 
busy themselves in obtaining weapons and money, and as 
soon as the command was given, each was to betake himself 
to the nearest banner, for the purpose of assisting in the 
relief of Munster, 

"This plan was, in part, actually carried out. The very 
next Easter Day, March 28th, the so-called Olden Monastery, 
between Sneek and Bolswarben, in West Friesland, was occu- 
pied by the Baptists, and fortified. It was a strong position, 
with fourfold walls and ditches. 

"When the Imperial governor received information of this 
he at once marched against the place, hoping by a sudden 
attack to recapture it ; but he saw himself forced to a regular 
siege, and had to bring up heavy artillery. 


" After having increased his forces by enrolling every third 
man in the town and country, he began the bombardment on 
the 1st of April, and immediately afterwards stormed the 
works. Four times did he have to lead his soldiers under 
fire. The first two attacks were repulsed, but at the third 
and fourth he succeeded in occupying a few of the advanced 
positions. Some of the outworks, however, together with 
the church, remained in the possession of the defenders, 
thus compelling the besiegers to renew the bombardment on 
April 7th. When breaches had been made at five points 
the place was stormed at about three o'clock in the afternoon, 
and after a severe fight finally taken. Eight hundred or nine 
hundred lay dead about the walls." 

The greater part of another force, which went to Deventer 
by water, was destroyed by Duke von Geldern ; but Keller 
was unable to discover any information with regard to the 
other places in which uprisings were planned. 

Once again, however, a dangerous insurrection broke out 
in Amsterdam, whither the Munster Baptists had despatched 
" one of their best officers," Johann von Geel, who succeeded 
in reaching his destination, and in exciting a revolt. 

"The insurrection broke out at about eight o'clock in 
the evening of May nth. Five hundred armed Baptists 
seized the town-hall, slew one of the Burgomasters who fell 
into their hands, and put the position into a state of defence." 

" The rebels, however, were by no means strong enough 
to surprise the whole of the large town without further 
trouble. Moreover, the outbreak seems to have taken place 
before all the conspirators had assembled, as a few days later 
some fresh allies appeared before the walls. At all events, 
after his first success, Johann von Geel found himself con- 
fronted by a resistance which it is possible he may not have 
anticipated. The main body of citizens took up arms with 
one accord, and a sanguinary fight ensued, which lasted 
through the whole night, and ended in the complete over- 
throw of the Baptists. The hatred of the victors displayed 
itself in the most horrible barbarities. Johann von Campen, 
for example, whom Jan van Leyden had installed as Bishop 
among the Baptists, had his tongue torn out and his hand 


cut off. While in this maimed condition a tin mitre, bearing 
the escutcheon of the town, was placed on his head in 
mockery ; after which he was led to the pillory. Not till 
then was he beheaded." ^ The hearts of the other prisoners 
were torn from their living bodies and thrown in their faces. 
Nevertheless, what a brutal horde were — tke Anabaptists ! 

The overthrow of the Amsterdam insurrection signified 
the downfall of the only portion of the war-party of Ana- 
baptists outside of Munster who were capable of action, and 
destroyed the last hope of the besieged for help from without. 

Starvation was already rife among the defenders of 
Munster. " At first they ate horses, head and feet as well, 
together with the liver and lungs. They ate cats, dogs, mice, 
rats, slugs, fish, frogs, and grass, while moss was their bread. 
Salt, as long as they had any, was their fat. They also ate 
the hides of oxen, and even shoes, after they had been soaked. 
. . . One after another the children and aged died of star- 
vation" (Gresbeck, pp. 189, 190). 

When the famine had become insupportable, Jan issued a 
proclamation to the effect that all those who no longer took 
part in the defence, and wished to leave the town, should give 
notice thereof at the town-hall. Every one was at liberty to 
leave the city within four days. Not a few took advantage 
of this permission — women, children, aged persons, and even 
some who were able to bear arms. A part of those who went 
out were slain by the Bishop's soldiers, and the others thrown 
into prison. The young women were seized by the soldiery, 
who carried on polyandry with them — this seeming to be the 
best means of relieving those miserable creatures from the 
infamies with which they had been burdened by t]\Qpolygamy 
of the Baptists. 

