1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 56

Chapter 20


“And here comes the only concession,” Rebecca continued, reading from the sheet in her hand. “It is in the last two items, on matters of religion. ‘Point Eight. All provinces shall be required to designate a single established church, with the exception of the State of Thuringia-Franconia, which may designate several.”

“All of them province-wide?” interjected Constantin Ableidinger. “Or must each provincial district choose a single church?”

He held up a stiff, admonishing forefinger. “I warn you! We Lutherans will not tolerate sloppiness in such matters!”

Rebecca bestowed the smile upon him that she always bestowed on Ableidinger’s antics. The one that exuded long-suffering patience rather than serenity.

“Stop clowning around, Constantin,” grumbled Gunther Achterhof. “What difference does it make? We’re not going to abide by it anyway.”

The little exchange had given Rebecca time for further thought, during the course of which she realized that Ableidinger’s heavy-handed humor might actually contain a serious kernel — whether he realized it or not, which he probably didn’t.

“Maybe we will, Gunther,” she said. She raised her own forefinger in response to the look of outrage on his face. The gesture in this case was one that indicated a desire for forbearance rather than admonishment. “But let us not get ahead of ourselves. There is still one more provision in Point Eight and a final Point Nine in the Charter of Rights and Duties.”

The pitch of her voice shifted back to a slight singsong as she resumed quoting from the sheet. “The remaining provision in Point Eight is that: ‘These churches shall receive financial support from their respective provinces.’ Finally: ‘Point Nine. No church, whether established or not, shall be forbidden to exist, provided that it abides by the laws of the nation and its province.”

She laid down the sheet. “As I said, a concession of sorts, at the very end.”

“Not much of one,” observed Helene Gundelfinger. “All it recognizes is the abstract right of non-established churches to ‘exist.’ That’s a rather metaphysical proposition, taken by itself. The way that provision is couched, it seems to me, a province could recognize a church’s ‘existence’ while simultaneously forbidding its members to meet, to collect funds, or to have church leaders.”

She turned toward Werner von Dalberg, who was seated far enough down the long table to her right that she had to lean forward a little to see him. “Am I right, Werner?”

The FoJP leader from the Oberpfalz was the one person in the group who had extensive legal training.

He grinned. “Metaphysics has nothing on the law. That issue could be contested in the courts for years. In the event — the not-improbable event, actually — that a church so victimized should employ me as their lawyer, I would argue that the term ‘to exist’ implies all those things that were simultaneously banned, and hence the ban is null and void.” His eyes got a slightly-unfocussed, distant look. “Interesting question, actually. I’m sure the judges would rule in my favor when it came to being able to collect funds. Without money on which to operate, any and all human institutions are vacant abstractions. And for much the same reason, I’m pretty sure they’d rule in my favor when it came to the right to meet. The designation of officers of the church, however — by whatever method — is considerably more –”

“Werner!” Rebecca interrupted him. “We can come back to this at a later time. We have more pressing issues to deal with.”

He gave her a rueful, apologetic smile. “Sorry. I got a bit carried away. Lawyers, you know. Philosophers flee at our approach.”

Rebecca gave the sheet on the table in front of her a last, considering look. “Actually, my objection was not to your lawyering but to the specific subject, which for the moment is somewhat trivial. Taken as a whole, I think the right strategy for us in response to this attack from Berlin is precisely ‘to lawyer.'”

Predictably, Gunther Achterhof’s face darkened. “Rebecca, if you think for a minute that we’re going to tolerate –”

“Let. Her. Finish,” said Helene.

“Yes, please,” added Magdeburg province’s governor, Matthias Strigel. “Rebecca, go on.”

“They have made several bad errors, in my opinion. Within the great error of their purpose itself, I should say. The first and the worst was arresting Wilhelm Wettin. The second, and almost as bad, was to convene in Berlin. The two mistakes together make everything they’ve done legally invalid.”

“What difference does it make?” demanded Achterhof. “They’re not going to abide by the law, and neither are we. We’re now in a state of civil war! Almost by definition, the laws of the land are no longer binding on anyone.”

“He’s got a point, Rebecca,” said Albert Bugenhagen. The mayor of Hamburg was sitting at the middle of the table almost directly opposite Helene. His fingers were steepled in front of his face, which, combined with his even tone of voice, made the statement one of judicial observation rather than actual agreement with the substance of Achterhof’s argument.

“Yes — but it is much too broad.” She leaned forward slightly, to give added emphasis to her next words. “What is a ‘civil war’ in the first place? Gunther uses the term as if it were a depiction of a concrete object, like a tree or a table. Something simple and discrete. But the phenomenon is actually very complex, and with no clear boundaries. There are civil wars and there are civil wars, no two of which are exactly the same and any one of which has its own peculiar characteristics.”

By now, either Achterhof or Ableidinger would have started interrupting, had anyone else been talking. But even they had learned that Rebecca’s trains of thoughts were worth following.

“When it comes to this civil war, I would qualify the term with several addenda. As follows.” She began counting off her fingers. “First, it is a civil war triggered off not by the collapse of final authority but by its mere absence — an absence, furthermore, which may well prove temporary.”

Constantin was frowning. “What does that mean?”

Von Dalberg spoke up. “What she means is that the crisis was precipitated by Gustav Adolf’s injury. As opposed, for instance, to one or another side in the conflict rejecting the emperor’s authority in itself. What happens, then, if he recovers?”

Rebecca nodded. “Yes, precisely. This is a critical issue because it drives the pace of Oxenstierna’s actions and maneuvers. If Gustav Adolf recovers before he completes his project, it is likely the project will be discontinued. So the chancellor has no choice but to force the process, risking blunders for the sake of celerity.”

She counted off another finger. “Secondly, it is a civil war clouded by great uncertainty when it comes to the issue of the succession. Or rather, the issue of a regency. The succession itself is clear — Princess Kristina, the emperor’s only child — but she is still a minor and thus cannot take the throne herself. And the USE is not Sweden, which has clear and established rules governing the establishment of a regency. So, as with the state of Gustav Adolf’s own condition, everything is murky — which, again, forces Oxenstierna to drive forward with great haste.

“Thirdly, by convening in Berlin instead of Magdeburg, Oxenstierna and his reactionary plotters have denied themselves the possibility of a quorum. The constitution is quite clear on this point — a majority of the members of Parliament must be present or there is no quorum and Parliament cannot legitimately conduct any business.”

“But…” Liesel Hahn, an MP from Hesse-Kassel, was frowning. “But they have a majority, Rebecca.”

“Ha!” Constantin Ableidinger slapped the table. “Rebecca is right!”

“Yes, she is,” agreed von Dalberg. He looked toward Hahn. “The fact that they have a majority doesn’t matter, Liesel, unless they can get a majority actually present at the session of Parliament.”