Huss’ Betrayal and Arrest at the Council of Constance
This section comprises chapters 12 through 17. They are listed below. To go directly to any particular chapter click on the link to that chapter. Otherwise you can scroll down as you read chapter by chapter.
- Chapter 12 – The Council
- Chapter 13 – Arrest and Imprisonment of Huss
- Chapter 14 – Anxieties of the Pope
- Chapter 15 – Huss Abandoned by the Emperor
- Chapter 16 – The Council up to the Flight of the Pope
- Chapter 17 – Supremacy of the Council and Arrest of Jerome
The time had at length arrived for the assembling of the council of Constance. Never had any similar event occurred in the history of the church which excited a deeper or more general interest throughout the Christian world. The schism which had rent the church in pieces, and arrayed one portion against the other, the profligacy and reckless ambition of the rival popes, the wide and fearful corruption which had spread from the highest to the lowest dignitaries of the hierarchy, the alleged heresies of Huss and Petit, and the almost utter neglect into which ecclesiastical authority had fallen, combined to render the assembling of the council an event from which no ordinary results were anticipated. The emperor himself postponed regard for the interests of his kingdom to promote the convocation and the success of the council. It was in his view a greater glory to restore Christendom to the unity of a common head, than achieve victory or conquest on the field of battle. By his exertions the great obstacles to the convoking of a council had been met and removed, and at the appointed time throngs from every portion of Christendom began to pour into the ancient city of Constance.
This city had been chosen by the emperor as the place for the assembling of the council. Reluctantly had the pope receded from his resolution not to allow its convocation where his power and authority would not be paramount. The position of Constance was central, and comparatively easy of access. It was within the circle of Swabia, and subject to the imperial authority. Neither of the popes could here hope to control, or restrain the freedom of, the adherents of the other.
The city of Constance is situated upon the borders of the lake to which it gives it name. At the time of the council, and in the most flourishing period of its history, it contained little short of fifty thousand inhabitants. The traveler now finds scarcely a tithe of its former population within its walls. Old and curious houses, still standing, meet his eye as he walks the streets, but many of them untenanted. On the shores of the lake, and but a few feet from the landing, he sees the Kaufhaus, or market, memorable still as the place where the sessions of the council were held. It was built A.D. 1338, and, at the time of the assembling of the council three quarters of a century later, offered the best accommodations for a large audience-chamber to be found within the city. As the traveler walks up the solid steps of the edifice, once so thronged but now comparatively deserted, he enters the second story—a wide, low room, supported by heavy wooden pillars, and with a rough plank floor, like that of a barn. More than four hundred years ago this room was occupied by an assembly such as Christendom had never seen convoked before. The chair of the emperor, and the one in which the pope for a short time presided over the sessions of the council, together with other relics, form a museum of curiosities which are carefully preserved.
The summons to the council had been issued by the emperor, with the constrained assent of John XXIII, in October 1413. The cardinals more readily united in the summons, at least a portion of them. Full assurances of security for person and property were given to all who should attend. The emperor pledged himself not to interfere with the respect claimed for the pope, or to put hindrances in the way of his exercising his authority.
In December the pope issued his proclamation also, directing all prelates to be present in person at the council, and all princes who could not attend to send deputies, who should be authorized to act in their name. In the vast crowd that obeyed the summons, we find nearly all the men of the age who were eminent in learning, station, and authority. In some cases they were freely elected, as at Paris, by provincial or national councils, and a fixed rate was allowed for their expenses, that nothing might interfere with their presence and their regular attendance upon the sessions of the council.
The only one of the rival popes who personally appeared at Constance was John XXIII. The hostility of Ladislaus in Italy had contributed greatly to induce him to consent that the council should be summoned to meet in a city beyond the limits of his government; but at the last moment, when he was about to set out for Constance, he heard the welcome intelligence of Ladislaus’ death. This man, his bitter foe, had gathered an army for the siege of Bologna, when he was arrested by the hand of disease, and forced to withdraw, first to Rome and then to Naples, where he breathed his last. The pope’s former reluctance to leave Italy returned. He stood no longer in pressing need of Sigismund’s aid. In his anxiety to secure Rome again, he sent his general, Isolani, to seize and take possession of it. He would have been glad to have followed himself. It is amusing to see the efforts of the pope and emperor to elude and deceive one another. Sigismund was afraid that now, after all, the pope would not appear at Constance. Some of his friends warned him of the danger he incurred of going thither as pope and coming back a private man. But the counsel of the cardinals, more anxious for the union of the church, prevailed. John determined, before he set out, to secure of the emperor the most advantageous terms possible. Sigismund, on his part, dared not refuse the pope’s demands, lest his absence should defeat the design of the council. The emperor’s commissary at Constance was to accept, in the emperor’s name, the pope’s terms, and the magistrates and burgesses of Constance were exhorted and commanded to swear, on their part, to their faithful observance. No pretext was to be left the pope for non-appearance. The emperor knew the man with whom he had to deal, and, with a policy which matched the pope’s, conceded everything. John XXIII was to be received at Constance with all the honors due to the papal dignity; he should be recognized as true and sole pontiff; he should be at perfect freedom to come or go, and should exercise his authority over his dependents and all that appertained to him, without restriction. The city was bound to see that justice was done him, and his safe-conducts were to be recognized and respected. Such were the terms sworn to and signed, by order of the emperor, before the pope would set out for the council.
At length, with many fears and forebodings, he commenced his journeys. On the first of October, 1414, he left Bologna. His equipage and attendance were splendid and imposing. Gold, silver, gems, and costly raiment added to the pomp and magnificence of a princely retinue of cardinals, nobles, and their attendants. At Merau he paused in his journey to confirm his alliance with Frederic, Duke of Austria, by which each was bound to support the other in his designs. On the twenty-eighth of October the pope reached Constance. Nine cardinals only, of the thirty-three who should have been present, were in his train. With these, however, and a large number of bishops and archbishops, and with the servants of his court, he made his entrance on horseback into the city. His reception was all that he could have claimed or expected. The clergy and magistrates met and escorted him with imposing pomp to the episcopal palace.
Already the streets were thronged with strangers from every part of Christendom, and more were on their way. There came thither to this celebrated council thirty cardinals, twenty archbishops, one hundred and fifty bishops, as many prelates, a multitude of abbots and doctors, and eighteen hundred priests. Among the sovereigns who attended in person, could be distinguished the Elector Palatine, the Electors of Mentz and of Saxony, and the Dukes of Austria, of Bavaria, and of Silesia. There were, besides, a vast number of margraves, counts, and barons, and a great crowd of noblemen and knights. At one time there might have been counted, as we are told, thirty thousand horses within the circuit of the city. Each prince, nobleman, and knight was attended by his train, and the number of persons present from abroad is estimated to have been not less than forty or fifty thousand. Among these were reckoned almost every trade and profession, and some whose profession was their disgrace, but whose instincts and tastes made them seek the welcome they found among the miscellaneous crowd.
The pope had already reached Constance, “the pit for catching foes,” as he called it, while observing it on his approach from a neighboring hill. The emperor was more tardily to make his appearance. Among the feeble monarchs of that day, in Europe, he towered conspicuous. Active, enterprising, intrepid, inexhaustible in resources, he owed the imperial scepter mainly to his own exertions. Often unsuccessful, his reverses were never suffered to repress his spirit or damp his energies. All the varieties of his experience had conspired to make him a shrewd and able politician, while his devotion to the interests of the church had gained him an influence and reputation that veiled the selfishness of his aims.
At the period of the assembling of the council, Sigismund was in the full strength and vigor of a mature manhood, with a prestige and power that restrained, if they could not suppress, the dissatisfactions of enemies and rivals. He was forty-seven years of age, and to the respect which he claimed for the vigor and energy of his measures, must be added the impression of his personal appearance. His manners were noble and engaging. His look and walk bespoke the emperor. He could converse with facility in several languages, nor as the son of Charles IV was he wanting in that regard for literature which honored at once his father’s memory and his own tastes. “I can in a single day make a thousand noblemen, he used to say, “but in a thousand years I cannot make a single scholar.” The fierce and often sanguinary impulse of his youth had been checked by his own discretion, as well as by the lessons of experience. The example of his brother served as a warning against the indulgence of his lusts; and though his impetuous temper, even on the throne, sometimes gained the mastery, it was only for the moment that the cooler dictates of reason and policy were forced to give way. His brother’s ruling passion was for wine and revelry, and it made him reckless of expenditure, but Sigismund, by his aspiration for the honor of restoring peace and union to the church, and in the pursuance of this design, was also liberal even to a degree of prodigality. With much that was grand and chivalrous in his nature, his life shows that he could, when necessary, adopt the arts of fraud and dissimulation to promote his purpose, and his memory will never lose the stain which his shameful breach of trust toward the Bohemian reformer has made indelible. With such station, talents, and reputation, the influence of Sigismund in the council was more controlling and decisive than that of any other member.
On the eleventh of October, while the pope was yet midway on his journey, John Huss left Prague for Constance. Before quitting the Bohemian capital, he took occasion to make a full declaration of his doctrinal views. Although his mind must at times have been filled by melancholy presentiments, his heart did not quail, nor did he neglect any legitimate means of vindicating his innocence. He openly declared his purpose to render at Constance, before the assembled representatives of the Christian world, a testimony of his faith. A few days before his departure, in a paper affixed to the gates of the palace, he announced that he was about to depart in order to justify himself before the council, “so that,” said he, “if anyone suspects me of heresy, let him proceed thither and prove, in presence of the pope and the doctors, if I ever entertained or taught any false or mistaken doctrine. If any man can convict me of having inculcated any doctrine contrary to the Christian faith, I will consent to undergo all the penalty to which heretics are liable. But I trust that God will not grant the victory to unbelievers—to men who outrage the truth.”
Huss next announced his readiness to render an account of his faith in presence of the archbishop of Prague and his clergy. He then boldly applied for a certificate of his orthodoxy from tile very person who, in virtue of his office, should have been mint anxious to condemn him if he had believed him guilty—the bishop of Nazareth, grand inquisitor of the diocese of Prague. The certificate was granted, though we can only surmise the influences which mint hate virtually extorted it. It seems most probable that the popular feeling enlisted on the side of the reformer constrained the inquisitor to sign a document which he would willingly have withheld. Au authentic copy of it, as drawn up before a notary, was in substance as follows: “By these presents, we make known to all men that we have often held converse with the honorable Master John Huss, bachelor of theology of the celebrated university of Prague; that we have had several serious conferences with him relative to the Holy Scriptures, and other matters; and that we have always considered him to be a faithful and good Catholic, not finding in him up to this day any evil or error. We certify besides, that the said John Huss has declared that he was ready to render reason for his faith in presence of the archbishop and his clergy against anyone that might come forward to accuse him of error or heresy; but that no one presented himself to support the charge. In faith of which we have delivered to him this letter, sealed with our great seal, this 30th August, 1414.”
Armed with this paper, Huss proceeded to the abbey of St. James, where the barons and the archbishop of Prague were assembled for public business. There he besought the prelate to declare openly, if he either accused or suspected him of heresy, and in case he did not, he conjured him to give a public testimony of the fact, which he might find of service in his journey to Constance. By another account, contained in a document subsequently drawn up by the nobles of Bohemia, it would appear that the question of the orthodoxy of Huss was put to the archbishop by the nobles themselves, and that his reply was, that he had never “known of any erroneous word on the part of Huss,” and that this answer was given of his own free will, and under no constraint, though it was added by the archbishop, that he thought “that Huss should purge himself from the excommunication which he had incurred.” It is undoubtedly true that such was the reply of the archbishop. Seven years after this he openly favored the Hussites.
A few days later, Huss asked permission to appear before a general assembly of the clergy of Prague, presided over by the archbishop. He offered to establish his innocence by scripture, by the holy canons of the church, and by the fathers; but his application was refused.
The motives which must have influenced the clergy in this matter are obvious. Undoubtedly they preferred to have Huss leave the city without such testimony as they would be constrained to give, and they hoped by means of the council to be permanently relieved of his presence. Some of them doubtless imagined that it would be much easier to deal with him in the distant city of Constance, where they could secretly magnify his errors, than in Prague, where his friends were at once so numerous and so powerful.
In the month of October, 1414, Huss bade adieu to his chapel at Bethlehem, where his voice was never more to be heard, and to his faithful friends and disciples, some of whom were to follow him in his path of self-denial, suffering, and martyrdom. He left behind him his faithful companion and bosom friend, Jerome, and the scene of parting was one of deep emotion on the part of each. “Dear master,” said Jerome, “be firm; maintain intrepidly what thou hast written and preached against the pride, avarice, and other vices of the churchmen, with arguments drawn from the Holy Scriptures. Should this task become too severe for thee, should I learn that thou hast fallen into any peril, I shall fly at once to thy assistance.”
The diet had demanded of the emperor a safe-conduct for Huss. This was readily granted him by Sigismund, in the usual form, and the document, dated “Spires, October 18,” was forwarded to him, so as to meet him on the road, not, however, till he had passed the borders of Bohemia, where the safe-conduct of Wenzel which he had received would cease to have validity. By the king, two staunch and faithful knights, the Lords of Chlum and Duba, were appointed as companions and protectors of Huss. Several other noble barons joined the escort. John de Chlum was one of the most devoted adherents of the reformer, and his life offers a pure model of the most touching and devoted friendship. His name in the eyes of posterity is inseparably associated with that of Huss.
Previously to his departure the master would have addressed a farewell sermon to his beloved followers, but time, or probably his own tender and sympathetic spirit, would not allow of it. His written valediction shows that he was not unmindful of the danger which he incurred. “My brethren,” said he, “do not suppose that I am provoking for myself unworthy treatment for any false doctrine. I am departing with a safe-conduct from the king to meet my many and mortal enemies. … I confide altogether in the all-powerful God, in my Savior. I trust that he will listen to your ardent prayers that he will put his wisdom and prudence into my mouth, in order that I may resist them; and that he will accord me his Holy Spirit, to fortify me in his truth, so that I may face with courage, temptations, prison, and if necessary, a cruel death. Jesus Christ suffered for his well-beloved; and ought we then to be astonished that he has left us his example, in order that we may ourselves endure with patience all things for our own salvation? He is God, and we are his creatures; he is the Lord, and we are his servants; he is Mater of the world, and we are contemptible mortals; yet he suffered! Why then should we not suffer also, particularly when suffering is for us a purification? Therefore, beloved, if my death ought to contribute to his glory, pray that it may come quickly, and that he may enable me to support all my calamities with constancy. But if it be better that I return among you, let us pray to God that I may return without stain, that is, that I may not suppress one tittle of the truth of the gospel, in order to leave my brethren an excellent example to follow. Probably, therefore, you will never more behold my face at Prague; but should the will of the all-powerful God deign to restore me to you, let us then advance with a firmer heart in the knowledge and the love of his law.”
It is not strange that Huss should have felt oppressed by the presentiment that he would never return to the scene of his past labors. While thoroughly conscious of his own integrity and honesty of purpose—an integrity and honesty which his enemies could not deny—he was to some extent aware of the unscrupulous means which a bigoted malice stood ready to employ. He deemed his return to Prague, at the best, doubtful. He knew that some of his most bitter foes would be present at the council, and that their whole influence would he exerted to secure his condemnation. He knew that his former friend and associate, who had once been almost a brother, with whom he had studied, ate, and slept, but now his most violent persecutor, Stephen Paletz, and a former curé of a church in Old Prague, Michael De Causis, along with several others, his bitter antagonists, had preceded him to Constance, and were determined on his ruin. He knew that the German nation, as represented in the council, would not forget their old grudge of virtual expulsion, as they considered it, from the university. And when we add to this his knowledge of the general corruption of the clergy, whom he had offended by his rebukes, and their readiness to become instruments in a transaction which could be covered with the veil of pious and devout zeal, we see that Huss may have well commenced his journey with the presentiment of imprisonment, if not of martyrdom.
But his spirit did not quail before the danger. He met it with no presumptuous rashness, but with the calm constancy and courage of a Christian hero. There was, indeed, one hope that contributed much to cheer and sustain him, and that was, that he would be privileged freely and fully to state and explain his views before the council, and show their accordance with what he still deemed the standards of the church—the scriptures and the fathers. In this hope he was doomed to disappointment, yet his faith in God humbled him to such a decree in his own esteem, while it forbade all fear of man, that the thought of turning aside or shunning the ordeal to which he was summoned seems never to have entered his mind.
In a letter which he wrote to one of his disciples, Priest Martin, at his setting out for the council, he speaks of himself with the greatest humility, and we seem to read the reformer’s heart while he unbosoms himself to his friend. He accuses himself, as if they were grave offense, of faults which most would have deemed too trifling to be noticed, of having felt pleasure in wearing rich apparel, and of having wasted hours in frivolous occupations. His own severe and enlightened conscience made him his own accuser where others could not bring the first charge of guilt. He adds these affecting instructions:
“May the glory of God and the salvation of souls occupy thy mind, and not the possession of benefices and estates. Beware of adorning thy house more than thy soul; and above all, give thy care to the spiritual edifice. Be pious and humble with the poor; and consume not thy substance in feasting. Shouldest thou not amend thy life, and refrain from superfluities, I fear thou will be severely chastised, as I am my self—I, who also made use of such things, led away by custom, and troubled by a spirit of pride. Thou knowest my doctrine, for thou hast received my instructions from thy childhood; it is useless therefore for me to write to thee any further. But I conjure thee by the mercy of our Lord, not to imitate me in any of the vanities into which thou hast seen me fall.” He concludes by making some bequests, and disposing, as if by will, of several articles which belonged to him; and then, on the cover of the letter, he adds this prophetic phrase, “I conjure thee, my friend, not to break this seal until thou art fully certified of my death.”
The spirit of the martyr glows brighter and more brightly in the farewell letters of Huss. We see him rising above all the influences of the fear or of the applause of men. His soul, always pure and upright, soars to a heavenly atmosphere of holy, elevated purpose. There is less of the impetuosity and the passion of former days, yet the torrent of zeal flows in a deeper, a calmer, but stronger current. W e discern, if possible, less than ever of the partisan, or of the popular orator fed on the public acclamation. He shuns the parting scene of a public leave-taking, where he knew that the strong affection which was felt for him would burst forth in turbulent grief. He needed no assurance of the attachment of the people, or of the nobility to sustain him. A firmer support he found in the promises of the divine Word, and in solitary communings with his own heart and with God. Henceforward he is to be thrown almost alone among bitter and implacable enemies. Strange faces will meet his, and prejudice will misrepresent the man and pervert his words. He stands already in presence of a cruel fate. But his soul is unmoved, unshaken by human terrors. Conscious of his own integrity, he plants his feet on the Rock of Ages. Bereft in great measure of human resource, he looks up to heaven for aid. Grace confers upon the reformer now a calm majesty of soul, such as we failed to discern while we saw him controlling others by his eloquence, or imbuing their minds with the deep sincerity and earnestness of his own convictions. With no attendant pomp—without bravado, with no disgusting exhibition of self-confidence—but with the lowliness, meekness, patience, and courage of a martyr, Huss sets out for the city where few will be found of spirit kindred to his own.
The reformer’s journey to Constance was quiet, orderly, and uninterrupted. His fame had preceded him, and all malice seemed lost in curiosity to see or hear the man of whom such stories lead been told. The simple earnestness of his speech, and the reasonableness of his views as he presented them, bespoke the favor of his auditors. The common people, and the humbler priests and curates, who had themselves suffered in some cases bitterly from the despotism and avarice of the higher ecclesiastics, would scarce find fault with a man who had really been fighting their battles, and was now suffering in their cause. There was, in fact, throughout the whole Christian world, a conviction of the need of reformation, but a conviction most deeply rooted in the minds of those whose sympathies would lead them to adopt for their leader some Piers Ploughman—someone of themselves, whose honest and straightforward speech spared neither princely arrogance nor prelatical corruption. In Huss they saw one whom the persecuting rage of the priests had forced into notoriety, but who, in stigmatizing their hypocrisy, arrogance, and avarice, had really shown himself the friend of the poor, humble, and oppressed. Throughout his journey he experienced only respect and kindness. Even when he had crossed the Bohemian frontier, and entered the German territory where he expected to meet the malice instigated by the expelled students, he was happily disappointed. He was greeted with favor instead of scorn.
