The New International Encyclopædia/Oxenstierna, Axel

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OXENSTIERNA, or OXENSTJERNA, ŏk′-sen-shâr (often called Oxenstiern by English writers), Axel, Count (1583-1654). A Swedish statesman, born at Fånö, in Upland, June 16, 1583. He studied at Rostock, Jena, and Wittenberg, his original interest being in theology, to which he devoted his attention. After leaving the university, he visited most of the German courts, but returned to Sweden in 1603, and soon afterwards entered the service of Charles IX., who, in 1606, dispatched him as Ambassador to the Court of Mecklenburg. He became a Senator in 1609. He conducted with marked discretion the settlement of certain disputes between the Livonian nobles and the town of Reval, and was appointed guardian of the royal family and head of the regency when Charles became incapacitated. On the accession of Gustavus II. Adolphus (q.v.) in 1611 Oxenstierna was made Chancellor. In 1613 he acted as plenipotentiary in the negotiations for peace between Sweden and Denmark, and he arranged the Peace of Stolbova with Russia in 1617. In 1621 he conducted the administration at home during the absence of the King, who was carrying on the war with Poland. Subsequently he was appointed Governor-General of the conquered district, and in 1629 concluded peace with the Poles on highly favorable conditions. For a while Oxenstierna strongly opposed the desire of Gustavus Adolphus to take part in the Thirty Years' War, but when he found that the King had determined on his course he set about collecting money and troops with energy and persistency. After Gustavus Adolphus had fairly entered on the sanguinary struggle, Oxenstierna joined him, and conducted most of the extensive and complicated diplomacy which the course of events entailed on Sweden. After the death of the King, at Lützen, November 16, 1632, he resolved to continue the contest with the Imperialists, in spite of the visible disaffection of many of the German Protestant princes. At the Congress of Heilbronn the States of Swabia, Franconia, and the Rhenish territories placed Oxenstierna at the head of the Evangelical League (1633). The will of the dead monarch was sent to Stockholm; according to its conditions the government—during the minority of his daughter Christina (q.v.)—was intrusted to five nobles, who empowered the Chancellor to prosecute the war. His difficulties were enormous, yet he managed partly to allay the rivalries of the Protestant leaders. After the severe defeat of the Swedes at Nördlingen in 1634 Oxenstierna transferred the leadership of the Protestant forces to Duke Bernhard of Weimar, and proceeded, in 1635, to France and Holland, to obtain aid against the Imperialists. Returning to Germany, he assisted in quelling a mutiny among the Swedish troops at Magdeburg; put Pomerania in a state of defense to resist the expected attack of the Elector of Brandenburg; renewed the treaty with Poland; and, leaving Banér in command of the Swedes, returned to Stockholm in 1636. In 1645 he represented Sweden at the Peace of Brömsebro with Denmark. He continued to direct ably the policy of the Protestants in Germany, till the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, put an end to the war. Oxenstierna's son was one of the Swedish envoys who signed the treaty, and it is in a letter to him that the famous sentence of the statesman occurs: Nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia homines regantur (“You do not know, my son, with how little wisdom men are governed”). Queen Christina did not show a proper respect for the advice of Oxenstierna and persisted in her resolve to abdicate in spite of all his protestations. Oxenstierna died August 28, 1654. Some treatises and historical fragments are attributed to him. Consult: Geijer, Geschichte Schwedens (3 vols., Hamburg, 1823-30). See references under Gustavus II. Adolphus.