1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Westphalia, Treaty of
WESTPHALIA, TREATY OF, a collective name given to the two treaties concluded on the 24th of October 1648 by the empire with France at Münster and with Sweden and the Protestant estates of the empire at Osnabrück, by which the Thirty Years' War (q.v.) was brought to an end.
As early as 1636 negotiations had been opened at Cologne at the instance of Pope Urban VIII., supported by the seigniory of Venice, but failed owing to the disinclination of Richelieu to stop the progress of the French arms, and to the refusal of Sweden to treat with the papal legate. In 1637 the agents of the emperor began to negotiate at Hamburg with Sweden, though the mediation of Christian IV., king of Denmark, was rejected by Sweden, and the discussions dragged on for years without result. In the meantime the new emperor Ferdinand III. proposed at the diet of Regensburg in 1640 to extend the peace of Prague to the whole empire, on the basis of an amnesty, from which, however, those Protestant estates who were still leagued with foreign powers were to be excluded. His aim was by settling the internal affairs of the empire to exclude the German princes from participation in negotiations with foreign powers; but these efforts had no result.
A more practical suggestion was made by the Comte d'Avaux, the French envoy at Hamburg, who proposed in 1641 that the negotiations at Cologne and Hamburg should be transferred to Münster and Osnabrück, two cities in the Westphalian circle not more than 30 m. apart. A preliminary treaty embodying this proposal was concluded between the representatives of the emperor, France and Sweden at Hamburg on the 25th of December 1641. A dispute as to precedence between France and Sweden, and the refusal of the latter power to meet the papal nuncio, made the choice of a single meeting-place impossible. It was arranged, however, that the two assemblies should be regarded as a single congress, and that neither should conclude peace without the other.
The date fixed for the meeting of the two conventions was the 11th of July 1643, but many months elapsed before all the representatives arrived, and the settlement of many questions of precedence and etiquette caused further delays. England, Poland, Muscovy and Turkey were the only European powers unrepresented. The war continued during the deliberations, which were influenced by its fortunes.
The chief representative of the emperor was Count Maximilian von Trautmansdorff, to whose sagacity the conclusion of peace was largely due. The French envoys were nominally under Henry of Orleans, duke of Longueville, but the marquis de Sablé and the comte d'Avaux were the real agents of France. Sweden was represented by John Oxenstierna, son of the chancellor, and by John Adler Salvius, who had previously acted for Sweden at Hamburg. The papal nuncio was Fabio Chigi, afterwards Pope Alexander VII. Brandenburg, represented by Count Johann von Sayn-Wittgenstein, played the foremost part among the Protestant states of the empire. On the 1st of June 1645 France and Sweden brought forward propositions of peace, which were discussed by the estates of the empire from October 1645 to April 1646. The settlement of religious matters was effected between February 1646 and March 1648. The treaty was signed at Münster by the members of both conventions on the 24th of October 1648, and ratifications were exchanged on the 8th of February 1649. The papal protest of January 3, 1651, was disregarded.
The results were determined in the first place by the support given to each other by France and Sweden in their demands for indemnification, the concession of which necessitated compensation to the German states affected, and secondly by the determination of France to weaken the power of the emperor while strengthening the Roman Catholic states, especially Bavaria.
Sweden received western Pomerania with Rügen and the mouths of the Oder, Wismar and Poel, in Mecklenburg, and the lands of the archbishopric of Bremen and the bishopric of Verden, together with an indemnity of 5,000,000 thalers. The privileges of the Free Towns were preserved. Sweden thus obtained control of the Baltic and a footing on the North Sea, and became an estate of the empire with three deliberative voices in the diet.
The elector of Brandenburg received the greater part of eastern Pomerania, and, as he had a claim on the whole duchy since the death of the last duke in 1635, he was indemnified by the bishoprics of Halberstadt, Minden and Kammin, and the reversion of the archbishopric of Magdeburg, which came to him on the death of the administrator. Prince Augustus of Saxony, in 1680. The elector of Saxony was allowed to retain Lusatia. As compensation for Wismar, Mecklenburg-Schwerin obtained the bishoprics of Schwerin and Ratzeburg and some lands of the Knights of St John. Brunswick-Lüneburg restored Hildesheim to the elector of Cologne, and gave Minden to Brandenburg, but obtained the alternate succession to the bishopric of Osnabrück and the church lands of Walkenried and Gröningen. Hesse-Cassel received the prince-abbacy of Hersfeld, the county of Schaumburg, &c. The elector of Bavaria was confirmed in his possession of the Upper Palatinate, and in his position as an elector which he had obtained in 1623. Charles Louis, the son and heir of Frederick V., the count palatine of the Rhine, who had been placed under the ban of the empire, received back the Lower Palatinate, and a new electorate, the eighth, was created for him.