From Nuremberg, which he had reached on the twentieth day of October, he writes back to his friends, giving an account of his journey up to that time. In his own characteristic language the reformer says, “Be it known to you, beloved brethren, that I have not found it necessary to travel once in incognito, since the day of my departure, but have ridden freely, and without disguise. I have traveled on horseback, and with my features exposed to public view. On my drawing near Bernau, I found the curé and his vicars waiting fur me; when I came up to them, he drank to my health in a cup of wine, and also, when we reached the inn, presented me with a large flagon of wine. He and his people gladly expressed their satisfaction with my opinions, and the good man called himself my old but unknown friend. I was afterwards joyfully received by all the Germans in Neustadt. As we traveled through Weiden, a very considerable crowd eyed us with the astonishment of admiration, and when we arrived at Sultzbach, we stopped at the house where the district session was that day held. The assembly being not yet dispersed, I thus addressed the consuls and notables of the town: “Behold, I am that John Huss of whom you have doubtless heard much evil. Here I am: ascertain the real state of the case by interrogating me yourselves.” We conversed together for some time, and they approved of all I said. We next passed through Hersbruck, and spent the night in the town of Lauf, where the curé, a great jurist, and his vicars had come to see me, with whom I conversed, much to their satisfaction.” Huss next proceeded to Nuremberg, the chief city of Franconia, where the independent spirit of the citizens, which has since been subdued in the lapse of centuries, then boldly defied the imperial fortress, and claimed the free exercise of municipal rights. Some merchants having ridden forward, and given notice that Huss was approaching the city, the people came thronging to the streets and public places looking eagerly for his coming. They gazed on the Bohemian escort as it passed by, anxiously inquiring which was John Huss. As soon as they discovered him, they surrounded and accompanied him to the inn, with many encouraging assurances that the council would not dare to injure him. During his repast, some priests were announced. He rose from the table to meet them, but finding that they wished for private conversation with him, Huss replied, “that he was unwilling to whisper his doctrines in the ears of only a few individuals, but would rather proclaim them on the housetop.” “I speak only in public, and they who wish to hear me have only to listen.” By means of placards on the doors of the churches, these men, and all who felt disposed to come, were invited to a religious conference, on the afternoon of the following day. A large number assembled. Besides the townspeople, the magistrates of the city were present. The discussion continued till evening. Among others, a Carthusian doctor presented himself, and displayed much subtlety in argument. But the popular voice was on the side of the reformer. When in the evening Huss concluded the defense of his opinions, the mayor, councilors, magistrates, and people overwhelmed him with clamors of applause. “At last they said to me,” writes Huss, “Master, all that we have just heard is Catholic; we have taught those things for many, many years, looking on them as true; and such we consider them still. Undoubtedly you will return from this council with honor.” “Learn,” says Huss, “that I have not hitherto met with a single enemy, but that in every place where I have stopped I have been excellently received. In fact, the bitterest enemies I have are certain obscure persons from Bohemia. What more shall I say to you? The Lords Wenceslaus Duba and John Chlum act piously and nobly toward me. They are the heralds and advocates of the truth, and with them, God giving his aid, all passes most suitably.”
From hospitable Nuremberg Huss traveled to Swabia, on the extreme border of which Constance was situated. Here, too, the courteous kindness and respect with which he was welcomed far surpassed his expectations. At Biberach, some fifty miles from Constance, he disputed with several priests, and other learned men, on the subject of obedience to the pope. The popular satisfaction with the result was such, that be was borne in triumph through the street. Such a reception, by those who were personally strangers to Huss, shows how ready was the soil of the popular mind for the seeds of reforming truth.
On the third of November the Bohemians arrived at Constance.
From every direction crowds were thronging to the famous council. Multitudes had already arrived, and more were on their way. The buildings of the city were insufficient to accommodate the immense concourse. Booths and wooden buildings were erected outside the walls, and thousands of pilgrims were encamped in the adjoining country. The whole neighborhood presented a curious and novel scene. All classes of society—laity as well as clergy; representatives of every nation, with their peculiarities of costume and manner; the soldier in his armor; the prince followed by his escort; the prelate in his robes; the magistrate with his symbols of authority; servants hastening on errands; thousands providing for the food and entertainment of those who had gathered to the council—all contributed to make the city of Constance a miniature Christendom. To consult the various tastes of the immense crowd of strangers, there were shows and amusements of all kinds, dramatic entertainments and representations of every description, varied with the solemn or gaudy pomp of religious proceedings. Van der Hardt has preserved, on the large folio pages of his “History of the Council,” the pictured insignia of those who were in person, or by deputy, present during its sessions. Amid the infinite multiplicity and diversity of these coats of arms the mind is confused, and constrained to wonder at the scene within the walls of the Kaufhaus, where so many of them were blazoned or suspended about the walls. We have kings, popes, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, princes, dukes, marquises, counts, barons, nobles, knights, ambassadors, cardinals, abbots, masters, each with original or ancestral contributions to the heraldry of Europe, with devices that seem to have exhausted the symbolisms of nature and of art. What then must have been the spectacle which the city of Constance presented, when all these dignitaries were gathered within its walls, and each vied with the other in the pomp and magnificence of his attendance and display! Who that walked these crowded streets, or gazed upon the princely robes, the rich and costly attire sparkling with jewels and shining with gold, the waving plumes, the burnished armor, the embroidered standards, the splendid equipage, the lengthened cavalcade, which, as they swept by, seemed to realize some vision of oriental fancy, who would have imagined that amid such scenes of worldly pomp and pageantry were to be sought decisions and counsels, inspired by the Holy Ghost—sentiments accordant with the doctrines of the Galilean fishermen, or sympathy for the evangelical simplicity of the Bohemian reformer!
But let us not forget that, beneath all this gaudy ostentation of wealth and power, there was present another element, not worldly perhaps, though unconsciously controlled by worldly influences, which deserves a momentary notice. Among those who could claim membership in this most ecumenical of all the councils, were men whom we would have been glad to have found in better company, and whose ability, taste, learning, or devotion, however mistaken, suffices, and more than suffices, for their lack of coronets or heraldric device.
Literature and science were not unworthily represented. By the side of the dignitaries of the church and empire stood several of those whom the afterworld honors as the living lights of their age. There in the service, but not in serfdom, to the pope, might be seen Poggio Bracciolini of Florence, one of the most illustrious scholars of his day, his sentiments liberal and manly, and himself possessed with a zeal for literature which was rewarded by the discovery, in the old monasteries, of lost manuscripts of the ancient classics, the writings of Quintilian, Lucretius, Cicero, and others. There, too, was Thierry de Niém, secretary to several popes, and whom Providence seems to have placed near the source of so many iniquities that by his pen they might be consecrated to historic infamy. With these must be recorded also Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, afterward Pope Pius II, whose fame, as the wearer of the triple-crown, has been long since lost in the greater merit of his pen. There was also, eminent among the members of the council, Francis Zabarella, Cardinal of Florence, a man whose learning, virtues, and moderation secured the respect of all the members of the council, and whose funeral, not long after this, was attended in a most imposing manner by the emperor himself, as well as the highest dignitaries of church and state. The feebleness of the Eastern empire had no need to blush for its representative, when it sent in its behalf to Constance the learned Manuel Chrysoloras, a man whose worth was testified by the gratitude of his scholar Poggio, who erected a handsome monument to his memory. By the side of the epitaph that declares his virtues, were verses composed in his honor by Æneas Sylvius, and inscribed in letters of gold.
But among all who were members of the council of Constance, none occupied a more important position, or exerted greater influence upon the decisions of the body, than John Charlier Gerson, and Peter D’Ailly, Cardinal of Cambray, honored with the appellation of “The Eagle of France.” Gerson, for a long time, might be regarded as the master-spirit of the council. As ambassador of Charles VI, king of France, and chancellor of the church and university of Paris, his position was one to give force and effect to his word, and it is not too much to say that he was fully equal to his station. To a character above reproach, and a zeal which rose superior to every obstacle and rejected every seducing influence, he joined a degree of ability for thought, speech, and action which made him facile princeps, the foremost man among the foremost men of the council. More than perhaps any other member, he had a well and clearly-devised scheme of his own, a philosophy of ecclesiasticism, which was the product of years of careful and observing thought. Better, perhaps, than any other member, he understood the attitude and relations of the figures on the chessboard of Christendom, and knew the moves to be made to win the game for the church.
For the most part, the Cardinal of Cambray, although raised by John XXIII to the honors of the purple, occupied an independent position, and was found generally by the side of Gerson. Revered by the latter as his former master, teacher and pupil were now united in common views and common efforts. Both had learned in the university of Paris some lessons in regard to the circumstances and corruption of the church which were not yet lost upon them, and both were men whose fearless integrity rose above the allurements of greatness or the frowns of power.
The universities of Paris, Cologne, Vienna, Heidelberg, Prague, Orleans, Erfurt, Avignon, Bologna, Cracow, and Oxford were represented at the council. Several independent states and cities sent deputies or ambassadors.
Thus were assembled at Constance, in obedience to the summons of pope and emperor, the component parts of a so-called Christian council, into whose hands were given in trust the suffering interests of Christendom. In the sequel we shall see the results accomplished, such as might be expected of a body of men drawn together by the most diverse and discordant motives, each of them for the most part impelled by an ambition of his own. The thoughtful observer turns his eye away from all the pageantry and pomp that allure the senses, to the humble dwelling of a poor widow, whom Huss compares to her of Sarepta, who received Elijah. In her house the Bohemian reformer found a welcome refuge, if not a secure asylum.
Arrest and Imprisonment of Huss
The next morning after the arrival of Huss at Constance, the two noblemen who had accompanied him, John of Chlum and Wenzel of Duba, visited the pope to notify him of the fact. They informed him that Huss had come, provided with a safe-conduct from the emperor, and begged to know, without reserve, whether he might remain in Constance free from the risk of violence. The pope’s answer seemed frank and cordial. “Had he killed my own brother,” said John XXIII, thanking the knights for this mark of deference, “not a hair of his head should be touched while he remained in the city.”
No doubt the pope was sincere in his declaration. He did not wish to offend the Bohemian knights. It was his interest rather to secure their favor. It is impossible, from his known character, to suppose that he felt in the least concerned for the fate of Huss, so long as he could be left unmolested himself. The time had not yet come when it was his policy, by an affected zeal for orthodoxy, to avert from his own head the indignation his crimes merited, and concentrate it upon Huss.
During the first few weeks of his residence in Constance, Huss enjoyed a tolerable share of liberty. His sentence of excommunication was suspended, not from any regard for himself personally, but that the city might not be subject to interdict on his account. He was enjoined, however, not to be present at public mass, and to avoid giving any occasion for scandal. At his own lodgings he was left unmolested. Here he conversed with large numbers of persons who came to visit him, vindicating his innocence, and defending his doctrines by word and pen. Each day he celebrated mass in his chamber, in the presence of many who assembled from the neighborhood. The bishop of Constance is said to have sent his vicar to prohibit the continuance of the practice, and to represent to him that, as excommunicate, it was not permissible for him to discharge the sacred offices of priest. To this we are told that Huss replied in a somewhat defiant tone, declaring that he paid no heed to the excommunication. But the story rests on doubtful authority, and does not accord with the prudent and conciliatory tone which Huss assumed from his first arrival in the city.
His attention was especially directed towards making preparation fur the public audience before the council, in the confidence of which he had set out for Constance. With this object in view he prepared two discourses, which he wished to deliver, and which have been preserved to us in his works. The first of these is substantially a confession of his faith. He declares his assent to the Apostolic creed, protesting that he has never intentionally advanced or defended anything opposed to any article of faith. The Holy Scriptures are, in his judgment, the true rule of doctrinal belief, and sufficient for salvation. He would not exclude recognition of the sentences of the doctors who have faithfully expounded scripture, and he professes his veneration for general and provincial councils, decretals, laws, canons, and constitutions, so far as they are conformed to the word of God. Faith is the foundation of all the virtues which are essential to the service of God. It must precede the confession of the lips and active obedience. Every man is of necessity a disciple of God or of the devil. The rudiments, the alphabet, of either school is faith or infidelity. He holds, moreover, as he had taught in Bethlehem chapel, that we are not to put faith in the virgin, the saints, the church, or the pope, but in God alone. The highest form of faith is that which is due to Holy Scripture as the primitive standard of truth. A Christian faith necessitates a life of obedience, and hence a person in mortal sin is only a Christian in name, and cannot recite the creed without lying.
On the subject of the church, he presents the same view which he had put forth in his treatise two years previous, but dwells more particularly on the doctrine of the “sleeping church.” He admits that souls in purgatory may be benefited by the intercession of the living, and prays Christ to forgive those who had said or insinuated that he denied the intercession of saints. He takes pains to express his regard for the Virgin Mary as our advocate, mediatress, and in some sort, the cause of the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of Christ, and consequently of our salvation.
The second sermon of Huss is on the subject of the peace and union of the church. Here he often employs language taken from the writings of Jerome, Bernard, Gregory, and others. The tone of the discourse is less pungent and severe than that of many which were subsequently delivered in the presence of the council. But Huss was not to be allowed to preach. His Bohemian enemies had followed him to Constance, resolved upon his ruin. The principal ones among them were, of course, Stephen Paletz, Michael de Causis, and Andrew Broda, but besides, there were also Nason, Beuesch, Nicholas of Podwein, Nicholas, priest of the Vissehrad, John Stokes the Englishman, and some twelve others. Stanislaus was on the way to join them, when he was struck down by the pestilence and died at Neuhaus.
His enemies had no sooner reached the city, than they nailed placards in all public places, denouncing Huss as a heretic and as excommunicate. Spies were set upon his track, to note his conduct and report his words. His enemies had the largest liberty to vaunt their malignant calumnies, while he was confined almost entirely to his lodgings. They approached the pope and cardinals, and employed all their arts to increase the prejudice against Huss. They bore it ill that the limited measure of freedom which he enjoyed should be extended to him, and they felt that the first step necessary to the success of their designs was to secure his arrest. His course in conversing with those who came to visit him gave them occasion for representing to the cardinals the danger of leaving him any longer at liberty.
The spirit of his persecutors was bitter and unrelenting, as well as unscrupulous. Paletz and Michael de Causis were the most active. As to the latter, he was a fit tool for a conspiracy deigned to injure and betray the innocent. He had formerly been curate of the parish church of St. Adelbert, in Prague. He had acquired, moreover, an unenviable character for unscrupulous and greedy avarice. Abandoning his clerical duties, he gave himself up to the pursuits of a fraudful speculation. It was not long before he found his way to court, and became a boon companion of the reckless and drunken king. Abetting, like a true parasite, the schemes of Wenzel, he waited only the fitting moment to abuse and betray the confidence he had gained. Under pretense of advancing a certain royal project for mining, which promised to replenish the coffers of the king, he received for the purpose a large sum of money in advance, with which he absconded in the night. But with money at command, he knew where his crimes would be found venial. He offered his services to the papal court, and John XXIII could scarcely boast of a more subtle knave or a more serviceable tool. His special business now was one in which his heart, so far as he had any, was enlisted; it was to secure the condemnation of Huss. As a select member of the papal suite, he had the task assigned him of endeavoring to crush a man who had been once his neighbor, and toward whom, beyond question, while at the court of Wenzel, he had professed a warm friendship and respect.
Paletz, Broda, and Stokes, if not more respectable, were at least less infamous. But all of them had been engaged in controversy with Huss, and the bitterness of their zeal was aggravated by unpleasant memories. They had felt the blows of the reformer’s logic, and had not escaped from the conflict with the prestige of success. Paletz no doubt charged his banishment from Prague to the account of Huss.
Of the other conspirators we have less knowledge. But it throws some light upon their character that they could affiliate with such a villain as Michael de Causis. All, or nearly all of them, had their grievances to avenge. They had pursued Huss at Prague with such means as they could command, and now they had followed him to Constance resolved that he should not escape.
The measures which they adopted proved successful. The cardinals were persuaded to summon Huss before them. Indeed, in the circumstances, it would have been difficult for them to refuse. They were pressed with complaints against Huss, and their attention was drawn to his writings by the studious efforts of his enemies. By the latter they were followed from place to place, visited in their dwellings, and besought to consent to active measures of prosecution. The articles of accusation against him—some of them utterly false—were drawn up with a malicious diligence, and the substance of them repeated wherever it was possible to excite prejudice.
Nor was this all. It was a sore grievance to the enemies of Huss that he should be allowed intercourse with those who thronged to visit him at his lodgings. Attempts were made to induce him to desist from the observance of religious services to which citizens were admitted. The limited privilege of access to the minds of other, which he had at first enjoyed, was to be denied him. He had already, at the instance of the bishop of Constance, consented to remain as private as possible, so as not to afford occasion of scandal. But, for still greater security, it was necessary to operate on the minds of the people and induce them to refrain from visiting him. This project the bishop of Lubeck undertook to execute, partly in person and partly by emissaries. The report was studiously disseminated that Huss, as an extraordinary magician, could read the thoughts of all who approached him within a certain distance, and that he was, in particular, an adept in discerning all that might pass in the minds of those who should attend his sermons, not infrequently making his discoveries publicly known. To such arts did his enemies resort to prevent his access to the minds of others. Even this was only preparatory to the more decisive measure of his arrest, upon which his enemies were resolved.
Meanwhile some progress had been made in the affairs of the council. It leas doubtless far from disagreeable to the pope to find himself at Constance so much more promptly than the emperor. It afforded him a favorable opportunity to shape the opening sessions of the council in his own favor. He wished to have it regarded as the continuation, or at least the authorized successor of that of Pisa, to the legitimacy and validity of which he appealed to sustain his own claims as the rightful and sole pontiff. The prolonged absence of the emperor relieved him of one obstacle to the accomplishment of his designs.
The first day of November, 1414, had been fixed for the opening of the council, by the appointment of the emperor and the bull of convocation. By the advice of the cardinals, the pope contented himself with celebrating mass, and adjourning the opening of the council to the third of the month. The announcement made by Zabarella in the pope’s name was skillfully worded. “Pope John XXIII resolved at Lodi to celebrate at Constance a general council in continuation of that of Pisa, and the opening session will take place on the third of November.” The inference was plain. The legitimate tenure of his office by John XXIII, to the exclusion of his rival, was thus coolly assumed.
On the next day six additional cardinals arrived, and were received with great show and pomp. Twelve Auditores Rotæ, or judges of the papal court, were appointed, and were conducted by escort to St. Stephen’s church, which had been fitted up for the purpose. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week were set apart by them to hear ecclesiastical causes.
The third of November arrived, but the opening session was deferred to the fifth. The pope was now ready to proceed. Fifteen cardinals, two patriarchs, twenty-three archbishops, and a large number of prelates were present. At the early hour of seven o’clock in the morning, a congregation was held, to complete all the necessary arrangements. When this was done, all the bells of the city were rung to announce the fact. The procession, swelled by all the clergy in the city, and accompanied by an immense crowd that pressed upon it, moved to the cathedral church. The religious rites usual at the opening of a council were observed, and a sermon was preached by a Benedictine doctor. The next session was appointed for the sixteenth of the month.
Before it arrived, the numbers of the council were largely increased. On the ninth, five cardinals and a large number of bishops and of the nobility arrived, and the pope received the welcome intelligence that his forces had recovered full possession of Rome. The following day was consequently appointed and observed as a day of thanksgiving for the favorable event. In the midst of its solemnities, the patriarch of Constantinople and the grand master of Rhodes entered the city.
Already busy hands were working the wires of ecclesiastical intrigue. Behind the scenes there were plotting and counter-plotting, bargain and sale, logrolling and bribery, the details of which no history could record. But amid a crowd of competitors, the pontifical schemer was facile princeps. If we may believe Thierry de Niem—and no man had better opportunities than himself for observation—the pope wove the net of his intrigue around the council, and, in his palace, the center of it, watched every thread, and eyed, by means of his partisans, every victim. He surrounded himself with the old associates and “hucksters” of his simony. His court was crowded with them. By their instrumentality, and that of bishops and prominent members of the council bought over to his interest by promised favors, or secured by those arts of which he was a consummate master, he acquired early intelligence of every project, and the means of thwarting it or converting it to his own interest. Every party had its traitors on whom he could rely, and no measure was discussed or agitated so secretly that he did not hear of it before he closed his eyes to slumber. The great majority of the Italians stood blindly committed in his favor.
From day to day congregations were held, at which the policy of the council, and the measures to be taken, were earnestly and sometimes angrily discussed. The great problem of the schism was the one upon the solution of which all minds were intent. At the congregation held November 12th, the pope chanced to be absent. In the exercise of the freedom which his absence permitted, an important paper was read, which, after detailing the steps to be taken for the more full organization of the council, and the proper officers to be appointed, closed with declaring that the union of the church must precede measures for its reformation; that no effort should be spared to unite the church under John XXIII; that the voluntary cession of the contestants was desirable, but in case of their refusal, they were to be constrained and treated as enemies and destroyers of the church, in spite of the language of their flatterers, who claimed that a pope was under no obligation to obey the decrees of a general council.
The first part of this document contained a recognition of the authority of the council of Pisa, and was doubtless agreeable to John XXIII, but the latter part was less to his taste, and none ventured to present it to him. In the following congregation, November 15, it was not even noticed. But the pope must soon have had full information in regard to it, and, dissembling his dissatisfaction, must have found it necessary to parry a blow which, aimed ostensibly at others, might yet fall with crushing weight on his own head. He did attempt to parry it, and, as we shall see, the foil he used was the heresy of Huss.
Due provision having been made, the session of the sixteenth of the month was held. John XXIII presided. The cardinal Jordan de Usurnis celebrated mass, and the pontiff delivered a discourse from Zechariah 8:16—”Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates.” It is easier to conceive than describe the feelings with which men like Nein must have listened to words in which the pope uttered his own sentence, and heightened, by the contrast of his eulogy on justice, the hue of his own crimes. He exhorted all to carefully consider and heartily communicate whatever could tend to the peace and purity of the church. There were some in the council who were prepared most ungraciously to accept his invitation.
