1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seckendorf, Veit Ludwig von
SECKENDORF, VEIT LUDWIG VON (1626–1692), German statesman and scholar, was a member of a German noble family, which took its name from the village of Seckendorf between Nuremberg and Langenzenn. The family was divided into eleven distinct lines, but only three survive, widely distributed throughout Prussia, Württemberg and Bavaria. Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf, son of Joachim Ludwig von Seckendorf, was born at Herzogenaurach, near Erlangen, on the 20th of December 1626. In 1639 the reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Ernest the Pious, made him his protégé. Entering the university of Strassburg in 1642, he devoted himself to history and jurisprudence. The means for his higher education came from Swedish officers, former comrades of his father who had been actively engaged in the Thirty Years’ War and who was executed at Salzwedel on the 3rd of February 1642 for his dealings with the Imperialists. After he finished his university course Duke Ernest gave him an appointment in his court at Gotha, where he laid the foundation of his great collection of historical materials and mastered the principal modern languages. In 1652 he was appointed to important judicial positions and sent on weighty embassages. In 1656 he was made judge in the ducal court at Jena, and took the leading part in the numerous beneficent reforms of the duke. In 1664 he resigned office under Duke Ernest, who had just made him chancellor and with whom he continued on excellent terms, and entered the service of Duke Maurice of Zeitz (Altenburg), with the view of lightening his official duties. After the death of Maurice in 1681 he retired to his estate, Meuselwitz in Altenburg, resigning nearly all his public offices. Although living in retirement, he kept up a correspondence with the principal learned men of the day. He was especially interested in the endeavours of the pietist Philipp Jakob Spener to effect a practical reform of the German church, although he was hardly himself a pietist. In 1692 he was appointed chancellor of the new university of Halle, but he died a few weeks afterwards, on the 18th of December.
Seckendorf’s principal works were the following:—Teutscher Fürstenstaat (1656 and 1678), a handbook of German public law; Der Christenstaat (1685), partly an apology for Christianity and partly suggestions for the reformation of the church, founded on Pascal’s Pensées and embodying the fundamental ideas of Spener; Commentarius historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo sive de Reformatione (3 vols., Leipzig, 1692), occasioned by the Jesuit Maimbourg’s Histoire du Luthéranisme (Paris, 1680), his most important work, and still indispensable to the historian of the Reformation as a rich storehouse of authentic materials.
See Richard Pahner, Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff und seine Gedanken über Erziehung und Unterricht (Leipzig, 1892), the best sketch of Seckendorf’s life, based upon original sources. See also Theodor Kolde, “Seckendorf,” in Herzog-Hauck’s Realencyklopädie (1906).
- Besides Friedrich Heinrich, count von Seckendorf, separately noticed, other members of the family were Adolf Franz Karl (1742–1818), who was made a count by Frederick William III. of Prussia; Eduard Christoph Ludwig Karl v. Seckendorf-Gudent (1813–1875), a Württemberg official; Karl Sigmund (1744–1785), writer; Franz Karl Leopold v. Seckendorf-Aberdar (1775–1809), poet, literary man and soldier; the brothers Christian Adolf (1767–1833) and Gustav Anton (“Patrik Peale”). (1775–1823), both literary men of some note, and Arthur v. Seckendorf-Gudent (1845–1886), student of forestry.