The Peasant War in Germany - səhifə 41
The analogy with the movement of 1848–50 is here also apparent. In 1848 as in the
Peasant War, the interests of the opposition classes clashed with each other and each acted
of its own accord. The bourgeoisie, developed sufficiently not to tolerate any longer the
feudal and bureaucratic absolutism, was not powerful enough to subordinate the claims of
other classes to its own interests. The proletariat, too weak to be able to count on skipping
the bourgeois period and immediately conquering power for itself, had, still under
absolutism, tasted too well the sweetness of bourgeois government, and was generally far
too developed to identify for one moment its own emancipation with the emancipation of
the bourgeoisie. The mass of the nation, small bourgeois artisans and peasants, were left in
the lurch by their nearest and natural allies, the bourgeoisie, because they were too
revolutionary, and partly by the proletariat because they were not sufficiently advanced.
Divided in itself, this mass of the nation achieved nothing, while opposing their fellow
opponents on the right and the left. As to provincial narrow-mindedness, it could hardly
have been greater in 1525 among the peasants than it was among the classes participating
in the movement of 1848. The hundred local revolutions as well as the hundred local
reactions following them and completed without hindrance, the retention of the split into
numerous small states – all this speaks loud enough indeed. He who, after the two German
revolutions, of 1525 and 1848, and their results, still dreams of a federated republic,
belongs in a house for the insane.
Still, the two revolutions, that of the Sixteenth Century and that of 1848–50, are, in
spite of all analogies, materially different from each other. The revolution of 1848
bespeaks, if not the progress of Germany, the progress of Europe.
Who profited by the revolution of 1525? The princes. Who profited by the revolution
of 1848? The big princes, Austria and Prussia. Behind the princes of 1525 there stood the
lower middle-class of the cities, held chained by means of taxation. Behind the big
provinces of 1850, there stood the modern big bourgeoisie, quickly subjugating them by
means of the State debt. Behind the big bourgeoisie stand the proletarians.
The revolution of 1525 was a local German affair. The English, French, Bohemians and
Hungarians had already gone through their peasant wars when the Germans began theirs. If
Germany was decentralised, Europe was so to a much greater extent. The revolution of
1848 was not a local German affair, it was one phase of a great European movement. The
moving forces throughout the period of its duration were not confined to the narrow limits
of one individual country, not even to the limits of one-quarter of the globe. In fact, the
countries which were the arena of the revolution were least active in producing it. They
The Peasant War in Germany
– 89 –
were more or less unconscious raw materials without will of their own. They were molded
in the course of movement in which the entire world participated, a movement which under
existing social conditions may appear to us as an alien power, but which, in the end, is
nothing but our own. This is why the revolution of 1848–50 could not end in the way that
the revolution of 1525 ended.
The Peasant War in Germany
– 90 –
The Twelve Articles of the Peasants
The fundamental and correct chief articles of all the peasants and of those subject to
ecclesiastical lords, relating to these matters in which they feel themselves aggrieved.
Mcccc, quadratum, Ix et duplicatum
Vcum transit, christiana secta peribit.
Peace to the Christian Reader and the Grace of God through Christ.
There are many evil writings put forth of late which take occasion, on account of the
assembling of the peasants, to cast scorn upon the gospel, saying: Is this the fruit of the
new teaching, that no one should obey but all should everywhere rise in revolt and rush
together to reform or perhaps destroy altogether the authorities, both ecclesiastic and lay?
The articles below shall answer these godless and criminal fault-finders, and serve in the
first place to remove the reproach from the word of God, and in the second place to give a
Christian excuse for the disobedience or even the revolt of the entire Peasantry. In the first
place the Gospel is not the cause of revolt and disorder, since it is the message of Christ,
the promised Messiah, the Word of Life, teaching only love, peace, patience and concord.
Thus, all who believe in Christ should learn to be loving, peaceful, long-suffering and
harmonious. This is the foundation of all the articles of the peasants (as will be seen) who
accept the Gospel and live according to it. How then can the evil reports declare the Gospel
to be a cause of revolt and disobedience? That the authors of the evil reports and the
enemies of the Gospel oppose themselves to these demands is due, not to the Gospel, but to
the Devil, the worst enemy of the Gospel, who causes this opposition by raising doubts in
the minds of his followers, and thus the word of God, which teaches love, peace and
concord, is overcome. In the second place, it is clear that the peasants demand that this
Gospel be taught them as a guide in life and they ought not to be called disobedient or
disorderly. Whether God grant the peasants (earnestly wishing to live according to His
word) their requests or no, who shall find fault with the will of the Most High? Who shall
meddle in His judgments or oppose his majesty? Did be not hear the children of Israel
when they called upon Him and saved them out of the hands of Pharaoh? Can He not save
His own to-day? Yes, He will save them and that speedily. Therefore, Christian reader, read
the following articles with care and then judge. Here follow the articles:
The First Article. – First, it is our humble petition and desire, as also our will and
resolution, that in the future we should have power and authority so that each community
should choose and appoint a pastor, and that we should have the right to depose him should
he conduct himself improperly. The pastor thus chosen should teach us the Gospel pure and
simple, without any addition, doctrine or ordinance of man. For to teach us continually the
true faith will lead us to pray God that through His grace this faith may increase within us
The Peasant War in Germany
– 91 –
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