The pope closed his discourse, and Zabarella, taking his stand near the pontiff, read in a loud voice the preamble of the bull of convocation, in which the favorite idea of the pope, claiming the council of Constance as successor to that of Pisa, was again presented. The reading of the bull itself was completed by an apostolic secretary, when the cardinal resumed, addressing the council in behalf of the pope, setting forth, in substance, that having issued his summons for the council, the pope had now, at the time appointed, come with his cardinals to Constance, fully resolved to employ all his means and influence to promote the peace and reformation of the church; and, in order to the prosecution of so holy a work, in which none should presume on his own wisdom, he ordains that, during the continuance of the council, solemn mass should be celebrated every Thursday in all the churches, cathedral and collegiate, secular and regular, of the city; and, to engage all devoutly to assist, he grants forty days’ indulgence to all who shall be present, and to priests, with whom he includes all the higher clergy, who are exhorted to celebrate mass, a year’s indulgence. All Christians are exhorted to obtain from heaven, by prayer, fasting, alms, and other good works, a happy issue for the council. It was added, that as the principal object in view is the maintenance of the Catholic faith, according to the ancient councils, all who are versed in the writings that concern them, are bound, individually and collectively, to consider well what may contribute to this end, while attention is especially to be directed to errors that for some time past have been reported to have widely spread in certain portions of the world, and preeminently to those which were originated by Wickliffe.
To all, the pope assured the largest liberty in setting forth their views. For preserving the order of the council, he cited and commended the canon of the council of Toledo, which enjoined the duty of speaking discreetly and to the point; to abstain from. noise or tumult; not to laugh or jeer; not to contend, or conduct with passion or obstinacy, under pain of expulsion and excommunication for the space of three days. This canon, as we shall have occasion to see hereafter, would not have been a bad one to have observed. The reputation of the council would have been better for it.
The names of those nominated as officers of the council were also submitted and approved. Berthold de Ursinis was designated palatine and guard of the council, and to him the protection and security of the body were committed. Notaries, secretaries, and auditors were appointed, and the nominations were unanimously confirmed. The session closed with the announcement that the council would again meet on the seventeenth of the following month.
Up to this time John XXIII had met with few obstacles in the prosecution of his plans. His time had been carefully improved in strengthening his party, and increasing the number of his adherents. Upon the Italians he could count almost to a man, and the large number of them who were present assured him a powerful minority, if not even a majority in point of numbers. To the Bohemians he had shown himself friendly up to the last moment, but the announcement made in the last session, of the duty of the council to pay special heed to the heresies that had sprung from Wickliffe, foreshadowed the policy which the pope was forced to adopt by the circumstances in which he was placed.
For him, indeed, no subject could have been more welcome than the heresy charged on Huss. In the earnest prosecution of this, he might depend on the support of the large number who identified the views of the Bohemian reformer with those of Wickliffe. So secure did he feel in his own position, that he ventured, on the third day after the session (November 19th), to have the insignia of his rivals, Benedict and Gregory, which their ambassador who had just arrived had set up, torn down from over the doors of their lodgings. The act of violence was perpetrated in the darkness of night—no one could doubt by whose instigation—but when complained of to the council, the opinions of members were so diverse that no action could be taken. It was for John XXIII a very opportune measure to divert attention from himself to the heresy of Huss. It gratified the enemies of the latter, and secured for the former that reputation of zeal for the purity of faith which was so necessary as a cloak to his enormities. His recommendations bore speedy fruit. The prosecutors of Huss were encouraged to a more bold and open assault upon him.
On the 28th of November a meeting of cardinals was held in the episcopal palace, to take the case of Huss into consideration. He was cited to present himself before them. Two bishops, accompanied by the mayor of the city, and a knight, bore the citation. They found Huss at his lodgings, where he was quietly dividing his time between study and familiar conversation with his friends. They informed him of their errand, stating that they had been sent by the pope and cardinals to request him, in accordance with his expressed desire to give account of his doctrines, to appear before them.
“I did not come here,” calmly replied Huss, “with the intention of pleading my cause before the pope and the cardinals, and I never desired any such thing; but I wished to appear before the general council, in the presence of all, and there, openly and plainly, reply, on every point proposed to me, according as God shall inspire me for my defense. Yet I do not refuse to appear previously before the cardinals; and, if they act unfairly toward me, I shall put my trust in the Saviour Jesus Christ, and shall be more happy to die for his glory than live to deny the truth as taught in the Holy Scriptures.”
The bearers of the citation conducted themselves toward Huss with gentleness and respect. They had, however, taken the precaution to station bands of soldiers in the neighborhood before presenting the citation, so that resistance, had it been offered, would have been vain. Huss, unsuspicious of the fact, complied readily with the summons. On the lower floor he was met by the mistress of the house, Fida by name, who took leave of him with tears. Struck with a presentiment of death, and deeply moved, he bestowed on her his blessing. He then mounted his horse, and, attended by his noble friend John de Chlum, followed the bishops to the episcopal palace.
The cardinals were already assembled, but it is doubtful whether John XXIII was present. It was but little more than a week since Cardinal D’Ailly had arrived, and he now, for the first time, met the much defamed Bohemian reformer. So far as severity of language in reprobation of ecclesiastical abuse was concerned, both were equally implicated. The former Bishop of Cambray, now a cardinal, had exhibited as little reverence for papal authority as Huss himself. The two men now stood face to face, and there is reason to believe that the first impression made upon the cardinal by the bearing and language of Huss was far from unfavorable.
Huss saluted the cardinals, and by them was addressed as follows: “Master John Huss, we have heard many things of you, which, if true, cannot be tolerated. Public fame accuses you of having disseminated in Bohemia errors of the gravest kind, and such as are manifestly opposed to the Catholic church. We have summoned you here before us, to learn the truth of the case.” “Be assured, I beg of you, reverend fathers,” replied Huss, “that I would much rather die than be convicted of any heresy, much more of many, and those of the gravest kind, as you express it. And to this end have I cheerfully come to this council, giving my word that if anyone can convince me of any error, I will unhesitatingly abjure it.”
“It is well spoken,” said the cardinals, as they closed their morning session, and withdrew, leaving Huss, with his friend Chlum, in custody. But they had given to his words a meaning which they were never intended to convey. Huss wished to be convinced by reason and scripture. He would not blindly bow to the authority of the pope, cardinals, or council.
During the interval between the morning and afternoon sessions, a monk of the order of Minorite friars approached to converse with Huss. His object was not at first suspected, but when his character and standing were afterwards known, it was suspected that he was a tool of the cardinals, and had been sent by them to entrap Huss while off his guard. In a friendly tone, and with an appearance of ingenuous inquiry, he accosted the prisoner; with insinuating art he assumed the appearance of a simple-minded and ignorant man, anxious to gain instruction. “I have heard,” said he, “that many opinions have been attributed to you which are opposed to the Catholic faith, and these things have excited scruples in my mind. In the first place, they accuse you of believing that only bread remains in the sacrament of the alter, after consecration and the pronunciation of the sacramental words.” Huss replied, promptly and directly, that the charge was false. “What!” said the monk, “is not that your belief?” “By no means,” replied Huss. The monk was disposed to insist yet further, when Chlum, suspecting his purpose, interrupted him, and rebuked him fur his impertinence. Excusing himself on the ground of his ignorance and his desire for information, the monk changed the subject. “What do you think,” said he, “of the union of the human and divine nature in the person of Jesus Christ?” On this, Huss turned himself to Chlum, and said, in Bohemian, “This fellow, be sure, is not so ignorant as he pretends, for he has proposed to me a must difficult question.” Then addressing the monk, he replied, “My brother, you say that you are simple-minded, but by your subtle question I perceive that you are double-minded, and that, under a plain appearance, you conceal a most shrewd and penetrating mind. But whatever you may be, know that this union is personal, inseparable, and entirely supernatural.” On this the monk withdrew, thanking Huss for his good instructions. Huss afterward learned from one of the soldiers that this pretended monk was Didacus, one, of the most able theologians of Lombardy. He expressed his regret that he had not known it at the time, that he might have improved the opportunity fur a more full and extended conversation. “Would to God,” said he, “that all my adversaries resembled him, and fortified by the succor of the scriptures, I should not fear one of them.”
Huss and Chlum remained in custody until the reassembling of the cardinals at four o’clock in the afternoon. They met as before in the pope’s chamber. The question now before them was what should be done with Huss. His enemies, Paletz and Causis, were present, employing all their influence to secure his imprisonment. They urged and insisted that he should not be set at liberty. It is altogether probable that the eight articles of accusation which they had elaborately drawn up, were presented on this occasion. These were to the effect that Huss rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation; that a priest in mortal sin cannot administer the sacraments; that by the church is not to be understood the pope, clergy, or members of the hierarchy, and that its endowment by secular princes is unwise; that all priests are equal, and it is false that bishops alone have the right to consecrate and ordain; that the entire church has no power of the keys, when the whole clergy is in gross sin; and that Huss had contemned his excommunication, having read mass every day on his journey to Constance.
This document had been penned by Causis, and he did not fail, after presenting it, to add other aggravations of the guilt of Huss. He accused him of having been the author of the troubles in the university; of having been the only one there who held the errors of Wickliffe; of having inflamed the laity against the clergy; and of having gathered to himself a body of adherents who were heretical, and enemies of the Roman church. Hence he inferred that if Huss should escape the severity of the council, he would do more harm than any heretic had done since the days of Constantine; and he therefore supplicated the pope to appoint without delay a commission to examine him, and doctors who should make a careful review of his writing.
It is uncertain whether these accusations and the petition were presented on this occasion, or within a day or two subsequent. However this may be, the cardinals decided that Huss should be kept under arrest. As night approached, the provost of the pontifical palace informed John de Chlum that he was at liberty, but that Huss must remain in custody. The noble knight felt his sense of justice outraged by the announcement of a measure in his view so base and perfidious. Fired to indignation, he complained most bitterly that a worthy and upright man had been lured by false representations into an infamous snare. It was only adding outrage to injustice, when his persecutors, as they passed and repassed Huss, insultingly cried out, “Behold, we have possession of thee; and thou shalt not escape till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”
Chlum hastened to the pope to inform him of what had taken place, and to remonstrate with him on the violation of his promise. He exhorted him not so unworthily to disregard his plighted faith. John XXIII declared that be had done nothing against Huss, and, pointing to the cardinal. and bishops, exclaimed, “Why do you impute anything to me, when you well know that I am myself here in their power?”
There might have been some weight in this exculpation, if the pope had shown any disposition, then or subsequently, to befriend Huss. But it was too obvious that he was merely the creature of circumstance, and the slave of his own interest. Huss was personally to him an object of supreme indifference, but if he could divert the attention of the council from himself to the business of investigating heresy, he would gain an important object. So far, he saw no reason to interfere with the measures of the cardinals. He in fact acceded to the petition of the prosecutors, and appointed a commission of three—the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Bishop of Lubeck, and the Bishop of Tiefern—who were to hear the witnesses against Huss as well as in his defense, and report to the council.
Huss was given over to the charge of the Bishop of Constance, and remained eight days with the Canon of the cathedral. He was taken thence (December 6, 1414) to the prison of the Dominican monastery on the banks of the Rhine. His enemies could scarcely have selected a place of confinement more nauseous or unhealthy. The monastery was situated near the spot where the Rhine issues from the lake of Constance. Here he was thrown into an underground apartment, through which every sort of impurity was discharged into the lake. This place at least—more removed from the noise and excitement of the city—might be regarded as sufficiently secure. Huss was left in the custody of the friars.
The noxious stench and effluvia of the place were not long in producing their effect upon the health of the prisoner. In a few hours Huss was thrown into a violent fever, which threatened his life. The aggravated injustice of his arrest and imprisonment undoubtedly contributed to that mental excitement which would exasperate the disease. What must Huss, conscious of his innocence, have thought, in the solitude and suffering of his prison, of the Christianity, the justice, or humanity of men, who illustrated their orthodoxy by such harsh treatment and barbarous treachery as that to which he was now made a victim?
Meanwhile John de Chlum had not relaxed his efforts in the prisoner’s behalf. The pope had referred him to the cardinals as the authors of the arrest. He proceeded, therefore, successively to visit the four cardinals who represented respectively the German, English, French, and Italian nations. But they received his application with cold indifference. He urged in behalf of Huss the imperial safe-conduct; but the first told him that the safe-conduct derived its authority, in the first instance, from the council itself, who could accept or reject secular documents of a similar nature at their option. The second declared that no faith need be kept with heretics. Shame on the Englishman, whose native good sense told him, even in his bigotry, that he had hit upon the only principle that could afford even a specious justification of the treatment of Huss. The French and Italian cardinals, informed of Chlum’s visit, and aware of his errand, closed their doors upon him, and paid him no attention.
Stung to deeper indignation by such unmanly and ungenerous treatment, Chlum rushed out among the people who were gathered about the papal palace, out of sympathy, as he supposed, for the prisoner. How great was his disappointment! The enemies of Huss had subsidized the dregs of the mob in their cause. The priests had dispersed their creatures in all directions to spread the report that Huss had no safe-conduct, but was, in fact, an outlaw. The rumors thus artfully spread, took effect. The rude populace were swayed by the influence, and probably by the gold, of their superiors. With less reserve than they, and with a kindred taste, they took delight in insulting defenseless misery. From one to another the disgraceful falsehoods about Huss were circulated. In vain did Chlum appeal to them for sympathy. Where he was not met by a cold indifference, he was forced to submit to the taunts and threats of the hostile multitude. “A madman and coward, like Huss,” they said, ” was quite unworthy of such warm sympathy and friendship.”
Already it was growing late. The streets were deserted, and the lights extinguished. The faithful and noble knight, overpowered with grief and fatigue, retired to rest. If his eyes closed that night to slumber, it must have been to a slumber disturbed by sad and troubled dreams. But, whatever the meditations of his restless hours, we may at least be sure that they were worthy of an heroic friendship.
Undismayed even by the cold repulses and the abuse to which he had been subjected, Chlum was still resolved to procure the release of Huss. He bethought himself now, as a last resort, to appeal to the emperor himself, whose authority had been trampled on by the violation of his safe-conduct.
In this purpose he may have been encouraged by the timely arrival in Constance of his countryman, Henry de Latzembock, who, with himself and Duba, had been appointed by Wenzel to look after the safety of Huss. Latzembock had been for some time in the suite of the emperor, had accompanied him to Aix-la-Chapelle, and had been present at his coronation at that place on the eighth day of the month. After procuring the safe-conduct of Huss at Spires, and forwarding it to Nuremberg, he continued near the emperor, by whom he was treated with high consideration. After the ceremony of coronation had taken place, he was dispatched with letters to the pope at Constance announcing the fact. With these in hand, be arrived in the city on the very day of the arrest of Huss. “With what emotions,” exclaims a Roman Catholic historian, “must he have seen, if not the chains, at least the imprisonment of Huss!” Undoubtedly he would, in his surprise, share the indignation of his compatriot Chlum, and it is not impossible that the purpose of the latter to apply to the emperor was taken by the advice of Latzembock, or in conference with him.
The very next morning Chlum wrote to the emperor, asking for redress. He detailed the circumstances of the arrest and imprisonment, and entreated him to interfere that justice might be done. To leave no means untried which might contribute to his success, he wrote also a similar dispatch to Bohemia. From day to day, as he traversed the streets of the city, he did not fail to exhibit, as opportunity offered, the large sealed parchment which contained the imperial safe-conduct.
This document read as follows: “Sigismund, by the grace of God, King of the Romans, etc.: To all princes, ecclesiastical and lay, and all our other subjects, greeting. Of our full affection, we recommend to all in general, and to each individually, the honorable man, Master John Huss, bachelor in theology and master of arts, the bearer of these presents, going from Bohemia to the council of Constants, whom we have taken under our protection and safeguard, and under that of the empire, requesting, when he arrives among you, that you will receive him kindly and treat him favorably, furnishing him whatever shall be necessary to promote and secure his journey, whether by water or by land, without taking any thing from him or his, at his entrance or his departure, on any claim whatever; but let him freely and securely pass, sojourn, stop, and return; providing him, if necessary, with good passports, to the honor and respect of the imperial majesty. Given at Spires, October 18, 1414.”
We can imagine something of the patriotic indignation with which Chlum must have exhibited the imperial seal attached to this important document. To blazon abroad more widely the injustice done to Huss he affixed to the doors of the cathedral and council-house a placard, signed with his own name, in which he stated that an act of unheard-of tyranny had been committed against Professor Huss, that the imperial safe-conduct had been contemned, and that the emperor and the empire would never submit to the insult that had thus been offered to their authority.
The letter of Chlum to the emperor was doubtless dispatched by him on the first or second day after the arrest of Huss. Latzembock was the bearer of it, doubtless, and with it he also bore another from the pope to the emperor, scarcely less significant. This last was in reply to one from the emperor to John XXIII, which bore date November 9th, the day after the coronation, and which was full of expressions of affection and filial submission. The pope, in his respouse, did not fail to reciprocate all these terms of endearment. He congratulated the emperor on his coronation, and besought him to make all diligence to be present at the council, inasmuch as nothing important could be done in his absence.
Such was the character of this curious imperio-pontifical correspondence, which was but the prelude to a conflict of intrigue as embittered as if it had been waged in mortal strife. But the two men knew each other. John XXIII saw at a glance the respectful and deferential hypocrisy of the emperor, and was not to be outdone in an art in which he was himself an adept. He declared that the emperor’s sincere affection for himself and for the holy church afforded him great pleasure, so much so that he thanks the Almighty for it, and receives the glad intelligence of the fortunate commencement of his reign, as an omen of that future success which he will implore of the Lord, to the praise of the divine name, the peace of the church, the strengthening of the Roman empire, and the immortal glory of his imperial majesty. He expresses his zeal to patronize the emperor, “exalting and cherishing so worthy a son, and such an invincible athlete of the Christian faith.”
Such was the pope’s letter of December 1st, 1414. It was written two days after the arrest of Huss, yet never refers to it in a single line. Who would imagine, from such a correspondence, the clashing and conflicting interests of the two men? Who would imagine that every line was dictated by hypocrisy, and that the two correspondents were full of mutual distrust and hatred ?
But the mask, so well worn at first, was now to be rudely torn off. The letters of the pope and of John de Chlum, borne probably by the same messenger, Latzembock, reached the emperor at the same moment. He was not slow to comment on the significance of each. If Latzembock was the bearer of both epistles, as he doubtless was, he would not fail to express his own sense of the outrage offered to the imperial authority by the arrest of Huss. Under the impulse of the moment, and moved at least by his own self-respect, if not his own unextinguished sense of justice or the generosity of his nature, Sigismund determined to rebuke the insult offered to his authority. The result, at least, was another letter in this singular correspondence, in a tone altogether different from that which had been hitherto employed. The pontiff and his court had presumed to contemn the imperial authority, and Sigismund was not as yet versed in that peculiar casuistry by which the doctors of the council afterward succeeded in reconciling him to the violation of his plighted faith. In very plain and unequivocal language he now gave vent to his indignation. He sent his ambassadors forward without delay to Constance, sharply insisting on the immediate release of Huss from his unjust imprisonment. Prompt measures were to be taken, and violence employed if necessary, to secure obedience to the imperial mandate.
Meanwhile Huss had been removed from his foul cell in the Dominican monastery to cleaner and more healthy apartments above-ground. Upon this removal the physicians, with at least professional humanity, had boldly insisted. It is said that the pope, fearful lest Huss should die in prison and the cause of orthodoxy lose the incense of a burning heretic, had directed his own physician to attend the prisoner. However this may be, the health of Huss began immediately to improve.
The commission who had been appointed to hear his accusers and his own defense, did not delay their proceedings on account of the sickness of Huss. They visited him in prison, while yet enfeebled by disease, and presented him with the list of the charges that had been drawn up against him. Huss asked that an advocate might be appointed him to defend his cause, inasmuch as by sickness and imprisonment he was not able to do it himself. The request was denied. He was told that according to canon law, no one could be allowed to take the part or plead the cause of a man suspected of heresy. One of the later Roman Catholic historians of these events undertakes to vindicate the justice of this canon.
But this was not the only hardship of which Huss had to complain. The same authority which denied him an advocate, admitted all kinds of evidence against him as a heretic. His enemies—and there were not a few who were glad of such an opportunity to offer their volunteer testimony—were thus invited to become his accusers. In his letters Huss complains that every day some new accusation against him was devised, composed of items false and captious, so that he could scarcely find time to answer them. The vexations to which he was subjected by the members of the commission, the insults offered by Paletz and Causis as well as other ecclesiastics, and the artifices and intrigues that were employed to prevent his having a hearing before the council, were enough to drive him to despondency. But in spite of all, his trust in God and the justice of his cause remained unshaken, and the writings which issued from his prison cell attest his incessant activity.
Another commission was appointed by the pope, probably in accordance with the request of his prosecutors, to examine his writings. It consisted of the Cardinals D’Ailly, St. Mark, Brancas, and Florence, two generals of orders, and six doctors of theology. These were busy at their task, while the other commission was gathering up testimony from witnesses whom Huss had no opportunity to confront, and whose names even were studiously concealed.
