Gustavus I, Vasa

Gustavus I, Vasa, the first Protestant king of Sweden, was born at Lindhohn, Sweden, May 12,1496. He descended, both on the paternal and maternal side, from noble Swedish families, and his original name was Gustavus Ericsson, since he was the son of the councillor Eric Johansson. From 1512 he was educated for a statesman at the court of the Swedish administrator, Sten Sture. In 1516 and 1517 he took an active part in the war against the Danes, but was treacherously made a prisoner by the Danish king, Christian II, and carried to Denmark. He escaped in September, 1519, landed in Sweden in May, 1520, aroused the peasants of Dalecarlia to a revolt against the Danish rule, and was proclaimed by them head of their own and other communes of Sweden. The forcible abdication of Christian II put an end to the Scandinavian union, and the Swedish Diet of Strengnass proclaimed Gustavus as king. Being a decided adherent of the Reformation of Luther with whom he carried on a correspondence, Gustavus declined to be crowned by the hands of the Roman Catholic bishops, and postponed his coronation, which did not take place until 1528. In 1530 he formally joined the Lutheran Church, the cause of which he promoted with great eagerness, and even severity, crippling the power of the Roman Catholic clergy by enormous imposts and finally (1544) forcing the Luthe an doctrines upon all his subjects. Like many other Protestant princes of that time, he arrogated to himself an undue influence upon the Church, assuming in 1540 the highest authority in ecclesiastical matters, and thus burdening Sweden with the pernicious system of an oppressive and even intolerant state-churchism. By an act of the Diet of Westeras the crown was declared hereditary in his male descendants. On the whole, Gustavus was one of the best and wisest princes of his time. "He had found Sweden a wilderness, devoid of all cultivation, and a prey to the turbulence of the people and the rapacity of the nobles; and, after forty years' rule, he left it a peaceful and civilizad realm, with a full exchequer, and a well-organized army of 15,000 men, and a good fleet, which were both his creations, He promoted trade at home and abroad. Every profession and trade received his attention and fostering care, and schools and colleges owed their revival, after the decay of the older Roman Catholic institutions to him. He made commercial treaties with foreign nations, and established fairs for foreign traders. In his reign roads and bridges were made in every part of the country, and canals begun, one of which has only recently been brought to completion. In his relations with his subjects Gustavus was firm, and sometimes severe, but seldom unjust, except in his dealings towards the Romish clergy, whom he despoiled with something like rapacity of all their lands and funds. To him the various tribes of Lapps were indebted for the diffusion of Christianity among them by Lutheran missionaries, while the Finns owed to him the first works of instruction, Bibles and hymn-books printed in their own language. Gustavus was methodical, just, moral, and abstemious in his mode of life; an able administrator; and, with the exception of a tendency to avarice, possessed few qualities that are unworthy of esteem." He died Sept. 29, 1560. (A. J. S.)

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