Those who remained in the town were for the most part 
resolved to hold out till the last gasp, that when all should 
be lost they might be buried under the ruins of burning 
Munster. Their pitiable condition was known in the Bishop's 
camp. They had very little powder left. " They have ceased 
to fire ; their doom is certain. According to the accounts 
given to us by prisoners their stock of powder is reduced to 
^ Keller, Geschichte der Wiedertditfer, pp. 276, 279. 


a ton and a half." Thus wrote the already-mentioned Burgo- 
master of Frankfort, Justinian von Holzhausen, from the camp 
before Munster, May 29th. ^ On May 24th Jan mustered 
" all the folk in the town who could bear arms, amounting, 
as we are informed by prisoners, to about two hundred men. 
The others, women, children and men, were lying ill, or going 
about sick, many of them on crutches. They were all swollen 
and weak, and dared not go far outside the gates, as they 
could not run away from our soldiers." 2 

Yet, so much were the forces of Jan van Leyden feared 
that the besiegers did not dare to storm the town openly, so 
long as the defenders felt themselves possessed of a vestige 
of strength to resist. The Bishop's forces remembered too 
well that they had already lost six thousand men in their 
fights with the little body of Baptists (Holzhausen, op. cit 
p. 343). Hence the Frankfort Burgomaster could again write, 
to his father on the 8th of July : " As far as I can judge of 
affairs before Munster, I fear that unless we are aided by 
treachery the town will not be captured this summer ; for the 
'king,' his 'dukes,' and foul adherents, have obstinately set 
themselves to so managing the rascally business, that they 
may die and rot with the whole town " {pp. cit., pp. 353, 354). 

When Holzhausen wrote the above letter, the traitor whom 
he hoped for had already been found — the man Gresbeck, so 
well known to us. He deserted the town on May 23rd, 
and, on being taken prisoner, offered to conduct the besiegers 
to a part of the walls where there was no danger. The 
Baptists were in fact no longer able to guard the whole line 
of fortifications. Gresbeck's information was confirmed by 
Hans Eck von der Langenstraten, a soldier who had previously 
deserted from the Bishop's camp to the Baptists, but had 
returned when things began to go badly with them. In spite 
of this it was long before the cautious besiegers ventured on 
the surprise. After all had been most carefully prepared, and 
under cover of a severe thunderstorm, they set about the 
task on June 25th. 

Under Gresbeck's guidance, the vanguard of the soldiers, 
about two hundred strong, succeeded in scaling the wall in 

' Bcrichtc der Augenzeugen, p. 343- " Holzhausen, of. cit., p. 343- 


the vicinity of the Gate of the Cross. The nearest guards 
were killed and the gate opened. Five or six hundred of the 
Bishop's forces rushed in, and to all appearances Munster 
was won. ^ Once again, however, was their wild thirst for 
booty to prove dangerous to the " defenders of the rights 
of property." 

Drunk with victory, those who had forced their way in, 
rushed forward to plunder, leaving the gate unguarded. In 
the meantime the nearest watch of the Baptists had hastened 
to the scene of action, and before the main body of soldiers 
could force their way in, had recaptured the gate, thus cutting 
ofif the soldiers in the town from those outside. Instead of 
attacking with the latter and coming to the rescue, the com- 
mander of the Bishop's forces. Count Wirich von Dhann, 
when he saw the gate once more in the hands of the 
Baptists, gave the order to retreat. Derisive laughter and 
flights of arrows followed him from the defenders on the 
walls — men and women. Meantime the Baptists had risen 
throughout the town. Far from joyously casting off the 
yoke of the reign of terror, all who could hold a weapon, 
threw themselves in furious onset against the soldiers who 
had penetrated to the town ; so that, instead of the two 
hundred whom they had expected to meet, the Bishop's forces 
found themselves confronted by eight hundred armed 
antagonists.2 The intruders were reduced to great straits, 
and at three in the morning held a parley with Jan van 
Leyden. A few of the soldiers, however, had succeeded in 
cutting their way to an unoccupied part of the walls, and 
when morning dawned attracted the attention of their 
comrades outside the walls. The main body now advanced 
to the attack, and scaled the weakly guarded walls. " Thus 

' Compare General Wirich's report to the Duke of Cleve, July 29th. 
{Berichte dcr Augenzeugen, p. 359.) 

=^ Holzhausen, in a communication through the town of Frankfort,, 
July I St, op. cit., p. 366. On one occasion, Keller remarks: "It is 
impossible to note without astonishment how a few immigrant rascals, 
succeeded in reducing the entire native population more and more to a 
condition of slavery" {Wiedertdufer, p. 103). Still more astounding. 
is the fury with which those who were " freed " from the reign of terror 
fell upon their " deliverers." 


the town was taken by the grace of God alone, and not by 
the skill of the soldiers" (Holzhausen, op. cit, p. 366). 