It was after the commissioners had begun their work, that the mandate of the emperor requiring the immediate release of Huss reached Constance. The instructions of the ambassadors were sufficiently explicit. John XXIII, after his flight from Constance, urges, among other reasons in justification of his course, the peremptory command of the emperor for the release of Huss, directing that in case of resistance his prison doors should be broken down and he set at liberty. This the pope resented as an interference with his prerogative and the duty of the council. He maintains that Huss had been arrested by his authority, and that the emperor had interfered with the due course of justice in ordering the enlargement of the prisoner.
It is evident, therefore, that the imperial mandate was received, and that its import was understood. But it was not an easy thing to carry it into execution in the absence of the emperor. On this question—however they might differ on other points—the pope and the cardinals, as well as the leading members of the council, were fully agreed. Against their united opposition nothing could be done. Nor does it appear that the imperial ambassadors knew where Huss was confined. This at least is certain, that the command of the emperor was not obeyed. Instead of being released, Huss was more closely confined. His removal to the Dominican monastery preceded but by a few days the arrival of the ambassadors, and may have been effected in anticipation of it. But he was now beyond the reach of the imperial officers, and they were forced to await the coming of the emperor before any decisive steps could be taken.
There were, indeed, some powerful motives which forbade the obedience of the pontiff to the emperor’s command. It was his interest to have questions of heresy precede any investigation of the question of the schism. It was something gained, meanwhile, to accustom men to witness the exercise of his own authority, and the bold assumption of his prerogative. In this matter, moreover, he was confident of powerful support. The cardinals and all the enemies of Huss were ranged upon his side.
In such circumstances John XXIII seemed not unwilling that the papal and imperial authority should come into open conflict. He felt sure of a triumph. It was not a little gained, if, while the scepter trembled in his hand, and Christendom owned a divided allegiance, he might openly and with impunity venture to trample on the imperial mandate.
Anxieties of the Pope The English and French Deputations
There were several important questions which at this juncture claimed the attention of the council, and, divided with the subject of heresy, the anxiety and attention of the pope. One of these concerned the membership of the council; another was the manner in which the votes should he taken; and still another was the plan to be adopted to promote the union of the church.
Upon the decision of either of these the fate of John XXIII, as pontiff, might depend. As to the first, he had reason for anxiety lest, by the admission of the lower clergy, a majority should he secured adverse to his interests. By means of the large number of obscure Italian bishops who had followed him to Constance, he hoped to he able to carry his measures. Distrustful of the other nations, he could rely upon his faithful Italians, and he did not wish to have their votes lost in those of the multitude of inferior clergy, and of the more secular element furnished from Germany, France, and England.
As to the second question—the manner in which the votes should be taken—the jealousy of the three other nations was excited by the numerical majority of the Italians. If the latter, however, as well as each of the others, was entitled to but a single vote, and the decisions of the council were to be based upon a majority of the votes by nations, each nation being entitled by a majority to determine how its vote should be cast, the Italians, who represented the strength of the papal party, would be able to command in the council but one vote out of four. To prevent such a consummation, urged by the French and Germans, was a favorite project on the part of the pope.
These two questions had been discussed as early as the twelfth of November, and early in December the other was taken up. It was strenuously urged that the wisest course would be to induce the two anti-popes, Benedict and Gregory, by gentle means, if possible, to cede their claims. It was hoped that by the lenity of the council, which was ready to lighten their fall, and secure for them in case of their abdication a favorable reversion, they might be persuaded to adopt this course. Such lenity, it was argued, with a gross inconsistency when the treatment of Huss is considered, was more accordant with the genius of the church, which was bound as a kind mother to reclaim her erring children by mild and gentle means.
Nothing had been publicly said as yet, in this connection, which bore directly against John XXIII. This was the subject which Niem calls the “noli me tangere.” But appended to the schedule for the direction of the council, which had been drawn up in the congregation of November 12th, were certain articles which contemplated the possible necessity of extending the plan so as to include the abdication of John XXIII. But as yet, in the absence of the English and French deputations, the advocates of the measure did not feel themselves strong enough to urge it publicly. Although studiously concealed from the pope, he must soon have learned of it through his spies and the tools of his intrigue, at least if they possessed the skill for which Niem gives them credit, and the apprehension thus excited in the pontiff may be readily conceived.
The arrival of the English and Scotch deputations on the seventh of December, and of the French deputation on the eighteenth of the same month, gave a new face to these important questions, and unquestionably exercised a very considerable influence upon the policy of the council and the measures of the pope. Both these deputations were strongly prejudiced against Huss, and both of them were equally adverse to the favorite projects of the pope. It was not therefore an unwise move on the part of John XXIII to take the lead in urging on the trial of Huss. He might thus hope to secure the support of the English and French deputations, or at least divert the attention of the council from other matters more threatening to himself.
The views of the French delegation found in John Gerson their ablest representative. Previous to the council of Pisa, he had, on mature investigation, adopted the position which he still maintained. Politically a strenuous upholder of monarchical institutions, he was, strangely enough, an ecclesiastical democrat. In his celebrated treatise “De Auferibilitate Papæ,” the very title of which was startling, he argues in defense of a republican church polity, and maintains that the church is independent of the pope, and for just reasons may depose him. The membership of a general council should, moreover, represent the church universal. It should embrace not only the higher prelates, but the lower clergy, and even the laity should be admitted, if, as in case of kings, princes, and rulers, they are disposed and able to contribute to the defense and welfare of the church. None, in fact, should be excluded, whose position, advantages, or influence could be of service to the general cause. All such were entitled to be heard, and should be admitted to membership.
Gerson may have been led in part to the adoption of these views by the circumstances of the times. He had no faith in the sincerity of either of the popes, or their respective conclaves. He knew that no reformation of the church was to be hoped for, if left to them and the higher prelates alone. A more popular voice must be heard, and a more popular feeling enlisted, to secure the result.
With these views, in the main, D’Ailly, the Cardinal of Cambray, fully concurred. His treaties that remain show that they were his, and deliberately adopted, long before the assembling of the council of Constance. In some respects, indeed, they nearly approached the positions taken on the subject by the reformers of the succeeding century. Gerson and D’Ailly both held opinions, which they strenuously and openly maintained, which were charged upon Huss as heresy. The latter was far more desponding than his friend in regard to the expected reformation. “If a new pope was to be elected”—such was his language five years previous to the assembling of the council—”whence would he come? The cardinals would claim the right of election, and would elevate one of their own number to the purple.” What might be expected of such an election he gives us to understand, in comparing the conclave to the priests of Baal, who were all to be thrown to the lions; or to the family of Eli, who were all to be extirpated. “Even if a good pope was elected, the cardinals would not obey him.” But at that time he was not a cardinal himself.
In regard to the inherent sanctity or infallibility of the pontiff, the views of D’Ailly were equally bold and original. Promotion to the papacy did not make a man holy. Peter was not impeccable. He charges the alienation of England and Hungary from the Romish church to the avarice of Pope Boniface, so that these kingdoms were still virtually (acephali) without a head. He does not spare the simony of the Roman court. He declares against the multitude, who, by trading in sacred things, had forced their way into the sheepfold. They had not entered in by the door, but by another way, and were truly robbers. He declares, “that as there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents, so then there is joy in Rome when a prelate dies. His benefices are the carcass around which the eagles exult to gather. An angel from heaven would vainly present his claim to be set over a vacant monastery, unless he paid for it the specified sum; otherwise his petition would not even be listened to.” The question, in regard to one who seeks promotion, is not, “Are you a fit man, but have you got money?” He then traces the origin of the system of the reservation of benefices to the avarice of the popes, and claims that measures should be taken to restrain this unwarranted usurpation of power.
It seems strange that one holding such views, and openly maintaining and defending them, should have been elevated to the cardinalate by a man against whom they bore so directly as they did against John XXIII. And yet D’Ailly was raised by him to a seat in the conclave (1411). This promotion was, beyond doubt, intended as a bribe to buy him over to the pope’s interest. But if such was its intent, it signally failed. The course of the Cardinal of Cambray was independent of papal influence. He carried with him to the council the same opinions which he had previously held. That he knew the pope’s character from the first, and that he despaired of any good from that source, is evident.
In the treatise already referred to, he declares that the sects which had sprung up in Bohemia and Moravia were directly chargeable to the simoniacal heresy and reprobate acts of the court of Rome. The scandals committed at Prague, and which had spread over the whole kingdom, had been committed out of contempt for John XXIII. He mentions one of the books of Huss which impugns the papal authority and its plenitude of power, as written on this very account.
In Gerson’s works we find at least equal plainness of speech. The university of Paris was an independent republic in the bosom of the church, and though torn by many internal divisions, possessed still a national character, and uttered its decree with magisterial authority. At that period of the papal schism it seemed to have stepped into the vacant chair of papal authority, and to have disputed like a hard master with the popes themselves. Its views in regard to the council were represented by Gerson. On the point now under discussion, as to who should be admitted to a voice in the action of the council, Gerson had said, “Let no believer who wished to be heard be denied the privilege, so far at least as he is fitted to teach, or wishes to be taught.” This was the position taken by the Cardinal of Cambray before Gerson’s arrival at the council. In a paper carefully drawn up, he maintained that no uniform rule had prevailed in regard to the membership of general councils. This had been dependent in great measure on the object for which they were convoked. In the councils of Pisa and of Rome, not only had doctors been allowed to vote, but even secular priests, their ambassadors and proxies. He argued that, if it was intended really to reform the clergy, it would be absurd to exclude the men most interested to secure such a result.
These views of D’Ailly were ably seconded by the Cardinal St. Mark. He demanded where the authority was to be found for excluding the inferior clergy from a voice in the council. He appealed to St. Paul, Jerome, and the Canoeists, to substantiate his position that all orders should be equally admitted to co-membership. “According to St. Paul,” said he, “the bishop and the priest have the same character, the same dignity, and the pope himself is only the first among priests.” The proxies of such as could not themselves be present, as well as royal ambassadors, should be admitted also.
These were the views which finally prevailed, ecclesiastical republicanism against papal monarchism and infallibility. The success of the opponents of the pope was due, undoubtedly, in great measure, to the fact that in maintaining their position they seemed to recognize the authority of the Pisan council, and thus, by implication, the legitimacy of the pope’s election.
In substantial agreement with the views of the French were those of the English deputation. If the university of Paris had condemned the articles of Huss, and had become embittered against the pope and papal iniquity, Oxford was not less outspoken in condemnation alike of whatever savored of Wickliffe, or sanctioned the extravagant corruption of the Roman court. It is not a little instructive to trace the causes which forced the anti-Wickliffe party in England into an attitude of indignant protest against pontifical corruption. Embittered against heresy, they had yet imbibed largely on some points, the very spirit of those whom they excommunicated and burned.
It was on the seventh day of December, 1414, that the English deputation reached the city of Constance. Among its members were the Bishops of Salisbury, Bath and Hereford, the Abbot of Westminster, the Prior of Worcester, and the Earl of Warwick, the last attended by a retinue of 600 mounted soldiers.
Cooped up in her island home, England had scarce any European reputation until the fierce forays of her monarchs had established the fame of her prowess on the battlefields of France. The names of Cressy and Poitiers, for little more than half a century, had, through Europe, become synonymous with English valor. The land of Thomas à Becket was the land of the Edwards also, and in less than twelve months from the opening of the council, the famous battle of Agincourt would give new weight to the vote of the English nation. Henry V, who had just put the crown upon his head, threw aide with his private estate the vices and follies of his youth, and evinced an unwonted regard fur the orthodoxy and welfare of the church. There had been in fact a strong reaction going on since the death of Wickliffe, against the measures he had sought to promote.
The ecclesiastical authorities had become alarmed at the progress of reform. The Lollards, as the followers of Wickliffe were called, could no longer be despised. The usurping claims of the papacy to the homage and tribute of the kingdom, the intrusion and impudent assumptions of the mendicant orders, and the general corruption which prevailed in the church, had united the mass of the English laity on the side of reform. The high, proud spirit of the English barons would not brook the arrogance of a foreign priest. Little skilled in the orthodoxy of doctrines, their patriotism recognized only in Wickliffe the champion of the nation’s rights. On every side his doctrines spread. The minority of Richard II left the power and authority of the government in the hands of his uncle, the Duke of Lancaster, a close friend of the reformer. The arm of persecution was not yet strong enough to put any effectual check to the course of the arch-heretic. Arraigned before the ecclesiastical court, a message came from the royal presence commanding them to let Wickliffe alone. Meanwhile throughout many of the counties of England the disciples of Wickliffe were scattered, and they were far from idle. With a primitive zeal they proclaimed everywhere the doctrines of the reformer. The minds of men were not altogether unprepared for their message. “The Complaint of Piers Ploughman,” a most severe and scorching exposure of the vices of the clergy and the evils of the times, had been already extensively circulated. No one can peruse it and fail to discover, in almost every line, the plain and sturdy commonsense characteristic of the English people. It is a bold and manly protest against the falsehoods and usurpations that were masked under a sacred name. The English nation also, with singular unanimity, were united in an indignant resistance to the papal claims. In one form or another these came repeatedly before parliament. Even the clergy shrank from a public maintenance of what all were constrained to regard as an insult to the free spirit of the nation. Thus the papal authority was at the lowest ebb. Men spoke freely of the abuses, the impieties, the sensuality, the simony of the papal court. It is true that, from time to time, the Lollards were harassed and imprisoned. But persecution had not yet assumed an organized form, and the active energy of the reformers was busy scattering on every side the seed of evangelical truth. So far had the anti-papal feeling spread, even at Oxford, that it was seriously debated whether the papal bull should even be received. An old historian, Knighton, assures us that two men could not be found together and one not a Lollard. The bishops could not remain a long time blind to the spread of Wickliffe’s doctrines. Those who favored the new opinions were cited to appear before the episcopal courts. Some indeed recanted, but others bravely stood the shock, and none were delivered over to the secular arm. Oppression for conscience’ sake could not as yet call to its aid the resource of persecuting statutes.
But with the accession of Henry IV to the throne (1401) a new policy was adopted, less favorable to the spread of the opinions of Wickliffe. Henry IV was an usurper, yet the motto of his policy was opposition to tyranny, by which many had suffered. Banished from the realm by Richard II, he had taken refuge in France, and there, with Thomas Arundel, the exiled archbishop who had opposed the arbitrary measures of the court, had laid his plans not only for the recovery of his paternal estates, but for the deposition of King Richard and his own assumption of the crown. In the archbishop he found a useful and efficient ally. Through him he secured the favor of the English clergy and their powerful aid. It has been computed that at this time more than half the landed property of the kingdom was in their hands. Such an alliance as theirs was not, therefore, to be despised. They had need of Henry IV, and he had need of them. The fruits of this alliance were soon seen. Scarcely had the new king mounted the throne, when the writ de heretico comburendo made its appearance. Nor was it suffered long to remain a dead letter. The ecclesiastical power could now fall back on the aid of the secular arm. William Sawtré was the first victim of this unhallowed compact. He was a parish priest of St. Omer’s, London, and bore the reputation of a good man and a faithful preacher. On the assembling of the first parliament of Henry IV, he demanded to be heard “for the commodity of the whole realm.” The sagacity of the bishops quickly detected the danger that might lurk under his free speech. He was arraigned before the episcopal court, tried, convicted, condemned, degraded, and given over to the secular arm. Other victims of priestly hate were not wanting. The fires of martyrdom were repeatedly kindled for those who refused to abjure or recant their imputed errors. The zealous orthodoxy of the English prelates was more and more inflamed against the opinions and the followers of Wickliffe. Commissioners were appointed to examine, and synods held to condemn, his doctrines. The circumstances and policy of the monarch were such that the ecclesiastics could force him to become their tool. They had raised him to the throne, and if he refused to serve their interests they might depose him.
Henry V pursued the policy of his father, Henry IV, and extended his approval to the measures of the persecuting clergy. Even Sir John Oldcastle, a powerful knight, and a favorite of the young monarch, was given up to their greedy malice, and cast into prison.
It was in such circumstances as these that the English deputation to the council of Constance was selected. It was sure to reflect the persecuting spirit of the church. The name of Wickliffe was odious to the English clergy, and whatever was associated with him or his opinions was already condemned by a partisan prejudice.
No one therefore could be deputed to the council who did not hold everything connected with Wickliffe in utter abomination. Of the deputation, Richard, Bishop of London, was a conspicuous member. He was one of the council before whom Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, was summoned, and had taken an active part upon his trial. Thomas Netter, of Walden in Essex, a Carmelite, and afterward prior of his order, was another member of the deputation. He had been present, and had participated in the sessions of the council of Pisa, and on his return to England had engaged with such zeal in the controversy against the opinions of Wickliffe, as to be designated the fittest representative of the clergy at the council of Constance. By some he was looked upon as the most eminent, and almost the only champion of the faith. Carried away with his partisan fervor, he had not spared the reputation of the king himself, but charged him, not altogether probably without reason, as lukewarm in his purpose to punish heretics. The charge was publicly made, and Henry V dared not resent it. The author of it was deservedly selected as one who would not be moved by the extreme of compassion towards his victims charged with heresy. The simple fact of his selection for the express purpose of inveighing against the followers of Huss, shows plainly enough the spirit in which the deputation was chosen. The enemies of Wickliffe, and consequently of Huss, were triumphantly in the ascendant. Like a wild beast that has once tasted blood, they were ravenous for new victims. Madly bent on the extermination of whatever bore the taint of heresy, their presence in the council could only give a new impulse to the persecuting spirit to which Huss was already so sorely exposed.
And yet the spirit of the English nation was strongly roused against papal usurpation. To a great extent the deputation to the council sympathized with this spirit. Robert Hallam, Bishop of Sarum, who died at Constance, and whose monument of English brass, sent over by his executors, is still to be seen in the minster of that city, was president of the deputation. Richard Ullerston was his bosom friend, and doubtless reflected his sentiments in a remarkable work published some few years previous to the assembling of the council. Ullerston was a native of Lancashire, and afterward theological professor at Oxford. He pursued his studies under Richard Courtnay—chaplain as well as blood relative of the Prince of Wales—a man who boldly dared to vindicate the rights of the university against episcopal usurpation. Such was the general respect for Ullerston’s character and ability, that his friend Hallam urgently pressed him to draw up a plan of reform to be submitted to the council. Ullerston acceded to the request. The work, entitled “Ullerston’s Petition for Church Reform,” is dedicated to Hallam, and was so highly prized by him that “it was scarcely out of his hands during the sessions of the council.” The work is divided into several chapters, embracing the various subjects of reform. The first of these is “The Papal Court,” and in describing what a pope should be, every line seems a satire upon the vices of John XXIII. In condemning the simony that prevailed in the church, he does not hesitate to refer to the mystic Babylon of the Apocalypse, “the great mother of fornication and abomination,” attributing this title on scriptural grounds to her wealth and pride. In endeavoring to establish the authority of the evangelical standard, he maintains “that Christ did not set Peter over the church to the intent that his gospel should lose its authority, or that Peter should enact laws of greater authority, or that the gospel should be less honored through any act of his successors.” Yet so far from this being the case, he declares that “if laws are now spoken of, they are understood to refer to human enactments rather than the gospel. The last is reputed now in the church as of no more binding force than a verse of Cato or a maxim of Seneca.” He condemns the practice of elevating unfit men to sacerdotal or prelatical office, arraigns the vices and especially the libertinism of the clergy, while, “by the abuse of dispensations, wickedness of all kinds is encouraged, and dares to show itself with shameless and unblushing face.” The system of appeals to the court of Rome, so grateful to the papal avarice, but so odious to the English nation, is arraigned and exposed. The avarice of the clergy, their extravagance in dress, their luxury, their mixing themselves up with secular affairs, are indignantly rebuked.
This little treatise of Ullerston, if it had been anonymous, might almost have been mistaken for a sermon of Huss. It is written in the very spirit of Clemengis’ famous pamphlet “On the Corrupt State of the Church,” every line of which is like a scorpion lash against the iniquities of the times.
Contemporary with Ullerston was another Englishman of kindred spirit, scarcely less bold or able in his exposure of papal usurpation and corruption. Doctor Paul, a priest highly distinguished for his knowledge of the common law, published, about ten years previous to the council of Constance, a work which must have expressed the feelings and convictions of a great portion of the English people. Although, like Ullerston, unsuspected of the least taint of Wickliffe’s heresy, he saw with a clear eye the gross abominations and corruptions of the age. His work is entitled “A Golden Mirror held up to the Court of Rome, the Prelates, and the entire Clergy.” The plan of it is a dialogue between the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. It is dedicated to the cardinals, the heads of the clergy, and all the officers of the court of Rome. The writer testifies his grief at the papal schism, and the countless errors which prevailed, heaped up as it were upon his own unhappy age. The law had departed from the priests, and through them had fallen into contempt. The court of Rome was deformed and maimed by errors, from the sole of its foot to the crown of its bead. If these assertions seems too bold for him to make, his excuse is, that few dare to utter an open and public rebuke of the prevailing vice and corruption.
The substance and scope of the work are much the same with those of “Ullerston’s Petition.” “Alas!” says he, “that in these latter times the apostles have left the word of God to serve tables. Each seeks his own and not the things of Jesus Christ.” He deplores the fact that “no election to an ecclesiastical benefice, even though of the fittest person, and made by divine inspiration, could become effective without money.” This abuse he charges upon the court of Rome, “where persons ignorant, scandalous for vice, ambitious, cruel, and every way unfit, are promoted to be bishops. Benefices are bestowed on scullions, pimps, hostlers, and even children. The signature of the pope has its price. Dispensations and indulgences are sold for money, and he is the greatest who is most cunning to deceive, and skilful in sacrilegious traffic. The sum total of devotion is to gain the penny.”
