Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/338

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interesting experiments in history, and the spectacle of the feudal potentates of Germany reversing the role of their French or Spanish compeers and striving to build up a united German nation, despite the separatist opposition of the German monarch, shows how strong were the forces that made for nationality during the transition from medieval to modern times. And it was no small indication of the practical wisdom of Berthold that he won over the whole Electoral College to his views. Less dignified princes were as a rule content to follow their lead. Only the Dukes of Bavaria held aloof, obstinately bent upon securing Bavarian interests alone. But perhaps the greatest triumph of the reformers was to be found in the temporary adhesion of the young King of the Romans to their plans.

Berthold of Mainz laid his first plan of reform before the Diet of Frankfort of 1485. He proposed a single national system of currency, a universal Landfrlede, and a Supreme Court of Justice specially charged with the carrying out of the Public Peace. After the election of Maximilian in 1486, the demand of a special grant to carry on war against the Turks gave a new opportunity for insisting on the policy which the cold and unsympathetic Emperor had done his best to shelve. But the princes now rejected the proposed tax, on the ground that the cooperation of the cities was necessary towards granting an aid, whereas no cities had been summoned to this Diet. The result was before long the final establishment of the right of the cities to form an integral part of every assembly of the German national council. The Diet of 1489 saw every imperial town summoned to its deliberations. Within a generation the city representatives had become the Third Estate of the Empire side by side with Electors and princes.

Frederick gave way both on the question of the rights of the cities and on the programme of reform. He procured his Turkish grant in return for the promise to establish the Landfriede and an imperial court of justice. But he did nothing to give effect to his general assurances; and the Estates, closely brought together by their common aim, continued to press for the carrying out of Frederick's concessions. Their first real victory was at the Diet of Frankfort in 1489, when Maximilian, intent on getting help to make himself master of the Netherlands, and now also involved in his fantastic quest of the hand of Anne of Britanny, promised the Diet to do his best to aid it in obtaining an effective constitution of the imperial court of justice. A further step in advance was made at the important Diet of Nürnberg of 1491, where Maximilian declared that the Landfriede, already proclaimed for ten years, should be proclaimed for ever, and that for its execution a competent tribunal should be set up at his father's Court.

Even Maximilian's adhesion failed to secure the lasting triumph of the Estates. So long as the old Emperor lived, nothing practical was done; but on Frederick's death in 1493 the open-minded heir became the actual