France obtained the recognition of the sovereignty (which she had enjoyed de facto since 1552) over the bishoprics and cities of Metz, Toul and Verdun, Pinerolo in Piedmont, the town of Breisach, the landgraviate of Upper and Lower Alsace, the Sundgau, the advocacy (Landvogtei) of the ten imperial cities in Alsace, and the right to garrison Philippsburg. During the Thirty Years' War France had professed to be fighting against the house of Austria, and not against the empire. It was stipulated that the immediate possessions of the empire in Alsace should remain in enjoyment of their liberties (in ea libertate et possessione immedietatis erga imperium Romanum, qua hactenus gavisae sunt), but it was added as a condition that the sovereignty of France in the territories ceded to her should not be impaired (ita tamen, ut praesenti hac declaratione nihil detractatum intelligatur de eo omni supremi dominis iure, quod supra concessum est). The intention of France was to acquire the full rights of Austria in Alsace, but as Austria had never owned the landgraviate of Lower Alsace, and the Landvogtei of the ten free cities did not in itself imply possession, the door was left open for disputes. Louis XIV. afterwards availed himself of this ambiguous clause in support of his aggressive policy on the Rhine. The independence of Switzerland was at last formally recognized, as was that of the United Netherlands in a separate treaty signed by Spain at Münster.
Apart from these territorial changes, a universal and unconditional amnesty to all those who had been deprived of their possessions was declared, and it was decreed that all secular lands should be restored to those who had held them in 1618. Some exceptions were made in the case of the hereditary dominions of the emperor.
Even more important than the territorial redistribution was the ecclesiastical settlement. By the confirmation of the treaty of Passau of 1552 and the religious peace of Augsburg of 1555, and the extension of their provisions to the Reformed (Calvinist) Church, toleration was secured for the three great religious communities of the empire. Within these limits the governments were bound to allow at least private worship, liberty of conscience and the right of emigration, but these measures of toleration were not extended to the hereditary lands of the house of Habsburg. The Protestant minority in the imperial diet was not to be coerced by the majority, but religious questions were to be decided by amicable agreement. Protestant administrators of church lands obtained seats in the diet. Religious parity was established in the imperial chamber (Reichskammergericht), and in the imperial deputations and commissions.
The difficult question of the ownership of spiritual lands was decided by a compromise. The edict of restitution of 1629 was annulled. In Württemberg, Baden and the Palatinate these lands were restored to the persons who had held them in 1618 or their successors, but for the rest of the empire possession was determined by the fact of occupation on the 1st of January 1624 (annus decretorius or normal year). By the provision that a prince should forfeit his lands if he changed his religion an obstacle was placed in the way of a further spread of the Reformation. The declaration that all protests or vetoes by whomsoever pronounced should be null and void dealt a blow at the intervention of the Roman curia in German affairs.
The constitutional changes made by the treaty had far-reaching effects. The territorial sovereignty of the states of the empire was recognized. They were empowered to contract treaties with one another and with foreign powers, provided that the emperor and the empire suffered no prejudice. By this and other changes the princes of the empire became absolute sovereigns in their own dominions. The emperor and the diet were left with a mere shadow of their former power. The emperor could not pronounce the ban of the empire without the consent of the diet. The diet, in which the 61 imperial cities gained the right of voting on all imperial business, and thus were put on an equality with the princes, retained its legislative and fiscal powers in name, but practically lost them by the requirement of unanimity among the three colleges, which, moreover, were not to give their several decisions by majorities of their members, but by agreement between them.
Not only was the central authority replaced almost entirely by the sovereignty of about 300 princes, but the power of the empire was materially weakened in other ways. It lost about 40,000 sq. m. of territory, and obtained a frontier against France which was incapable of defence. Sweden and France as guarantors of the peace acquired the right of interference in the affairs of the empire, and the former gained a voice in its councils. For many years Germany thus became the principal theatre of European diplomacy and war. But if the treaty of Westphalia pronounced the dissolution of the old order in the empire, it facilitated the growth of new powers in its component parts, especially Austria, Bavaria and Brandenburg.
The treaty was recognized as a fundamental law of the German constitution, and formed the basis of all subsequent treaties until the dissolution of the empire.
See the text in Dumont, Corps universal diplomatique (The Hague, 1726-1731), vi. 429 ff.; J. G. von Meiern, Acta pacis Westphalicae publica (6 vols., Hanover and Göttingen, 1734-1736), Instrumenta pacis Caesareo-Suecicae et Caesareo-Gallicae (Göttingen, 1738); “A. A.” [Bishop Adam Adami], Arcana pacis Westphalicae (Frankfort, 1698), edited by J. G. von Meiern (Leipzig, 1737); K. T. Heigel, “Das Westfälische Friedenswerk von 1643-1648” in the Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Politik (1888); F. Philippi and others, Der Westfälische Frieden, ein Gedenkbuch (Münster, 1898); Journal du Congrès de Munster par F. Ogier, aumônier du comte d'Avaux, edited by A. Boppe (Paris, 1893); Cambridge Modern History, iv. p. 395 ff. and bibliography, p. 866 ff.; J. Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire, ch. xix.