From these causes spring the innumerable evils that afflict the church. Those who originate them do not so much guard as crush the church. Instead of feeding the flock, they slay and devour it. The whole work of Doctor Paul is a most energetic protest against papal corruption and usurpation. Huss himself could scarcely have spoken with greater boldness, or have uttered a more indignant rebuke of wickedness in high places.
The same spirit which is manifest in these treatises of Ullerston and Paul, was shown by other eminent Englishmen, who could not be suspected of sympathy with Wickliffe or Huss. Nutter, whose name has already been mentioned as a member of the English deputation, was of this class. One of his associates at the council was John Dorre, whose honest English sense found expression for itself in a figure adapted to the diseased state of the church. His prescription would, doubtless, have had a good temporary effect. His “recipe for the stomach of St. Peter, and its complete reformation, given in the council of Constance,” is as follows: “Take twenty-four cardinals, a hundred archbishops and prelates, an equal number from each nation, and as many creatures of the court as you can secure; plunge them into the waters of the Rhine, and let them remain submerged for the space of three days. This will be effective for St. Peter’s stomach, and will remove its entire corruption.” No Protestant doctor surely would have prescribed a harsher remedy.
There was another Englishman whose name should not be passed over in silence. Walter Dysse was an eminent theologian, and a member of the Carmelite order. He was for several years in the service of that master in the art of simony, Boniface IX, and was employed by him in missions to different parts of Europe. At one time we find him in Spain, preaching a crusade against the infidels, and at another engaged in writing against Wickliffe. No man had a better opportunity to observe the general corruption of the church, or the morals of the papal court. Yet, with all the influences that might have sufficed to seal his lips, brought to bear upon him, he dared to speak out in a tone of earnest remonstrance. A poem composed by him on the evils of the age, entitled “The Schism of the Church,” is not unworthily appended to the works of Clemengis. This poem consists of only two hundred and sixty lines, but the picture they present shows that it was taken from the same real objects of which his contemporaries have left us the daguerreotype. The author declares himself “at a loss which pope to recognize.” “The pastors of the church have become harpies.” “The pontiffs and prelates are devoted to their cups and hoards. The church is sold and plundered by those who should cherish her. If you wish to be rich, be wicked; do something that deserves the prison. Ambition and luxury crush the minds of all, and bury them in vice. Sons of the nobility are sent to France to be made doctors. The priest and people are alike. The blind leads the blind. Children learn vile arts sooner than their alphabet.”
We have no evidence in regard to the presence of Dysse at the council. He may have been there, however, as a visitor, or even as a member.
We may thus see something of the views and feelings of the English deputation. Animated, many of them, by the fiercest hatred toward Wickliffe and Huss—in some cases selected for the post on account of the very virulence of their opposition to what they accounted heresy—they yet condemn without a dissenting voice the prevalent corruption of the church, denouncing it in terms scarcely, if at all, less severe than the reformers themselves. It is a singular spectacle. And yet, unless it is carefully studied, we shall fail to understand the policy which controlled the action of the council.
With the views thus presented and maintained by the English deputation, those of the French coincided to a great extent, and on whatever policy they might unite, they might be confident of success. The cardinals who had Huss in charge were too shrewd not to observe and take advantage of the circumstances so favorable to their views and interests. They could offset the current of popular opinion in the council against the imperial purpose, nor were they slow to make use of the vantage-ground thus afforded.
Proceedings of the Council Huss Abandoned by the Emperor
The English and French deputations had already reached Constance, when the near approach of the emperor was announced. He arrived at Uberlingen, some seven miles from Constance, on Christmas Eve. A message was at once forwarded to the pope, requesting him to celebrate mass in the cathedral church on the arrival of the imperial train. Crossing the lake, the emperor entered Constance at about four o’clock on the following morning. He was accompanied, among others, by his wife Barbara, daughter of the Count Cilley, his daughter Elizabeth, queen of Bosnia, Rodolph, elector of Saxony, and Anne of Wirtemburg.
The Empress Barbara, second wife , of Sigismund, was, according to Æneas Sylvius, a woman of infamous morals and abandoned character. While king of Hungary, Sigismund had been seized by some of his powerful subjects and cast into prison. His marriage to Barbara was made one of the conditions of his liberation. This condition, with others less revolting, though scarcely less humiliating, was faithfully observed. The emperor’s fidelity to his forced engagements stands in singular contrast with his faithlessness toward Huss.
After a few hours’ repose, Sigismund repaired to the cathedral. The pope, prepared to celebrate the pontifical mass, was awaiting his arrival. The emperor assisted in the ceremonial, clothed in the habits of a deacon. The pope is said to have trembled as he listened to the reading of the passage, “There went out a decree from Augustus Caesar,” etc., and saw before him the crowned successor to his imperial power. The throne of Sigismund, magnificently adorned, had been prepared on the pope’s right, while, still further on, was the seat provided for the empress. At the side of the emperor, his red cap surmounted by the imperial crown, stood, bearing the royal scepter, the Marquis of Brandenburg, while the Duke of Saxony, as grand marshal of the empire, held aloft a drawn sword. Between the emperor and the pope stood Count Cilley, the father-in-law of Sigismund, holding in his hand the golden apple or globe. When the ceremonies of the mass were completed, the pope presented the emperor a sword, charging him to use it with all his energies in defense of the church. Sigismund received it, with the solemn promise to be faithful to the charge. Little did the pope imagine that in the person of his ally and protector, Frederic, Duke of Austria, he would so soon feel its edge.
By the arrival of the emperor, the splendor and authority of the council seemed complete. Never before had the world witnessed the assemblage of an ecclesiastical body so imposing in its array of power, learning, and talent. The ablest minds of Europe, the highest dignitaries of the church, princes and kings, present in person or by deputy, took part in its proceedings. As to the religious or even moral character of the body, little need be said. It fairly reflected the condition of the Christendom of the day. Gerson left it, disappointed in all his hopes. Neim and De Vrie, as well as others, spectators of its proceedings, paint it in the darkest colors. The opinions of Clemengis in regard to it were not more flattering. It was evident that multitudes, if not the great majority of its members, were drawn to Constance by ambition, curiosity, or the hope of gain.
The wishes of the emperor were, to a great extent, the controlling influence of the assembly. With an earnest purpose, clear and definite aims, and a policy as yielding and pliant as the readiest attainment of his ends required, he succeeded to a wonderful degree in shaping its deliberations and decisions. It was one of his maxims, that a prince who knew not how to dissemble was not fit to reign. Thwarted, for the moment, in his plans, he was sufficiently politic to yield to the dominant influence long enough to become its master, and turn it in a direction to suit his designs. Religious, according to the notions of his age, he certainly was—carefully attentive to the ceremonials, however lax in the moralities of a Christian profession. Of his sincere desire to put an end to the papal schism there can be no doubt. From the moment that he saw the imperial crown in prospect, he seemed to feel that he was divinely commissioned to restore peace and unity to the church. His unwearied efforts to this end scarcely allowed him needful repose. But his known and even avowed principles assure us that no rigid or scrupulous conscientiousness would be suffered to obstruct the execution of his purpose. Thrown into a nest of intrigue, he found himself at home among the very masters of the art. To the power and authority of his position, he added the skill, policy, and tact which gave him at last a decided supremacy over every rival.
The glory of restoring peace to the church and reforming it from its corruptions, was Sigismund’s idol. It was here that he exposed his weak side to the machinations of those who sought to circumvent him. Whatever purpose, subordinate to his main one, could be shown to interfere with it, was instantly sacrificed. The enemies of Huss were not slow to detect this avenue to the successful prosecution of their plans. Undoubtedly the emperor gave the reformer his safe-conduct in good faith, and was unaffectedly indignant at the slight put upon it. But what was the harm of its temporary violation, if thus a most powerful party in the council could be satisfied, and his own orthodoxy and permanent influence established? The ceremonies of Christmas-day were scarce completed, before both parties, the friends and the enemies of Huss, presented their case to the emperor. A knowledge of the parties, and the circumstances in which they were placed, would allow scarce a doubt as to the result. The friends of Huss were few and feeble. The complaints of John de Chlum were met with derision from the enemies of the reformer. Henry de Latzembock, though undoubtedly friendly to Huss, and enjoying the emperor’s favor, was a courtier, and evidently more intent on his own advancement than anxious for the welfare of Huss. It is enough to know that his courage failed him in the hour of trial. After the condemnation of Huss he was suspected of heresy, and chose to abjure the views of the reformer rather than incur the hazard of a suspicion of maintaining them, and thereby sacrificing his hopes of promotion. From him, therefore, no earnest or effectual interposition in favor of the prisoner could be expected. As to the third member of the escort appointed by the king of Bohemia, Wenzel de Duba, we hear little of him. Huss, indeed, speaks of him in high terms, but he lacked the boldness, if not the devotion of Chlum. The enemies of Huss, on the other hand, were many and powerful. After the steps taken against him by the pope and cardinals, none dared utter a word in his favor. Nor was this all. While he was restrained of his liberty, the malice of his enemies who had followed him from Prague was busy in spreading slanders to his prejudice.
Against such a tide of calumny and envenomed persecution it was vain to expect that the emperor would make a stand. He could not afford thus to risk the alienation of the council and the failure of his most cherished plans. Early on the morning of his arrival, information of it had reached John de Chlum. Without delay he hastened to the imperial residence. On the preceding evening a memorial, drawn up in the name of nearly all the Bohemians in Constance, had been forwarded and presented to Sigismund in favor of Huss. Chlum hoped to receive a favorable answer to the memorial, but, on inquiring for the emperor, he was told that he was attending divine service. Hastening to the cathedral, the noble knight had presented to his view the scene already described. With feeling of dismay, but a smile of pity, he witnessed the celebration of high mass. He saw the emperor, his royal robes laid aside, arrayed in priestly vestments, and, with a taper in his hand, chanting the scripture of the day. It was enough to excite his apprehensions. The imperial and sacerdotal powers were allied together. Henceforth Chlum found it difficult to obtain a hearing. The subject of his remonstrance was evidently unwelcome. To the emperor the reproachful looks of the indignant knight were more dreadful than the bitterest words. The enemies of Huss were too strong to be withstood even by the imperial power. Sigismund sacrificed his own sense of justice, and respect for his crown and authority, to the dictates of expediency.
Chlum perceived this. Sadly did he write to John of Lomnitz, the lord-chamberlain of Brunn, “Nothing more is to be hoped for from the emperor, who firmly believes that heaven and the pardon of his sins can be obtained through the instrumentality of the priest alone; and the people declare that one who conducts himself so piously in this life will be canonized at his death. Truly, among such saints, our Huss must appear a very devil.”
And yet Sigismund was evidently restless under the imputations and censures to which his conduct had given occasion. Remonstrances began to reach him from Bohemia, and he could not remain insensible to the just odium which he had incurred. Intelligence of the arrest and imprisonment of Huss had speedily been borne to Prague, and had excited surprise, grief, and indignation. The outrage offered to the imperial authority, and the injustice done to a man almost idolized by the nation, produced a sudden and violent outbreak of popular feeling. The Bohemian states assembled, and drew up an earnest address to Sigismund, in which they poured out their complaints in a tone of indignant grief. Several letters were successively addressed to him from Bohemia, and even Moravia, urgently supplicating him for redress.
In the first, three of the nobility, speaking in the name of the whole body, informed the emperor that in one of their assemblies they had demanded of Archbishop Conrad if it had ever come to his knowledge that Huss had taught any heresy, and that he had replied that he had never discovered a heretical word in his writings, and that he was not his accuser. This declaration they forwarded in a letter sealed with their own seal, and accompanied with the request that he would restore Huss to liberty, that he might be in a condition to confront his accusers.
A second letter was drawn up still more earnest in its tone. The writers wish respectfully to represent to the emperor, that John Huss had gone to the council of his own free-will, to refute the accusations brought against him and his native Bohemia; that he earnestly desired and urgently demanded to be heard in full council, to present clear evidence of the purity of his doctrine, declaring himself ready to retract any heresy of which he might be convinced; that although he had gone to Constance, provided, as was well known, with a safe-conduct, he had been arrested and confined in a horrible prison; that there is no one, great or small, who does not view with indignation as well as surprise the bold measure of the pope in imprisoning an innocent man, in violation of the public faith, and without alleging any reason for the act; that so dangerous an example might serve as a precedent for all to disregard the public faith, and expose good men to the designing malice of the wicked. They conclude with the petition that the emperor will promptly set Huss at liberty, that he may justify himself if innocent, or be punished if guilty. “God is our witness,” say they, “that it would occasion us the bitterest grief that anything should happen to the dishonor of your majesty; above all, that the stain of so enormous an injustice should tarnish your reputation. It pertains to you, by your discretion and wisdom, to repair the mischief already done, and to hold the whole matter subject to your control.” This letter was signed by ten of the nobility, in the name of all.
The feeling of the Bohemian nation generally is expressed, not only in those letters, but in the words addressed to the royal governor, Czenko, of Wartemburg, in the name of the states: “We, Bohemians, demand that he who in the presence of the bishop of the country was fully justified, and in whom not one iota of unsound doctrine was found, should be immediately enlarged from prison, and not surrendered to scorn and contempt through the false witness and calumny of his enemies, and without fair examination.”
The subsequent and still more earnest intercessory letters of the Moravian states, openly spoke of the violation of the safe-conduct as being equally disgraceful and prejudicial, prophesied the great mischief that must arise from it, and warned the emperor in conclusion that falsehood does not finally gain the victory over truth.
Sigismund felt himself ill at ease under the imputations of those whom he numbered among the most powerful subjects of the empire, and whose respect he wished to retain. But his attempted vindication only the more clearly exposes the time-serving policy by which he was actuated. In a long letter addressed to the Bohemian states, he attempts to justify himself. He shrank from the reprobation to which public opinion, judging him by his own acts, would doom him. The following extract from his letter illustrates his character, as well as the difficult position in which he found himself placed: “Had Huss accompanied me to Constance, instead of being there in my absence, his affairs would not have taken so ill a turn. God is my witness—and I cannot express myself on this subject with sufficient force—how much the misfortunes of Huss have affected me. All the Bohemians in Constance may have observed my displeasure on account of this act of violence. I should immediately have quitted the city, had I not been withheld from doing so by the threats of the fathers that they would in that case dismiss the council, and therefore I have determined to wash my hands of the whole affair, since, if I adhere to Huss the assembly will doubtless be broken up.” In this passage of the emperor’s letter, his policy and shame are at once revealed. He was forced to choose between the defeat of his cherished plans and the sacrifice of Huss. He preferred the latter.
The statements of this letter, from which the extract is taken, were substantially repeated in 1417, after the death of Huss. It gives, therefore, the grounds on which Sigismund deliberately chose to rest his defense. In this vindication he says nothing of the casuistry by which the fathers of the council attempted to relieve his conscience. His own good sense told him that it could not but appear contemptible as well as execrable to the whole Bohemian nation. A contemporary historian, and an eye-witness of the proceedings of the council, says, “By long and tedious discourse they persuaded the emperor that by the authority of the decretals he was dispensed from keeping faith with a man suspected of heresy!” Naucherus, who wrote but a short time subsequent to the council, likewise speaks to the same effect: “Sigismund was persuaded that he could not be accused of having violated his promise, inasmuch as the council, which is above the emperor, not having given Huss its safe-conduct, the emperor had no authority to grant it except with the approval of the council, especially where matters of faith were concerned; and the emperor, as a good son of the church, acquiesced in this decision.” That this was the case, might be inferred from the emperor’s own words. On the subsequent examination of Huss, Sigismund, addressing the reformer, said, “There were those who held that he had no right to give protection to a heretic, or one suspected of heresy.” The council itself endorsed this principle by decrees evidently intended to exculpate the emperor, and to counteract the prejudicial reports which were current in regard to the safe-conduct which had been so shamefully violated.
Thus the feebleness or superstition of the emperor cooperated with the malice of the enemies of Huss to ensure his fate.
Whether Sigismund was blinded or not by the casuistry of the fathers, he was constrained to acquiesce in their conclusions. So strong was the prejudice against Huss, and so popular with the members of the council was the course taken in his arrest, that any attempt to rescue him on the part of the emperor would have required a devotion to the cause of truth and justice such as he did not possess. Huss was left unfriended in prison, while his enemies prosecuted their plans against him with all the bitterness of untiring malice.
On the third day after the emperor’s arrival at Constance (December 28, 1414), Cardinal D’Ailly breached before the assembled members of the council. His subject was, “The Duty of the Emperor, the Pope, and other members, in regard to the union and reformation of the church.” In recounting the duties of the pope, who should be the sun of the church, he does not spare John XXIII. “He who lacks the qualifications specified, is only the shadow and image of a pope. If, for instance, a pope forces his way into the church by a criminal ambition; if his morals are disreputable and scandalous; if he governs negligently or tyrannically, he is not to be regarded as the sun of the church! Would to God that the Holy Trinity would dash down these three statues that are set up in the church. Many times have I said it, that as adorable as a trinity of persons is in God, so abominable is a trinity of popes.” John XXIII could not mistake the scope of the cardinal’s discourse. To make the matter, if possible, more clear, the latter exposed the pernicious errors of those flatterers of the pope who maintain, to the prejudice of the authority of the council, that the pope is not bound to yield to its decisions, but may set up his own judgment in opposition to it. This opinion, he maintained, was founded merely upon some of the decretals, which were incorrectly understood, and on positive enactments opposed alike to the law of nature and the divine law, and which tended to the prejudice of the church.
As to the part of the emperor in connection with the council, the cardinal held that it was his duty not to preside or to give authoritative decisions in regard to the matters discussed, but to maintain, by the power which he possessed, the resolutions of that body, not entangling himself with questions as to its decrees, or presuming to confirm them, but restraining and subduing all who should resist them in a rebellious spirit.
That such should be the sphere of imperial action, accorded well with the designs of the persecutors of Huss. They sought the protection of the emperor, but had no disposition to allow of his interference with the supremacy of the council. Most evidently the discourse was devised expressly for the occasion, and the public announcement of its positions, which served as a program of the policy of the council, was intended to bear alike against John XXIII and against Huss.
The emperor was thus thrown into a hard dilemma. Between his own self-respect and authority, as well as his sense of justice, on the one hand, and the overpowering influence of the council on the other, his position already was most unenviable. As he walked through the streets of Constance, he might perhaps have read, still attached to the doors of the churches, the bold and indignant remonstrance of John de Chlum: “To each and all who shall see or hear these presents: I, John de Chlum, make known how Master John Huss, bachelor of theology, under the safe-conduct and protection of the most serene prince and lord, Sigismund, king of Hungary, etc., my most gracious sovereign, and under the protection, defense, and guardianship of the most holy Roman empire; and having the letters patent of my said sovereign, the king of the Romans, came to Constance to render to each one demanding it, a reason of his faith in a public audience. This Master John Huss, in this imperial city, under the safe-conduct of my said sovereign, king of the Romans, etc., has been, and is now, detained. And although the pope and his cardinals have been strictly required, in the royal name, by ambassadors of my said sovereign, etc., to release the said John Huss, so that he might be restored to me, they have hitherto refused and still refuse to release him, to the contempt and scandal of the safe-conduct of the king, and the security and protection of the empire and his royal majesty. Wherefore I, the aforesaid John, proclaim that the detention and restraint of the said Master John Huss is executed in utter opposition to the will of my aforesaid sovereign, king of the Romans, since it is in contempt of his safe-conduct and of the imperial protection, and that it was executed on the occasion of the absence of my said sovereign from Constance; for, had he been present, he would never have permitted it. But when he shall arrive, each one should consider that he will be grievously affected at the contempt offered to himself, the imperial protection, and his safe-conduct. Given at Constance, this twenty-fourth of December, 1414.” This document was written both in Latin and in German, with the seal of the Bohemian knight affixed. It was made public on the evening previous to the emperor’s arrival, and the knowledge of it could not long have escaped him; yet his policy forbade his present interference in behalf of Huss.
On the day following the delivery of the discourse by the cardinal of Cambray, a general congregation was held, to listen to the account from the emperor of the measures he had taken to secure. the cession of the anti-popes, or their adhesion to the decisions of the council. The results of these measures belong to the history of the following year. The emperor took occasion to declare his anxiety for the peace and welfare of the church, and that his intended embassy to the king of Spain to induce Benedict XIII to a cession of his pontificate had been dictated by his anxiety. He demanded that several of the cardinals should be deputed, with whom he might consult as to the steps which should be taken to expedite the business of the council.
From time to time, during the general congregations, sermons were preached, some of them of a remarkable character. The vices of the popes were not spared. The general and fearful corruptions of the ecclesiastical orders were denounced. In the boldest language the union and reformation of the church were urged. Such was the force of the invective, and such the unsparing nature of the denunciations uttered, that the language of Wickliffe, Huss, and Jerome could scarcely exceed them. Whoever would see a picture to justify the indignant exposures made by these reformers, needs only to review the records of the council. It may seem strange that such freedom of speech should be allowed in that city, where Huss, for the exercise of the same privilege, had been thrust into a loathsome prison. But there was this difference in the two cases, that the members of the council spoke by order of their superior, and to promote the measures of a strong party with which they were identified, always professing their respect for the church itself, while the reformers relied only on the scriptures for their authority, and were not careful to hide their conviction that the church itself was well-nigh rotten to the core.
