Schmalkald, League of
Schmalkald, League Of the name given to the defensive alliance concluded provisionally for nine years at Schmalkalden, Feb. 27, 1531, between nine Protestant princes and eleven imperial cities, with whom five other princes and ten imperial cities subsequently made common cause; and the elector of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse were appointed chiefs of the league and empowered to manage its affairs. The object of this formidable alliance — which included the whole of Northern Germany, Denmark, Saxony, and Wurtemberg, and portions of Bavaria and Switzerland — was for the common defense of the religion and political freedom of the Protestants against the emperor Charles V and the Catholic states. The league was not rendered superfluous by the religious peace of Nuremberg in 1532; and on the rumor that the emperor was meditating new hostile measures against the Protestants, another meeting of the confederates was held Dec. 24, 1535, which resolved to raise a permanent army of 10,000 foot and 2000 cavalry, and to prolong the league for ten years. The confederation was further consolidated by articles of guarantee which were drawn up by Luther at Wittenberg in 1536, and, being subscribed by the theologians present at the meeting of the league at Schmalkalden in February, 1537, were called the Articles of Schmalkald. Against the league the emperor, engaged as he was at the time in contests with the Turks and French, found himself unable to contend, though supported by the Holy League, a Catholic confederation formed (in 1538) in opposition to the Protestant one. But impoltic management, mutual jealousies, and conflicting petty interests dissipated their energies and prevented united action. The "War of Schmalkald" commenced by the advance of the army of the league, under Sebastian Schartlin, into Swabia, to bar the approach of the imperial army from Italy. Schartlin forced his way to the banks of the Danube. but the miserable jealousy of the Saxon princes paralyzed his action. The emperor, by a proclamation bearing date July 20, 1546, put the two chiefs of the league under the ban of the empire; Maurice, duke of Saxony, took possession of the electorate by virtue of an imperial decree; and the Protestant army was forced to retreat. The elector of Saxony reconquered his electorate in the autumn of 1546; but meantime the imperial army subdued the northern members of the League of Schmalkald, and advanced into Franconia to meet the combined armies of Saxony and Hesse. The latter were totally routed at Mühlberg (April 24, 1547), and both chiefs fell into the emperor's hands. This defeat, which has been ascribed to treason, and was, perhaps, as much owing to this cause as to weakness, finished the war. The object of the league — the guarantee of the liberty of religion to the Protestants — was subsequently effected by Maurice, now elector of Saxony who, by a brilliant feat of diplomacy and generalship, compelled the emperor to grant the treaty of Passau (July 31, 1552), by which this freedom was secured.