A frightful street fight ensued. Where they could the 
Baptists barricaded themselves, and at eight in the morning 
the pick of their forces, two hundred strong, occupied the 
market which had previously been put in a state of defence. 
A council of war of the Bishop's generals decided that to 
drive the Baptists from their last position was a hazardous, 
and, in any event, a too costly undertaking. Freedom and 
safe conduct were consequently promised to the besieged on 
condition of laying down their arms. 

Driven to bay, and with no further hope left to them, 
the Baptists accepted the conditions. Hardly had they 
given up their arms and left their barricades when they 
were massacred. One infamous deed more or less was a 
matter of no consequence to the princely banditti. 

On the day of the capture four hundred and fifty Baptists 
were slain, the following days being given up to the slaughter 
of the unfortunates who were found hidden in the houses.^ 

A vigorous part had been taken in the fight by the women, 
of whom the larger number were also massacred. Those 
who survived were brought before the Bishop, who told them 
that he would grant them pardon if they would renounce 
Anabaptism. As few accepted this offer (the rest continuing 
firm and obstinate in their undertaking) " the most prominent 
among them were executed, and the others driven out of the 
town. Many of these are said to have gone to England." 2 

The greater number of the leaders had fallen, among 
whom were Tilbeck and Kippenbroick, and probably Roth- 
mann. Only a few, like Heinrich Krechtinck, managed to 
escape. His brother Bernt, as well as Knipperdollinck and 
Jan van Leyden, fell into the hands of the victors, and were 
kept for purposes of a delightful spectacle. In accordance 
with the custom of the times of accusing those who were 
most dreaded with cowardice, Kerssenbroick relates that Jan 
acted the poltroon and ran away. Neither before or after the 

' Sigmund von Beineburgk's report to Philip of Hesse, July 7th, 
op. cit., p. 368. 
' Gresbeck, p. 213, and Beineburgk, op. cit., p. 368. 



capture of the town does his conduct betray cowardice. It 
would indeed have been hardly possible to assert with 
certainty anything regarding the behaviour of individuals 
during the night's fight in the streets. When the Bishop 
had entered the town he summoned Jan to his presence. 
" Then my most reverend lord said, * Art thou a King ? ' 
The king replied, ' Art thou a Bishop ? ' " This answer does 
not savour of cowardice. 

The treatment experienced by the prisoners was the one 
usually dealt out to the defenders of the exploited classes 
at that time — and of other times. 

Iron collars were forged for Jan, Knipperdollinck, and 
Krechtinck, who were afterwards dragged about the country. 
It seems as if their torments were never to cease. Not until 
January 22, 1536, were they executed at Miinster in the 
presence of the whole populace, the Bishop also being a 
witness of the edifying spectacle. " The first act of the 
executioners was to bind the victims to the stake by their 
iron collars. Seizing white-hot pincers they then proceeded 
to pinch the king in all parts of the body in such a manner 
that flames blazed out from every part which was touched by 
the pincers, until nearly all who were standing in the market- 
place were sickened by the stench which arose. The same 
punishment was meted out to the others, who, however, 
endured their tortures with greater impatience and irritability 
than the king, and made known their anguish in plaints and 
screams. Terrified at the sight of the horrible torture, 
Knipperdollinck hung himself by the iron collar, trying by 
this means to cut his throat and hasten his death ; but when 
the executioners became aware of this they raised him up 
once more, forced his jaws wide asunder, put a rope between 
his teeth, and bound him so firmly to the stake that he could 
neither sit nor break his neck, nor (since his throat was quite 
wide open), choke himself. When they had been tortured 
long enough, and while they were still living, their tongues 
were pulled out from their throats with red-hot pincers, and a 
dagger driven home to their hearts." It is well known that 
the corpses were put into iron cages and hung in the Lamberti 
Church. "The pincers with which they were tortured are 


Still to be seen in the market-place on a bolt of the town-hall, 
where they were hung to serve as an example and terror to 
all rebels and enemies to the authorities." i 

A modern historian has the effrontery to call this the 
"merited punishment for their misdeeds" (Keller, Wieder- 
tdufer, p. 280). We challenge the noble masters of " German 
Science " to point out a single instance in which, during the 
terrors of the siege, the uneducated, rough proletarians of 
Miinster practised on their enemies a hundredth part of the 
bloodcurdling cruelties which the right reverend Bishop, in 
perfect tranquillity of mind, had prepared and carried out 
before his own eyes six months after his victory ! Yet these 
gentlemen, who cannot too highly extol their own transcendent 
ethics, exult over the triumph of the priestly bloodhound, 
while they drag his victims through the mire as infamous 

« * . w « » 

Anabaptism, the proletarian cause, nay, the collective 
democracy in the German Empire, lay helpless in the dust ; 
and outside of Germany also the fighting party of the 
Baptist order had lost all support. 