On the day following the imperial message to the general congregation, a sermon was preached by Matthew Roeder, theological professor of the college of Navarre, in the university of Paris. It was to this college that Gerson, Clemengis, and D’Ailly had belonged. The discourse of Roeder, who was the friend and colleague of two of them, bore with severity on the simony and ambition of the ecclesiastical order, and forcibly urged the union and reformation of the church. As the schism had already continued nearly forty years, the speaker compared the church to the paralytic in scripture that had been afflicted for thirty-eight years. The rival popes were children contending with one another in the womb of mother church, and by their acts of simony lacerating her with the fangs of vipers. It seems impossible for words to express a more fearful and corrupt state of things than that which he represents as then prevalent. The discourse closed with an eulogy on the emperor, who was now in the interests of the party opposed alike to John XXIII and to Huss.
The first day of the new year, 1415, was observed by the pope in the cathedral church with religious ceremonial. The large building was crowded by citizens and members of the council. The pontifical benediction was pronounced, and the wine flowed freely to gladden the occasion. John XXIII was not unmindful of his need of popular support, and while stung by the sermons preached before the council, and the secret measures looking toward his own deposition, did not neglect the effort necessary to counteract their impression.
At the close of the imposing ceremonial, the emperor convoked to a consultation the cardinals who had previously been deputed for this object. There were at this time within the walls of the city, or in its immediate neighborhood, nearly 100,000 persons. To provide for their subsistence, and to maintain peace and order among them, occasioned no small anxiety. After consulting upon measures for this purpose, the cardinals seized upon the occasion to remove the last obstacle that stood in the way of their prosecution of the case of Huss. They demanded of the emperor that he should consult for the freedom of the members of the council, nor suffer their proceedings against Huss to be restricted under the pretext of the safe-conduct which had been granted him. The answer of the emperor was as favorable as could be desired. He declared that the fathers should be free to act, not only in regard to the reformation of the church, but in respect to the case of Huss. He issued a decree to the effect that the council should be free in matters of faith, and might proceed against those who were evidently charged with heresy, in so far that after a public citation they should be judged according to their deserts. And as to threats or alarms, put forth in writing in different localities, that violence would be resorted to in favor of Huss, his royal majesty will see that they are prohibited. By a singular incongruity, the privilege was appended of a safe-conduct to all who, of their own accord, should come to the council. This provision was intended to meet the case of the ambassadors of Gregory and Benedict, who bad been condemned as heretical by the previous council of Pisa. The gross inconsistency of the treatment of Huss, with the privilege thus extended to the ambassadors of the anti-popes, plainly shows that the regard paid to a safe-conduct was a mere matter of expediency with the council. To counteract the influence of John XXIII, and to carry out their designs, they wished the ambassadors of the anti-popes to be present at the council, yet were unable to give any assurance, save evident self-interest, about what had already been violated in the case of Huss.
In spite of John XXIII and his partisans, the cardinal of Ragusa, one of the legates of Gregory, entered Constance, wearing the red cap, the symbol of his official dignity. The event itself foreshadowed the little regard that would be paid to the more grave claims of John XXIII when they should come in conflict with the policy of the council. It was on this occasion, and in answer to arguments based upon the legitimacy of the Pisan council, that the cardinal of Cambray (D’Ailly) maintained that though that council might be properly supposed to represent the church universal, yet it was not necessarily to be inferred that every believer must hold that it could not err, inasmuch as many previous councils, regarded as Ecumenical, are said to have erred. According to some doctors of great authority, a general council may err, not merely in matter of fact, but right, and what is more, in matter of faith. Because the whole church universal alone has this prerogative, that it cannot err in faith. As to the present council, called by John XXIII, being dependent for its authority on the legitimacy of his election, it was argued that it had been summoned at the instance of the king of the Romans, who must be regarded as the advocate of the church, and bound to act for it in a case of such urgent necessity. This position was sustained by precedents cited from the previous history of the church, while the reception of the ambassadors of Gregory and Benedict was defended by arguments drawn from reason and scripture. These views prevailed, and John XXIII saw himself subjected to a humiliating defeat.
The legates were received, and their propositions heard. Those of Benedict spoke only of the measures taken or to be taken, for the conference between their master, the king of Arragon, and the emperor. Benedict, master as he was of all the arts of intrigue, hoped thus to be able, with some show of reason, to defer, for a time at least, his cession of the pontificate.
The legates of Gregory seemed more pliant. Their master was ready to adopt “the way of cession” on certain conditions, the substance of which was, that neither of his rivals should be permitted to take undue advantage of his abdication. John XXIII was not to be permitted to preside in the council, nor have part in its deliberations.
Thus another blow was aimed at the pope. He was continually agitated by new anxieties. The proposal of the conference between Sigismund and Benedict was not at all to his taste. He declared it would be merely lost time to pursue the project, and that it was best that a council should be held at Pisa to confirm the decisions of the previous council. But such a measure, in order to which the pope desired a safe-conduct, mainly however with a view to embroil matters at the conference and prevent any conclusion, was rejected. His pretext for the demand was the promotion of the union of the church by personal conference with Benedict. But the council had not forgotten the game played, to the scandal of Christendom, by Gregory and Benedict some six years previous, and the character of John XXIII was not such as to inspire renewed confidence of a satisfactory result.
How to dispose of the claims of John XXIII was now the great question before the council. These claims stood in the way of every measure that had been, or that could be, proposed to promote the union of the church. The cession of Gregory was conditioned only on the abdication or deposition of John XXIII. This indirect attack upon him was not left unanswered. Of the “method of cession” the pope declared his approval so far as it concerned Benedict and Gregory, since to this they were bound by their oath and promise, given previous to the assembling of the council of Pisa. This in fact would be the proper measure for reuniting the church under one head. If by “cession” the authors of the plan meant something different, they should then explain it. As to allowing the partisans of Gregory admittance to the council, it would be an act of injustice to those who, having complied with the decisions of the council of Pisa, have continued in union with the church. As to the proposition that John XXIII should not preside or participate in the council, it is utterly rejected as unjust and disgraceful, inasmuch as he, as sole legitimate pope, had convoked the council, and was present in person to labor for the reformation of the church. As to freedom of consultation and action in the council, which the legates of Gregory also demanded, no prelate could be released from the engagement into which all enter, of obedience to the pope as their superior; and into any other, none had entered to his knowledge. In conclusion, there was already perfect liberty in the council, and nothing more could be demanded, so that if the partisans of Gregory wished to unite with the council without making any unreasonable conditions, they might do so, and be received with every manifestation of kindness.
The consequence of this opposition of John XXIII was twofold. The legates of Gregory wrote to him for more full and ample powers, while the attention of the council was more closely directed to measures for setting aside the claims of John XXIII. Secret consultations were held by prominent members. Congregations and conferences were held in his absence. Of their proceedings, however, he was himself well informed. His spies, whom he kept in pay, were everywhere busy. It was in vain that the members present at the consultations took a solemn oath of secrecy. John XXIII stood ready to absolve them from the guilt of perjury when they revealed to him the measures discussed or adopted. To avoid suspicion, be directed them to visit him at his own palace under cover of darkness. At the hour of midnight, or even later, they were summoned to his presence, and from them he learned the proceedings of the previous day. Some of the offenders were detected, and summoned before the council. But however strong the evidence against them, they escaped with impunity. The difficulty of conviction, and the desire to avoid the scandal of their exposure, conspired to shield them, and they were allowed to withdraw from the counsel by its own consent, and thus escape the deserved penalty.
As yet, however, no one dared publicly to advocate the unqualified deposition of John XXIII. This was spoken of rather as possible than probable. Meanwhile he was assuming and exercising all the rights and prerogatives of a legitimate pontiff. He presided in the sessions of the council. He performed the pontifical duties, and celebrated pontifical mass on solemn occasions. At the request of the Swedes, he canonized a countrywoman of that nation known as St. Bridjet. Deserting her family, with her husband’s consent, she had instituted a religious order, giving out that its rule had been dictated by Jesus Christ himself. The order was called “Of the Holy Savior,” and followed the regulations of St. Augustine. After numerous pilgrimages to places reputed holy, she had died at Rome nearly forty years previously, and had been canonized during the time of schism by Benedict IX. This fact rendered the authority of her canonization doubtful, and the ambassadors of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, with the deputation of their clergy, presented themselves before a crowded congregation, demanding that the name of Bridget be enrolled on the list of saints. The demand was based on her birth—she was of the royal blood—her piety, her pilgrimages, her revelations, and the miracles which she had performed during her life and after her death. Numerous doctors and licentiates from Sweden came forward to witness to the truth of the claim in her behalf. By solemn oath before the great altar, they confirmed the recital. The canonization was determined on, and Bridget was declared a saint. The ceremony was conducted by a Danish archbishop. After celebrating mass, he placed upon the altar a silver statue to represent the saint. Then raising it in view of the people, he pronounced the benediction, accompanied by an appropriate chant, and the ceremony closed with the Te Deum, the ringing of the bells, and strains of music. The prelates, in conclusion, regaled themselves at a sumptuous banquet.
The scene or show was, to some extent, a papal triumph. John XXIII seized eagerly upon any measures that could promote his interests, or give an imposing appearance to his claims. A slight delay might have robbed him of the privilege of this exercise of his prerogative. The haste with which the measure had been prosecuted had taken all by surprise, and had secured its success. Opposition had no time to take an organized shape. But the alarm was now given, and Gerson seized his pen. He took for the text of his treatise the passage, “Prove the Spirits whether they be of God.” The claims of canonization are in this work thoroughly sifted, and the evident bearing of Gerson’s argument was to throw suspicion on the pretensions of the new saint. He does not forget the passage, “Satan himself is sometimes transformed into an angel of light,” and the reported visions of multitudes are treated with very little respect. But opposition to the canonization was vain. The advocate of the devil, as the individual appointed to assail the memory of the candidate is called, as usual, lost his case. The pope enjoyed what Alexander III, in 1170, declared an exclusive privilege of the papal chair. It was an external triumph, but it is questionable whether more was gained than lost by it to the pope.
But while thus in the exercise of the pontifical prerogative, and endeavoring thereby to substantiate his claims before the world, the intelligence reached John XXIII of the bold measure that had been proposed in the congregations. The letter of Gregory seemed to make the cession or deposition of John XXIII essential to the success of the only plan for the union of the church which appeared feasible. Respect for the pontiff who had presided at the sessions, and whose authority seemed identified with that of the council, had hitherto hedged him about with a security that shielded his name from public mention in connection with measures for his deposition. But the necessity of the case was breaking down that security. The result was promoted by his own vices, his intrigues, and his spies. One man was at length found to speak the word which, once spoken, would be taken up by a thousand echoes. A variety of measures had been proposed. Speech upon speech had been made in regard to the union of the church. The English and Polish deputations had presented their views. But hitherto everything was of a general character. There was nothing specific, or directly adapted to meet the difficulty of the case. It was at this moment that William Filastre, cardinal of St. Mark, came forward. He saw the fitness of the occasion of which none were willing or bold enough to avail themselves. The letter of Gregory had familiarized the minds of men to the idea of the deposition of John XXIII, and the cardinal resolved to give forth a practical plan for his deposition. He prepared a document, and placed it in the hands of the cardinal of Cambray. It soon came to the knowledge of the emperor. By his means it was transcribed and sent to the several congregations. Thus the very object which the pope had sought to prevent by his presidency in the congregations—the stifling of discussion in regard to himself by the influence of his presence—was reached, and by methods most dangerous to the pope himself.
The document was ably drawn up. It showed in every line the hand of a master. The cardinal first lays down the objects of the council. These are two: the first, the peace and union of the church; the second, reformation of the hierarchy. To attain the first, three ways are possible: reduction or forcible subjection of those that refuse to submit, judicial examination and decision of the claims of the contendents, or voluntary cession on the part of all. The two first are rejected for obvious reasons, as tending only to aggravate the difficulty; the last is chosen as the only feasible method to be pursued. The necessities of the church demand that it should be attempted. The obligation of Gregory and Benedict to adopt it is assumed; in fact, permission to abdicate is accounted a favor. The question then arises, whether John XXIII is bound to adopt this method of settling the difficulty, and in case of his refusal, whether he can lawfully be compelled to do it by the council. As to the obligation of John XXIII, the cardinal holds that the good pastor should be ready to lay down his life for the sheep. The good of the flock should lead him unhesitatingly to adopt such measures as will promote it, even to his own abdication. To refuse to adopt such a course would he to show that he was not the true pastor. Thus John XXIII was placed. in a most unpleasant dilemma. If the true pastor, he should voluntarily resign; if not the true pastor, he should be deposed. Nor should the council hesitate to take action on the pretext of a want of authority. On all those matters which concern the church universal, the council is superior to the pope. Let the case then be laid before John XXIII. Let him be directed to consider the lamentable condition of the church, the monstrosity of a body with so many heads, the danger of the schism becoming permanent; and let him be exhorted to a course which will redound to his immortal honor—to a self-sacrifice that will cover his own name with glory, while it fills Christendom with rejoicing.
Such in substance was the document drawn up by the Cardinal St. Mark. It was not long before it attained publicity. John XXIII was filled with surprise and rage. He was by no means inclined to spare the author, a member of the sacred college. But, on the other hand, the cardinal, secure of the emperor’s favor, was not disposed to draw back. He went in person to the pope, and avowed the authorship of the document. He declared that his object had been the peace and welfare of the church.
The document of the cardinal had evidently produced a deep impression. Some were almost enraptured with it. Others, however, were enraged. It would not do to leave it unanswered. Some of John’s partisans attempted a reply. Their language is anything but complimentary to their opponents. Three papers were drawn up, the two first in the form of questions. By the necessary answers to these, they left the inference to be deduced which should set aside the reasonings of the cardinal: “Is John XXIII, a pope legitimately elected, to be placed on the same footing with those whom the council of Pisa condemned, and who are therefore to be accounted heretics? May not those who would persuade John XXIII to such an admission, be regarded as favorers of schism and heresy? Can a true and canonical pope, not charged or suspected of heresy, be forced to abdicate, or be limited in his jurisdiction? Are not those who condemn one not heretical for heresy, and maintain the justice of the condemnation, themselves to be accounted heretics?”
The second paper was much to the same purport. The third attempted to refute the arguments of the cardinal by pointing out the contempt which they offered to the council of Pisa, and the injustice they did to John XXIII. If he was not lawful pope, that council was null and illegitimate. It had only increased the schism, while the deposition of John XXIII would in all probability only give a fourth head to the church. The proposed measure, moreover, would be unjust to the one who was lawful pope; yet, if John were willing to cede, his absent rivals would not submit, and hence the measure would be futile; all justice would be violated by the attempt to enforce it. The true Christ was not to deny his own authority because there were false Christs; and, as to the obligation of the true pastor to lay down his life for the sheep, it was rather a desertion of them to abdicate, and this was only the part of a hireling. In conclusion, the attempt to depose John XXIII was sacrilegious. It laid violent hands on the Lord’s anointed, while it attempted that by force which, if forced, would be invalid and null of itself.
Such were the arguments adduced by the partisans of the pope. Falling back upon the authority of the council of Pisa, their position seemed impregnable. But even here they were not to remain unmolested. The cardinal of Cambray now took up the discussion, and resolved to sustain the positions of the Cardinal St. Mark. His refutation of the papal refutation shows, by the severity of its language and its tone of confidence, the growing strength of the anti-papal party. He commences by uttering his warning against those who come in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravening wolves. “These are they in this sacred council who, parasites of power more than lovers of justice, slander the teachers of the truth, whom the apostle calls masters having itching ears.” These men he charges with having prepared papers to hinder the action of the council. In reply to them, he takes no issue on the authority of the Pisan council. Granting this to be all that the papal party claim, its example in adopting the method of cession commends itself to approval in the present case. He denies that the attempt to persuade John XXIII to cede does place him on a level with heretics, and the presumption of favoring heresy or schism must rest rather on the adverse party. But the strength of his argument lies in the authority which he gives to the church universal assembled in general council. It is superior to the pope, and may depose him if the welfare of the church requires it; and if the pope refuses to adopt its decision, he may be condemned as a schismatic, and suspected of favoring heresy; and they who maintain this view are not to be regarded as heretical, but rather the reverse. Moreover, those who condemn the method of cession, calling it unreasonable, unlawful, and unjust, in reality invalidate the foundation of the council of Pisa, and scandalize those who follow its obedience. Finally, those who would make the whole question one to be settled by violence of war, sin greatly against the Holy Spirit, while wisdom directs that of two evils we should choose the least.
Others beside the cardinal of Cambray, though men of less note, joined in the discussion, but their arguments were merely a variation in form of those which he or the Cardinal St. Mark had already adduced.
Such was the spectacle presented by the council at the very commencement of its sessions. John XXIII, with his party, found themselves forced to contend, as it were, for their own existence. The monarchical and the democratic principles of the church had come in conflict. Popular opinion, modified by the gross and growing evils of the schism, gave to the latter a temporary advantage, immensely increased, however, by the odious vices of John XXIII. All the arts of this man only recoiled upon himself. The growing numbers of the council exceeded his power of control. His favors and promotions were too few to satisfy the ambition of the multitude, and men like the cardinals St. Mark and Cambray, strong in reputation and ability, as well as in the favor of the emperor, deprived the lost pontiff of the influence of even a united conclave. It might be foreseen already what must be the necessary result.
The Council, up to the Time of the Flight of The Pope
Meanwhile the question as to the constituency of the council had been decided adversely to John XXIII. The arguments of the cardinals St. Mark and Cambray proved satisfactory to the emperor, and to all who dreaded the numerical ascendency of the Italian, or rather papal party. To have conceded a seat in the council only to the bishops and the higher clergy would have excluded a vast number whose impartiality and opposition to the pope’s claims were well understood. It is noticeable that the argument by which the right of membership was demanded, for presbyters as well as bishops, took precisely the same view of the two orders which Huss had presented in his treatise on the church. “An ignorant king or prelate,” exclaimed the Cardinal St. Mark, “is nothing but a crowned ass.” From the writings of St. Paul, be argued that a bishop and a presbyter must have the same qualifications, inasmuch as the apostle, in describing the bishop, seems to include the presbyter, and passes directly from this to speak of deacons. “By what right, then,” he asked, “do you admit one and repel the other, when the last is equally well, if not better, fitted to represent the church?”
Thus the unhappy pontiff was subjected to a new annoyance. A vast number were thus admitted to membership in the council over whom he could exert but a feeble influence, and whose views and policy were adverse to his own. Besides the doctors, of whom the number was very large, the ambassadors of kings and princes, of republics, cities, universities, and other communities, as well as the lower clergy, were admitted under conditions. The pope was chagrined at seeing the votes of his numerous Italian bishops offset by those of multitudes inferior only in ecclesiastical rank.
But even yet it was possible for him to command a powerful and influential minority. The hope however which this inspired was now destined to be defeated. At an early stage of the discussion it had been proposed that the votes should he taken by nations. The pope had strenuously resisted the project. He might ply his intrigues among individuals with some chance of success; but if the votes were to be taken by nations, his plans would encounter greater difficulties, while the whole Italian party would command but a single voice out of four.
The pope had on his side the prestige of ancient usage, but the council imagined that they had good and sufficient reason for acting without regard to precedent in a question of such moment. The pope had created as many as fifty new chamberlains, whose devotion to his interests was of course entire. The other nations would not consent to such a fatal preponderance of the Italian party, while the pope on his part was not disposed to yield. From day to day the question became more embarrassing. The whole issue of the council might hinge upon its decision.
In these circumstances the emperor interposed. Clearly perceiving the vital importance of the question, he decided against the pontiff. It was therefore resolved that the votes of the council should be taken by nations, and that as Spain was as yet unrepresented, England, which had hitherto been reckoned with Germany, should be allowed a vote by itself, thus making, with Germany, France, and Italy, the fourth nation in the constituency of the council.
The order of proceedings required each nation to have a certain number of deputies, men of learning and ability, composed both of ecclesiastics and seculars, with their procurators, or attorneys and notaries. These deputies had a president, whose term of office was one month. Each nation assembled by itself to discuss the matters that might be brought before it, and when any article had been agreed upon by one nation, it was submitted to the deliberation of the others; and if agreed on in a general congregation of the four nations, it was carried, signed, and sealed before the following session, when it received public and solemn approval. In these preliminary discussions, full liberty was allowed to all to propose, either orally or in writing, whatever they might deem essential to promote the welfare of the church.
Successively defeated in his plans for constituting the council, the pope was still pressed in the most urgent manner to unite with the contestants in adopting the “way of cession.” To this he was utterly disinclined. He regarded the demand as insulting and intolerable. But while meeting it in a tone of bold resistance, and even defiance, he was startled from his security by intelligence of a new measure which had been proposed. This was nothing less than a judicial investigation of his life and character. This was his vulnerable point. His private career had been notoriously scandalous. Nothing but the sanctity of his office could have so long shielded him from ignominious exposure. But the steadily increasing hostility which his course provoked, now encouraged an attack upon his reputation and morals. A series of accusations was drawn up against him, evidently by someone familiar with his career of vice and crime. Niem suspects that the author was an Italian. The charges made were of the most scandalous and horrible kind. The life of the pontiff was described as a tissue of enormity and violence, which outraged all justice, and was the scandal of the church.