At the Congress of Bockholt in 1536 a rupture occurred 
between the Netherland Baptists. The war party began from 
that moment to disappear ; but the peaceable and millennarian 
section maintained itself some time longer. Its leader was 
Davis Joris, who was born in Brugge, in the beginning of the 
sixteenth century, and brought up at Delft. The Obbenites 
(so named from Obbe Phillips), who completely acquiesced in 
the existing order of things, now became the most important 
party among the Anabaptists. They taught that no other 
condition of the world than the existing one was to be looked 
for, and that mankind must adapt themselves to it. 

Menno Simons subsequently became the head of this party, 
whose adherents were named after him, Mennonites. Born 
in Witmarsum, a Friesland village near Franecker, he became 
a Catholic priest, but united himself to the Baptists in 1531, 
and in 1533 was already a partisan of the submissive section 

' Kerssenbroick, p. 212. We may give complete credence to this 


and an opponent of Jan Mathys. While his brother, who 
belonged to the war party, joined the force which set forth 
from West Friesland to the relief of Miinster on Easter Day, 
1535, and fell, fighting bravely, Menno did not hesitate to 
stab his grievously afflicted Miinster associates in the back, 
by initiating an agitation against them. 

After the fall of Miinster his faction became the most 
prominent of all the Baptist divisions. 

Menno's end, like that of Joris, is indicative of the 
character which the Baptist order was thenceforth to assume. 

These two leaders had to pass through many persecutions ; 
but both died respected and in easy circumstances. 

Joris had saved up a snug sum, and, in order to enjoy it in 
peace, this prophet of the latter day emigrated to B^le in 
1544, and settled there under the alzas of Johann of Brugge. 
Not until after his death was his true name discovered, when 
his body was burnt by order of the Bale Council. 

Menno Simons died soon afterwards in 1559. The last 
years of his life were passed at Oldesloe in Holstein, on the 
estate of a nobleman who, while in war service in the Nether- 
lands, had learnt to know the Baptists as a very harmless and 
industrious people, and had offered them an asylum on his 
property, to his own great advantage. 

But the Netherlands themselves were soon to become 
the refuge for persecuted Baptists. The casting off of the 
Hapsburg yoke brought freedom of belief to the country 
about the mouths of the Rhine, and a higher form of tolerance 
came into vogue there at almost the same time that it disap- 
peared in Bohemia and Moravia, where, though crude and 
incomplete, it had existed since the Hussite Wars. After the 
close of the sixteenth century the Mennonites were tolerated 
in the Dutch Republic, until, in 1626, their freedom of belief 
was officially confirmed. Like the Herrnhuters, who were 
the successors of the Bohemian Brethren, they have main- 
tained themselves till the present day ; but for a long time 
have formed nothing more than a small, well-to-do middle- 
class community, of no importance, either to the proletarian 
struggle for emancipation, or to the development of socialistic 


From the Netherlands, which in the times of the Beghards 
were already in close intercourse with England, Baptist ideas 
spread to the latter country. In the last part of the reign of 
Henry VIII., more especially, there were many edicts issued 
against the Anabaptists, and in 1525 and the following years 
a great number were executed, of whom a large proportion 
were Dutch. But the Governments of Henry VIII. and 
Elizabeth were too strong to allow Anabaptism to publish 
itself otherwise than by martyrdoms. It was different with the 
wars of the seventeenth century, which even brought Ana- 
baptist ideas into the foreground. The close of one century, 
however, had altered those ideas in many points ; and great 
as may be the apparent resemblance between the Anabaptists 
and the democratic and socialistic section of the party of 
independence,- their views are essentially different. 

As a real, effective force in public life, Christian com- 
munism came to an end in the sixteenth century. That 
century saw the birth of a new system of production, the 
modern State and the modern proletariat; and it saw also 
the birth of modern socialism. 

A new era was dawning for mankind. 

Zh« Oresbam pveee, 


T. FISHER PN'WIN, Publisher, 



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HX Kautsky, Karl 

628 Corainuinism in Central Europe 

K263 in the time of the Reformation 



/c •