The articles were secretly submitted to leading members of the council from Germany and England. It was hoped that an investigation would be demanded, and of its result, if undertaken, no one could doubt. But prudence forbade the measure. It might overshoot its object, and disgrace the papacy as well as its occupant. It might tend to invalidate the promotions which the pontiff had made. Who could say how many of the members of the council would be compromised in the tenure of their titles by an investigation of papal simony? For the present it was deemed best to postpone the matter. Yet the time might come when it could be evoked as a necessary and effective weapon of attack.
Secretly as the whole thing had been managed, it soon reached the ears of the pontiff. His spies were busy, and treachery was sure of its reward. Great was his consternation when he found this new battery opened upon him. Conscious of the weakness of his position, he called together for consultation some of the cardinals and of those whom he had bound to him by favors, and asked their advice. He frankly admitted that some of the charges against him were true, while he maintained his innocence in regard to others. It was his own plan to forestall attack by going before the council, and acknowledging the truth of some of the accusations, falling back, however, on this as an impregnable position, that the pope can be judged and deposed for no fault save for heresy alone. The friends of John XXIII were at a loss, when consulted, what answer they should return. It was finally agreed that the wisest course would be for the pope himself to take the matter for some days into careful deliberation, and then “adopt such a course as he should deem wisest, in the fear of God.” But the enemies of the pontiff were not yet prepared to proceed to extremities. They did not wish to overthrow the See of Rome, but only its occupant. Thus the terror was suspended over his head, and for the present the policy of his foes spared him the crushing blow.
Yet the secret measure had not been without its effect. The knowledge of its having been discussed, the fact that a possibility remained that it might yet be evoked as a weapon of offense in case of necessity, rendered John XXIII much less disinclined to listen to the exhortations and overtures of the council. On the seventh of February (1415), the question of voting by nations had been decided. Meanwhile the charge against the pope had been drawn up. So early as the fourteenth of the previous month, Andrew Lascar, bishop of Posen, and ambassador of the king of Poland, who had just reached the council, addressed the pope in its name, urging him to give peace to the church. Although the method of cession was not mentioned in his discourse in express terms, it was not obscurely hinted at, and the pope was significantly pointed to the example of Christ in laying down his life for the sheep, and urgently exhorted to prefer the glory of its imitation to the power of the keys. John XXIII must have uneasily listened to an address so guarded in expression but so direct in application. The method of cession was now publicly advocated, and on the fifteenth of February, the German, English, and French nations adopted it, and urged it with such force upon the Italian nation, that they were disposed to yield, and John XXIII. saw himself deserted by those on whom he had most relied. After such a defeat the utter refusal of any form of cession on his part would have been in the highest degree impolitic. It would but exasperate a feeling that could no longer be trifled with. His only hope now was to gain, if possible, some advantage by temporizing.
On the sixteenth of the month the conclusions arrived at in the general congregation of the nations on the preceding day were drawn up and presented to the pontiff. They were as follows: “The sad state of the church, with all the circumstances thereto pertaining, having been duly weighed, three nations, the German, French, and English, composing and representing the majority of this sacred council, have, in order to the restoration of the church, deemed the method of cession on the part of our lord the pope as well as the contendents, the better and more expedient, and that our lord should accept and adopt it, to thus carry out the designs of the council; and by his most serene highness our lord the king of the Romans, and this sacred council, he is besought to offer, adopt, and execute this mode of cession.” The document was signed by the presidents of the nations and offered to the pope for his acceptance. Later in the day the council met, at the pope’s summons, to receive his answer. It had been carefully drawn up, and was read before the assembly by the cardinal of Florence. It was to the following effect: “Our most holy lord the pope here present, though obligated to it by no vows, oaths, or promises, yet for the peace of Christendom, has proposed, and on deliberation resolved, to give peace to the church even by the way of cession; provided, however, that Peter de Luna and Angelus Corrario, condemned by the Pisan council of schism and heresy, and ejected from the pontificate, shall make a full and sufficient renunciation of the claims which they urge to the pontificate. This renunciation to take place in ways, circumstances, and time to be agreed upon between our lord or his deputies, and deputies from among you.”
It was obvious that such a provisional abdication would remain a mere nullity. The conditions would never be fulfilled. The abdication itself, while it necessarily delayed the action of the council till it could take effect, was intended to secure the pope from being molested till such a time as occasion should be given for regaining what had been lost. The several nations, however, took it into consideration. They were unanimous in regarding it as too vague, doubtful, obscure, and unreliable, and as utterly insufficient to extirpate the schism, or effect a cession. The pope was therefore requested, inasmuch as he showed a disposition to the way of cession—so it was observed with an artful irony—to express his purpose in plain and simple language that should tend to promote the desired union. In consequence of this request, which the pope did not dare refuse, another form of abdication was drawn up, but this proved even less satisfactory than the first. It gave stronger ground for the suspicion that he had no intention whatever to resign the pontificate. The conditions subjoined to it rendered it altogether unacceptable. In fact, its rejection must have been foreseen by John XXIII himself, and he could only have presented it in the hope either of gaining time, or dividing his opponents into adverse parties. It was objected to by the council on several grounds: as conditional on the cession of the contendents, as containing expressions in regard to them of an irritative character, as setting a limit of time beyond which it was to have no effect, and as proposing unprecedented measures against the contendents. Another form of abdication was drawn up, modeled after that which had already been presented by Gregory. It was privately presented by the emperor’s direction to the pope, but to this he would by no means give his assent.
It was in the interval that followed, that John XXIII laid his plans for his flight. He saw that the council had him already in their grasp. He resolved therefore to leave Constance, in the hope that by the confusion which his flight, as well as the measures he might take afterwards, would occasion, the council would be broken up. He sent therefore for Frederic, Duke of Austria, with whom he had entered previously into an alliance offensive and defensive in order to his security, and concerted the measures for executing his purpose. But even here he was surrounded by difficulties. A suspicion of his project had already spread abroad. It was even proposed by a portion of the English deputation that the person of the pope should be seized and kept in safe custody, but to this the French deputation would by no means consent. And yet John XXIII was little more than a prisoner in his own palace. He bitterly complains, in a paper published after his flight. from Constance, of the insults offered him before his own doors, and of which the emperor was cognizant. He asserts that he was watched by imperial spies, who intruded upon the privacy of his chamber, and even dared to enter his bedroom to see whether he had escaped.
But the growing unanimity and strength of his adversaries, whom he had vainly hoped to divide; the close watch kept upon his person; the well-known purpose of the emperor, who was resolved that the aims of the council should not be thwarted by papal artifice; all indicated that before he could hope to escape, he must disarm suspicion by still greater concessions than any he had yet made. With his accustomed duplicity, therefore, he made up his mind to yield a formal acquiescence to the demands of the council, in the hope of thus securing a temporary freedom from molestation, but with the secret resolution, at the earliest possible moment, of denouncing its invalidity as extorted by force.
It was proposed in the council to insert in the form of abdication, “I swear and vow,” etc., in order to give it a more solemn and binding character. Upon this point there was a division of opinion, but it was at length carried by the influence of the Parisian ambassadors. On the first of March this new form of cession was presented to the pope in his own palace. The emperor himself and a large number of the different nations were present. In behalf of the council, the patriarch of Antioch presented it, humbly supplicating for it a gracious reception. Objectionable as this new form of abdication, armed with oaths, must have been to the pope, and difficult as he found it altogether to conceal his vexation, there was no alternative but to accept it. Having glanced over the form presented, he replied that it had ever been his intention to restore peace to the church, and that for this purpose he had come to Constance. He added, moreover, that he had already offered to cede his pontificate; that he had done it freely, of his own accord and without restraint, and that he never had been of any other mind. He then read aloud the form of abdication, which had been carefully drawn up by the council in order to cut off any opportunity of evading its conditions: “I, Pope John XXIII, for the welfare of all Christendom, profess, engage, and promise, swear and vow to God, the church, and this holy council, voluntarily and freely to give peace to the church itself, by the way of an unqualified cession of my pontificate; and that I will effectually perform and execute it in accordance with the deliberative decisions of the present council, if and when Peter de Luna, Benedict XIII, and Angelus Corrario, Gregory XII, so called, each by his obedience, shall in like manner cede their claims, either by themselves or their lawful attorneys; and that I will do this in case of their cession, decease, or any other circumstances in which my cession will give peace to the church of God, or lead to the extirpation of the present schism.”
The demands of the council had now been met by the prompt and well-acted acquiescence of John XXIII. The emperor returned him thanks for the “good and holy oblation” which he had made. The cardinals first, and then other members of the council, followed the example. The pope requested, as if sympathizing with the joy of the occasion, that a session might be held on the following day, in which these proceedings should be publicly ratified.
But the reluctance which John XXIII had already shown to adopt the course urged upon him by the council had not been without its results. The Germans, who evidently had not looked for the prompt acceptance of the final formula of cession on the part of the pope, had drawn up a series of articles, on the subject of the relative authority of the pope and of the council, which admitted of an easy application. They set forth, “that in the matter of schism the council was the supreme judge; that to put an end to the schism there was no way more appropriate, legitimate, and effectual than that of cession; that, without regard to the abdication of Benedict and Gregory, and even in case they should refuse to abdicate, yet if their adherents would unite with the council on condition that John XXIII should consent to cede, the latter was bound, under pain of mortal sin, to accept and execute the formula of cession presented to him on the part of the nations; that the council may require this of him even with menace, and, in case of his stubborn refusal, the aid of the secular power may be invoked against him in the name of the Catholic church.” It is scarcely doubtful that these articles were drawn up with the approval, if not even at the suggestion, of the emperor. A knowledge of them, and a suspicion of the source from which they emanated, could scarcely have failed to satisfy the pontiff, if any doubt had yet remained, that he must surrender at discretion to the supremacy of the council.
John XXIII occupied his seat before the altar. Turning toward the council, he read the formula of cession presented to him in its name by the patriarch of Antioch, in a loud voice, and word for word. When he came to the expressions “I promise, engage, vow,” etc., he knelt toward the altar. Then placing his hand to his heart, he added, “and these I promise to observe.” After the reading of the formula, the emperor rose from his seat, thanked the pope in the name of the council, kneeled, and kissed his foot. The patriarch also followed the example, when the choir commenced singing the Te Deum Laudamus. The procurator of the council, John de Scribanis, then besought of the proto-notaries of the pope, and the notaries and scribes appointed by the council for the purpose, one or more public documents for a permanent record of the transaction.
It was about this time that the place of Huss’ imprisonment was changed. He had been kept hitherto in the Dominican monastery. He was now transferred to that of the Franciscans. The latter was situated in the heart of the city, and was more convenient and accessible, as well as nearer to the papal palace. Of the motives of this transfer we can only judge, from the time and the occasion. The Franciscan monastery was undoubtedly more healthy, but the previous treatment of Huss assures us that this fact could have had but little weight with his enemies. The pope had now taken a new tack to reach the wished-for harbor, and sought undoubtedly to improve the favorable impression made by his acceptance of the demands of the council. It was his purpose to draw off attention from the papal question, and proceed with all expedition in the matter of heresy. It was probably with this object in view that he adopted a measure which contributed to the temporary alleviation of the hardships of Huss’ imprisonment, while it brought his case under the daily notice of the council.
It was within the walls of this Franciscan monastery that a general congregation was held on the fourth of March. The emperor; eight cardinals, three hundred prelates, the ambassadors of the kings and princes, including those of Benedict XIII, and the king of Arragon were present. With the latter, at the council’s request, a treaty was effected, the object of which was a conference between the emperor and the king of Arragon, who was to be accompanied by Benedict. The cession of the latter seemed now the only obstacle to the peace of the church and the election of a new pope. It was determined that no measures should be taken on the part of the council, pending the proposed negotiation, which should tend to prejudice its success.
The good understanding and mutual regard of the pope and emperor, which had been occasioned by the recent acquiescence of the pope in the demands of the council, were not of long continuance. There was to be no peace for the helpless pontiff while he held any ecclesiastical power. The policy of the council and the conditions of Gregory’s abdication required that he should at once sink into a cipher. Nothing could be more repugnant to the purpose or feelings of the pontiff. His conditional abdication had still left him for the present in the exercise of his official authority, and he still claimed his right to continue to preside over the public sessions. But with this concession to his claims, the aims of the emperor as well as of the council interfered. If those claims were allowed, even for the present, the time would come when the difficulty of forcing him to resign them would be even greater than at first. His proposal to continue the sessions and proceed at once to the business of church reform and extirpation of heresy, was therefore rejected. The emperor wished nothing done in his absence for Constance, which should aggravate the difficulty of negotiation with Benedict.
But John XXIII, on the other hand, by no means relished the idea of surrendering his prerogative, or suspending the business of the council. Was the pontifical authority so feeble that it must find shelter under the imperial shadow? Was it not a mere loss of time and to no profit to spend months in such a negotiation as the one proposed? For himself he was willing to undertake any expedition, to visit any city in order to treat with Benedict, or such persons as he should appoint, in order to expedite the proposed arrangement. Some of the views of the pope he boldly avowed. But the council paid them little attention. They had no faith in the honesty of John XXIII. Conjointly with the emperor, they were mainly anxious to take advantage of the conditional cession which he had made. They therefore requested him to expedite, with the accustomed forms, the bull of his abdication. This proposition he treated as an outrageous insult, and abused the prelates who presented it, in such a manner that none were willing again to broach the subject in his presence. The council saw itself forced to have recourse to the imperial authority to vanquish his obstinacy. Sigismund at its request visited him. He found him in a more complaisant mood, and finally induced him to notify his proposed cession to all Christendom, by a bull bearing date the sixth of March, 1415. In this bull the arts of the pontiff are clearly displayed. He vaunts his love for the church, for whose sake he willingly renounces the possession of the popedom, waives his claims to the pontificate notwithstanding their justice is indisputable, and looks to heaven for the recompense of his self-denial. Nor does he fail to set off the reluctance of Gregory and Benedict to cede, in the most odious light possible.
After the pope had gone so far, it seemed difficult to frame new demands. But the principal object of the emperor and of the council was still unattained. Step by step they had steadily advanced toward their real object, a cession so far conditional only that the emperor, or attorneys appointed for the purpose, could make it absolute at their discretion. Such an instrument might be a powerful weapon to bring Benedict to terms, and it was important that it should be executed before the emperor set out on his journey. The French, English, and Germans were earnest and urgent in their advice to press the pope to execute it. In order to render it more authentic and irrevocable, it was desirable to engage the pope to appoint the emperor himself, with the prelates that should accompany him, or such persons as he should select, his procurators for this purpose. But the proposition was indignantly rejected. The Italians were so displeased with it, that they threatened, if it was urged, to leave the council. For the present, therefore, it was found necessary to defer it.
Closely as the position of John XXIII was invested, he did not altogether despair. He was still busy in his intrigues. The hope was yet cherished of making the emperor his partisan, or at least securing a larger measure of his favor. Three weeks before Easter he presented him with the golden rose, which he had that day solemnly consecrated according to pontifical usage. Sigismund received it, with large expressions of gratitude and regard. He wore it ostentatiously through the whole city, after which the pope regaled him, together with the secular and ecclesiastical princes, at a sumptuous banquet. But the emperor was not the dupe of papal artifice. He knew the man he had to deal with, and saw the necessity of resorting to measures of intimidation to secure his object. A public congregation was called, on the eleventh of March, in which it was proposed at once to give a pope to the church. The surprise of the papal partisans at this sudden and strange proposition may easily be conceived. It was virtually a declaration that the pontificate was vacant. A discussion arose in which the Archbishop of Mentz took an active part in favor of John XXIII. He declared that if any other were elected, he would refuse to recognize him. For a time the assembly was thrown into confusion, but at length, after the discussion had been continued for some days, it was determined that the nations were at liberty and authorized to take such measures as they should judge most appropriate toward the union of the church and the election of another pope.
The breach between the emperor and John XXIII now became greater than ever. The last resources of the latter seemed exhausted, and he finally resolved on flight. But his purpose was not one that admitted of easy execution. The report was general that orders had been given for the arrest, or at least the close watch, of all who issued from the gates of the city. Indisposed to run any dangerous risk, and in order to discover the truth or falsehood of the report, the pope directed the cardinal St. Angelo to go to the gates ostensibly to take a walk without the walls. He did so, and was in fact arrested. No sooner was John XXIII made aware of this, than he summoned a congregation to meet in his palace, in which he addressed a bitter complaint to the princes and the magistrates of the city against this violation of the security and public liberty so solemnly promised to all visitants, and especially to himself. The magistrates threw the blame upon the emperor, and on his part the Archduke Frederic promised that the safe-conducts should be inviolably observed.
The emperor soon learned what had passed in the papal palace. He summoned the next day the three nations, English, French, and German, in order to take measures yet more decisive. The previous demand for the appointment of attorneys on the part of the pope was now renewed. It was resolved that he should be required to engage to grant no permission of absence from the council, nor withdraw himself; that he should not dissolve the council till the union of the church had been attained, nor consent to its transfer to any other place. In respect to the guards stationed in the different places, and of which the pope had complained, Sigismund apologized for it as having been done with the advice of some of the cardinals, who had observed that many secretly withdrew from the council, a course which, if permitted, would draw on its dissolution. The articles, as drawn up under the eye of the emperor, were presented to John XXIII by the patriarch of Antioch, whose service was rewarded by the pope with the charge of being a false brother, and a secret partisan of Benedict XIII.
On the next day the answer of the pope was given. He promised not to dissolve the council while the schism continued. As to transferring its sessions to another place, he was willing to leave it to the good judgment of the fathers of the council, at the same time giving it to be understood that he was ready to go to Nice, the place of the proposed negotiation between Sigismund and Benedict. As to power of attorney to cede for him, he utterly refused it on various grounds, among others, as implying a dishonorable submission which Benedict would never imitate. In conclusion, he promised to do all that should be judged necessary to promote the union of the church, under pain of being deserted by all his cardinals and prelates if he violated his pledge.
But the point which the pope was so reluctant to yield was not readily abandoned. An assembly of the several nations was held on the following day, in which the subject was again discussed. The French were now undecided, and asked more time for deliberation. The English proposed the pope’s arrest in the public assembly, and in presence of the emperor. John XXIII complains that but for the intervention of the French, they would have proceeded to this extremity. A sort of latent loyalty to the pontiff was aroused by the severity of the measures proposed against him. He was gaining sympathy as a persecuted man. The emperor saw that the moment was critical. He went at once, accompanied by the English, the Germans, and his council, to the monastery where the French were assembled, to confer with the Italian deputation. He presented to the assembly a document, the tenor of which was to force the pope to appoint attorneys to execute his act of cession, and prevent him from leaving the city. But the French regarded the measure of the emperor as an attempt to overawe them, and insisted on their privilege of deliberating by themselves—a privilege which the other nations had enjoyed. Upon this the English and Germans withdrew while the imperial counsellors remained. The French demanded of the emperor that these also should leave, and that none but himself should be allowed to remain. This demand provoked Sigismund. In a tone indicative of his passion, he exclaimed, as he turned to leave the assembly, “Now is the time to discover who are well disposed toward the union of the church, and at the same time toward the empire.” The cardinal of Cambray, who seems to have been satisfied with the conditional cession of the pope, and was indisposed to any further humiliation of the papal authority, regarded the words of the emperor as an implied threat, and withdrew deeply indignant. The four other cardinals, who with him composed the Italian deputation, considering their freedom of consultation prejudiced, sent to the emperor, who had not yet left the cloister, to know if they were free to act. He replied, that as for the French they might enjoy perfect liberty of deliberation, and added an apology for the words that had escaped him in a moment of excitement. But as to those who were not of the French nation, they should leave the assembly, under pain of imprisonment. This threat was aimed at the five cardinals who composed the Italian deputation. The French nation was left alone to its own deliberations, and the influence of Gerson and his associates secured a decision agreeable to the emperor. Three nations now united in their demand that the pope should appoint attorneys to execute his act of cession.
This result was a fatal blow to the last semblance of hope which John XXIII might have hitherto cherished. Notwithstanding the reluctance of the cardinals of St. Mark and Cambray, who had been the leaders of the anti-papal party, to proceed to this ulterior measure, it had yet been adopted by a majority of the nations. Flight from Constance was the only method which was left to John XXIII of escaping from the difficulties of his position. Upon this he was fully resolved. His friend Frederic, Duke of Austria, had reached the city but a few days before, and all were suspicious of the object he had in view. The emperor several times gave him warning not to aid the pope in his efforts to escape. On the evening of the twentieth of March, he went in person to confer with the pontiff. He most urgently dissuaded him from the idea of withdrawing from the council. Though guards were stationed at the gates, along the walls, and by the shores of the lake, in order to arrest any that should attempt to leave the city, Sigismund could not yet feel entirely sure of his prisoner. He wished, if possible, to secure his promise not to make the attempt. John XXIII was too great a master of dissimulation not to be ready to give an answer with which the emperor was fain to be satisfied. He replied that he would by no means leave Constance until the dissolution of the council. The ambiguity of his language left it afterwards to be inferred that he considered the council dissolved by the very fact of his departure.
Scarce had the emperor left, when John XXIII gave way to his passion. Bitterly did he utter his reproaches and complaints against Sigismund and his adherents. He would now have left him of the golden rose nothing but the thorn. Sigismund heard of the pope’s language, but discreetly passed it by. It may have been that there was some truth in the oft-repeated charge of John XXIII that the emperor had demanded money of him to secure him in his office. The probabilities are indeed against it, but the charge was boldly made out, was not denied, and it was obvious to all that the fate of John XXIII was in the hands of Sigismund.
John XXIII had complained, in his last interview with the emperor, that the air of Constance did not agree with him. He found his health giving way under it. Did he ever feel concern for the health of his destined victim, not like himself the inmate of a palace, but shut up in a prison cell? The emperor, in reply, expatiated to him upon the healthfulness and beauty of many places about the city where he might walk or ride for his refreshment. He even offered to accompany him, but undoubtedly the last companion whom the pope would have selected would have been the emperor. John XXIII was not particularly select in the terms by which he characterized his persecutor. He called him drunkard, fool, barbarian, beggar, and names still more opprobrious.
It was on the following day, March 21, that the pope had made his arrangements for flight. Frederic, Duke of Austria, though he stoutly denied all complicity with him, and declared that he cared not a straw for him or his money, had yet given him to understand what measures were to be taken. He had himself, on this day, appointed a tournament without the walls of the city, thus giving occasion fur multitudes to pass the gates, among whom John XXIII might escape unsuspected.
It was towards evening when the pope was prepared to make the hazardous attempt. He was disguised as a groom or postilion. He rode a horse poorly equipped, and was himself wrapped in a large cloak, with a crossbow on the pommel of his saddle. He passed on undiscovered till he reached the banks of the river, where a boat was ready to convey him to Schafhausen, which he reached in safety. Frederic had been at once informed of the pope’s flight, by one of his servants, who had been appointed to observe it, and who came and whispered the intelligence in the duke’s ear. No one suspected the nature of the message. The games were continued as if nothing had happened. In due time the duke returned to Constance, and at length rejoined the pope at Schafhausen, a city of his own allegiance.
Supremacy of the Council The Pope Suspended Treatment of Huss Arrest of Jerome
The flight of John XXIII from Constance produced no little consternation in the city. Many expected the immediate dissolution of the council. The merchants, sensitive to the least popular excitement which threatened riot, closed their shops or packed up their goods, in order to be ready to depart. It was in this emergency that the prudence and decision of the emperor were manifested. Attended by the elector Palatine and most of the court nobility, he marched with the sound of trumpet in procession through the streets of the city, giving his royal word that personal security should be still enjoyed, that the council was not dissolved by the flight of the pope, and that he was ready to defend it to the last drop of his blood. At the same time a writing was nailed to the gates of the palace to which public attention was called. It was an able invective against the conduct of John XXIII. It exposed his bad faith, intrigues, and projects for breaking up the council, and closed with a plea for the continuance of the council and the judgment of the pope according to his deserts.
A congregation was soon held to determine what measures should be adopted in the emergency. It seemed essential to persuade John XXIII to return to Constance, or at least to appoint his attorneys to execute the act of cession. A deputation of six was appointed to confer with him, of whom three were cardinals, one of the latter, Cardinal St. Mark.
Measures were the same day taken, in an assembly of the princes of the empire, to prosecute the Duke of Austria for his complicity in the flight of the pope. The emperor urged the matter with great energy. The duke was accused of treason and disloyalty to the council, the church, and the empire, and was summoned to appear and answer for his conduct before the emperor and the council. Thus the pope was to be punished in the prostration of the only powerful friend on whom he could rely. Many of the duke’s cities at once withdrew their allegiance.
The deputation to the pope had not yet left Constance, when some of the ablest minds of the council, disdaining any longer to demean themselves by controversy or negotiation with him, proposed bolder and more decisive measures. The well-known views and unquestionable ability of Gerson marked him out as their leading advocate. The proposition now advanced was that a general council was superior in authority to the pope, and might depose him. Gerson made it the subject of a public discourse, which the members of the deputation, although invited, declined to hear. The discourse was able and to the point. It was enforced, moreover, by papers drawn up by the representatives of the university of Paris. One of these, Benedict Gentian, a man of eminent ability, and a doctor of decrees, produced a separate document of similar purport, in which he declared John XXIII “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” “Who more than he,” he indignantly asks, “has scandalized the church of God?” He then concisely argues his “perfect heresy” from the gross and aggravated crimes of which he is undoubtedly guilty.
Meanwhile the pope on his part was not idle. The next day after his arrival at Schafhausen, be wrote to the emperor, his “dearest son,” informing him that “by the favor of Almighty God he was now in the enjoyment of a healthful and salubrious atmosphere.” He exculpated the Duke of Austria from all complicity in his flight, and declared that “now in the enjoyment of health and liberty, he had no purpose to evade his promise.”
The cool impudence of such ostentatious affection could certainly have contributed but little to calm the indignation or change the purpose of Sigismund. Scarcely, however, could he have perused this extraordinary letter, when another missive from Schafhausen reached Constance, and one more clearly indicative of the pope’s purpose. He cited all the officials and retainers of the pope’s court, under pain of excommunication and deprivation of all their offices, to meet him within six days at Schafhausen. It was plain that his object now was to break up the council. In obedience to his requisition, many left Constance. At the same time he put forth a skilful and specious apology for his flight, which he sent to the king of France and the Duke of Orleans. In this letter he sets forth the difficulties which interested persons had placed in the way of the council’s proceedings; complains of the unprecedented measure of dividing the council into nations, each having an equal vote; objects to the obstacles thrown in his way when he was anxious to attend to the trial of Huss; remarks upon the emperor’s intrigues, his control over the English and German nations; skillfully appeals to French prejudice in an account of Sigismund’s attempt to overawe the deliberations of the French deputation; grows indignant at the restraint imposed upon his own liberty, as well as the insults of the bishop of Sarum, in broaching the proposition which Gerson defended; and concludes with an account of his necessary flight, in which he contradicts the statements of his previous letter, addressed to the emperor, as to the complicity of the Duke of Austria. John XXIII could scarcely find fault with Benedict Gentian for calling him a great liar.
But the doctrine which the bishop of Sarum had ventured to state in the pope’s presence, and of which Gerson was the public and avowed champion—the superiority of the council to the pope—did not pass unquestioned. Many who had hitherto acted with the majority, began to waver. Was it not evident that such a doctrine would allow the council to annul all that the pope had done, and what security had the cardinals that they should not be deposed as well as their master? The question was already secretly agitated, soon to be brought to a public discussion, whether the cardinals, at least those who were adherents of John XXIII, should be allowed to participate in the deliberations of the council. Already they had taken the alarm. The members of the deputation refused to attend the assembly where Gerson was to discourse. The emperor invited the cardinals to meet and confer with him. Apprehensive of some scheme against the pope in which they could not participate, they declined the invitation. The patriarch of Antioch, whom the pope did not regard with any peculiar confidence, and whom he had called a false friend, drew up an elaborate argument to the effect that the pope is not subject to a general council. It was an answer to Gerson’s discourse. Not without the dissent of some of his colleagues, especially the cardinal D’Ailly, he presented one copy to the emperor, and took good care to send another to the pope.
The deputation to Schafhausen set out on their journey on the afternoon of March 23rd. The distance they had to travel was four German or twenty-three English miles. They spent the next day in conference with the pope. One of their number, the archbishop of Rheims, returned on the 25th to Constance. He found the emperor and the principal members of the council assembled to deliberate. His report was far from satisfactory. John XXIII still professed his readiness to execute the act of cession, but made propositions in regard to the method of it which were quite inadmissible. From day to day the subject was discussed, sometimes giving rise to strange scenes of altercation and confusion. Many of the cardinals, among whom was D’Ailly, were unwilling as yet entirely to break with the pope. They professed their determination to adhere to him until they were satisfied of his purpose to refuse to appoint procurators, in which case they would abandon him and abide by the decision of the council. They insisted that no definite action should be taken previous to the return of the deputation. On one occasion, while they were pleading for delay, and urging the cause of the pope, a copy of the pope’s citation, addressed to his officials and requiring them to leave Constance, was brought into the assembly. It had just been nailed upon the gates of the cathedral church. Its announcement took all by surprise. Even three of the deputation who had just returned from Schafhausen were not prepared for it, though apprehensive that some such a step was intended. The members of the council were indignant at this attempt to dissolve it. It was in vain that the cardinals urged the good intentions of the pope, or the concessions which he had authorized them to make. No faith was reposed in his word. The call was loud and repeated for a public session :”No matter about these; let there be a session,” was the cry. It was in vain to resist the demand; the only concession that was granted was that instead of being held on the twenty-eighth, it was deferred to the thirtieth of the month.
Up to the noon of the last-mentioned day, encroaching upon the time of the session, and in desecration of the sacred hours of the Sabbath on which it was to be held, the altercations continued. Various questions provoked the passions of the disputant. Some, and especially the cardinals, contended that by the pope’s flight the council was ipso facto dissolved. “What they could not effect by reason,” says Niem, “they attempted by their clamor.” A question, equally vital, was next raised—the one which Gerson had made the subject of his discourse. Immense results depended on its decision. The cardinals were not blind to the nature of a measure in which they were personally so deeply interested. But public sentiment was against them. The imperial will and Gerson’s logic, not unaided by the duplicity of the pope, carried the day. The majority of the nations—the Italians as well as the cardinals dissenting—agreed to report for adoption, at the approaching session of the council, measures necessary to its continuance and the vindication of its authority. These were the supremacy of the council, in matters vital to the church, over every kind of estate and dignity, even the papal; the guilt and deserved punishment of the pope for attempting to set it aside; and a third article on the execrable flight of the pope, of which Gerson secured the insertion, but which was afterwards dropped at the instance of the cardinals. The question of adopting these renewed all the previous bitterness of feeling. Neither party was inclined to yield. The odium against the cardinals was increased by their obstinacy. Some had refused to attend the deliberations under pretexts too shallow to conceal their suspected purpose of treating the council as dissolved. Others could not go so far, even in their strong attachment to the council, as to betray the papal prerogative.
Such was the state of things when the fourth session of the council was held on the thirtieth of March. In the absence of the pope, cardinal Jordan de Ursinis was appointed to preside. The decrees were read by Zabarella, cardinal of Florence. The cardinals had taken the liberty to modify the form in which they had been received from the congregation of the nations. As published, they were, in substance, that the council, deriving its power as the representative of the universal church from Christ himself, was superior to all other authority or dignity, even that of the pope; that John XXIII might not recall his officials, or remove the sessions of the council from Constance, under penalty of ecclesiastical censure, or measures more severe; that no promotions or deprivations were allowable on his part to the prejudice of the council, or of those that adhered to it; that no new cardinals should be created, and that those officials of the papal court, who were present in Constance, should enjoy, as before, full and undisturbed liberty of deliberation and action. Besides these, before or after the session, several articles were presented to the cardinals, ostensibly looking to and providing for the execution of the act of cession on the part of John XXIII.
On the following day, when the nations were assembled, complaint was made of the strange omissions and changes in the decrees as read by Zabarella. On their part the cardinals demanded fuller consideration on the omitted points, while the presidents of the nations, after conference with Zabarella, expressed their reprehension of the audacity of the cardinal. It was promptly resolved that the omitted parts should be at once restored, and the decrees be reproduced in their integrity.
Meanwhile the pope, who bad obtained information of the proposed measures of the council, through fear or policy, determined to leave Schafhausen. He deemed himself safer at a greater distance from Constance, or at least wished to have it so believed. It gave him opportunity to sting the emperor by the reproach implied in the statement afterward made, that he considered his freedom endangered at Schafhausen. He left the place at about the hour when the fourth session of the council was opened. None of his cardinals accompanied him except for a short distance from the city. He made them there witnesses to a written protest against the binding obligation of what he had sworn or promised at Constance, as extorted from him by force and threats. Thus his double game was now fully and finally exposed. In a storm of rain, and on horseback, with few attendants, he hurried on to Laufenberg, thus placing more than double the former distance between himself and the council. Many of the officers of his court returned to Constance. Benedict Gentian says they did not find a good kitchen at Schafhausen, and so came back. Some however remained, undecided what policy to adopt. No sooner were the pope’s second flight and his protest known, then several of the cardinals and officers of the papal court, and numbers of the Italian clergy, stole away from the council, most of them, however, soon to retrace their steps, “not without shame.”
This second flight of the pope gave the emperor and council the new advantage of showing how John XXIII had contradicted himself, in the reasons given for his flight, first from Constance and afterward from Schafhausen. It encouraged them to an act which was a virtual declaration of entire independence of the papal authority. A new seal was provided, with which to authenticate the documents of the council. For a device it had on one side the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, and on the other the words “The seal of the most holy council of the city of Constance.” The decision of the emperor, and the persevering energy of the anti-papal party, had now placed them in the ascendant. The cowardly flight of John XXIII, his inconstancy, notorious duplicity, and falsehood, had dispirited his partisans. War was declared against his powerful friend the Duke of Austria, and the emperor was making the necessary preparations for carrying it on.
Such was the condition of things when the fifth session of the council was opened, on Sunday, the sixth of April, 1415. The cardinal Jordan de Ursinis again presided. Eight cardinals were present. As it had been resolved to restore the parts of the decrees which had been omitted in the previous session, Cardinal Zabarella refused to read them. The bishop of Posnania was appointed to fill his place. The decrees, as originally agreed upon, were read, and unanimously adopted. The most important of the previously omitted portions was the one which declared the authority of the council to reform the church in its head and members. The supremacy of the council over the papal dignity, which was thus embodied in the decree, was most offensive to the partisans of John XXIII. Four centuries have still left the principle a disputed one. The interest of the popes has ever placed them in the ranks of its bitter opponents.
In this session it was resolved to affirm and approve the sentence of the council of Rome in regard to the books and doctrine of Wickliffe. A commission was appointed to investigate, and report the steps which should be taken. It was, moreover, resolved to write letters in the name of the council to kings and princes, giving a statement of the flight of the pope, and vindicating the body from the charges which he had brought against it.
As it was evident that John XXIII had no disposition to return to Constance, the council besought the emperor to attempt to bring him back. Sigismund replied that he would do it, intimating at the same time that force might be necessary to take him out of the hands of the Duke of Austria. He then stated the steps which he had taken to reduce the duke to obedience—well pleased, undoubtedly, to have the approval of the council in an enterprise inspired as much by policy as concern for the church.
Meanwhile John XXIII had reached Laufenberg. From that place he issued a bull, in which he still kept up his well-feigned anxiety to restore the church to peace and unity. Nor can we be surprised at his expressing his apprehension of danger to his personal freedom when he knew that the troops of the emperor were already on their march to Schafhausen. Sigismund had, in fact, entered upon the execution of his purpose with resolute energy. He was determined to subdue the pride and power of the pope’s most powerful champion. On the seventh of April, a citation of the duke, in which he is put under the ban of the empire, and all his subjects are absolved from their oath of allegiance, was nailed upon the doors of all the churches of Constance. Letters were written to different cities of Swabia and the Swiss cantons, urging them to proceed against Frederic as an enemy of the church and empire, and a disturber of the council. It was in vain that the French ambassadors and many powerful nobles interceded in his behalf. Some, who had formerly been under great obligations to the duke, manifested their ingratitude by the readiness with which they abandoned a sinking cause. Forty thousand men, in several bodies, were precipitated upon the cities which owed allegiance to the duke. City after city was taken from him. The Swiss were forced, by terrible threats, to abandon their neutrality and take up arms. John XXIII did his best to encourage his poor bewildered ally. He looked with confidence yet to the dissolution of the council, imagining that his absence would reduce it to a nullity. In such a case it was probable that the power and influence of the emperor would cease to preponderate, and Frederic might be able to recover what he had lost. But he soon saw himself reduced to the necessity of submission. John XXIII, on his part, deeming himself no longer safe at Laufenberg, fled to Freiburg, a place strongly fortified. On his arrival, he again sent to the council the terms on which he would execute his act of cession. But his demands were too extravagant for the council to allow. They saw themselves made the sport of the pope’s duplicity; so that his last letter only served to confirm and strengthen the opposition against him. The cardinals, moreover, were now more inclined than heretofore to abandon the pope. The proceedings of the council were continued in his absence with their former regularity, a commission being appointed to act in his place.
Meanwhile the question of the relative authority of the pope and council was agitated anew. The occasion of it was the proposed condemnation of Wickliffe’s writings. As we have already seen, a commission was appointed (April 7th) who were clothed with full authority to examine the doctrines of the English heretic, and report the form of process to be adopted for the condemnation proposed. This commission, consisting, among others, of Cardinals St. Mark and Cambray, to whom the cause of Huss was also committed, had made their report on or about the eighteenth of the month. By the advice of many eminent doctors who were consulted in the examination of Wickliffe’s works, it was agreed that forty-five articles extracted from them should be condemned. These articles, which were read in the session held on the fourth of May, and there pronounced heretical, cannot be regarded as a fair representation of the views of Wickliffe. Some of them are evidently garbled extracts from his writings, while a portion of the others are so distorted as to lose their original meaning. It is obvious, however, in comparing them with the opinions and doctrines of Huss, that the English reformer was by far the most thorough Protestant.
It was proposed also to condemn two hundred and sixty other articles drawn from Wickliffe’s writings, but the reading of them for this purpose was interrupted by the French, who complained that they had not had the opportunity to examine them. It appears, however, that the new list of articles, as well as the principal treatises of Wickliffe, were likewise condemned.
It was indeed a foregone conclusion that Wickliffe should be anathematized as a notorious and scandalous heretic; that his memory should be condemned; and that his body and bones, if they could be distinguished from others, should be disinterred and cast out from ecclesiastical burial. Such was the definitive sentence pronounced by the council in its eighth session, held on the fourth of May.
But in drawing up the form of the sentence, the question was raised whether Wickliffe’s condemnation should be pronounced in the name of the pope or the council. Most of the cardinals, and the entire party yet in sympathy with the pope, were united in favor of the former. Thus the controversy in regard to a principle fundamental to the constitution of the whole church was again opened. By order of the council the previous conclusions of the cardinals in regard to the supremacy of the church of Rome, as well as to their own privileges, had been answered and refuted. The patriarch of Antioch, who had gone with the council so far as to be called a false friend by John XXIII, now came forward as the champion of the papal party. “Church power,” he maintained, “was given to the mystic body of the church, so as to pertain especially to St. Peter; from him, as the head, it is diffused through the whole body. But nowhere do we find that Peter ever gave a general council power over the pope; consequently the pope is not subject to it. To him belongs plenitude of power. Others are therefore subject to him, and not he to them. Councils, moreover, receive their power from the pope. None but God is his judge. A council cannot judge him without his authority.” These positions are sustained by a multitude of references to decisions of the popes, opinions of eminent doctors, the canon law, decretals, etc. Such were the views concurred in by a large majority of the cardinals, and favored by all the partisans of the pope, embracing probably the majority of the Italian nation. The cardinal of Cambray came forward to confute them. Manfully did he undertake the task, well aware, however, that stronger than his logic was the will of the council, resolved to enforce it. “To continue obstinately in schism,” said he, “is a heresy, and even an idolatry. In this case it is allowable that a pope should be judged. Besides, is not the pope judged by a human being in the tribunal of his own conscience? The council, moreover, represents the entire church, of which the pope is but a part.”
The contention on this matter grew warm and fierce. Only twelve members out of forty, composing the commission of doctors, agreed with the cardinal of Cambray. But, in spite of contradictions even to his face, he was resolved to maintain his ground.
But the policy forced upon the council by the emergency was stronger than arguments drawn from reason or precedent. The question, so earnestly discussed then, has been variously determined since, according to the preponderance of parties. It is still the touch-me-not of the Roman Catholic church. But in spite of the overwhelming majority against him in the college of cardinal, D’Ailly was triumphant in the council. Its members were irritated by the frequent subterfuges and delays of the pontiff. They were more than satisfied that he had no intention to cede his office. The only measure that now remained for them was the assertion of the rights and the maintenance of the authority of the council.
On the thirteenth of April the council had deliberated on the terms upon which John XXIII had wished to negotiate. He demanded of the emperor a safe-conduct, drawn up in such terms as he should dictate; that the council should decree his freedom as well after as before his abdication; that the war against his friend, the Duke of Austria, should cease; and that he himself should remain cardinal and Italian legate, with thirty thousand florins yearly revenue, with authority also over an Italian province. Such terms as these the council was by no means disposed to grant. The emperor was resolved that the Duke of Austria should be humbled, while few imagined that the pope would abide even by the terms he had offered.
In the session held on the seventeenth of April, the council drew up a form by which the pope was to confer a power-of-attorney to execute his cession. The persons to whom this power was to be granted were named in an after decree, and consisted of four from each of the four nations. A committee, consisting, besides the cardinals of St. Mark and Florence, of eminent theologians and bishops from the different nations, was appointed to present to the pope, for his acceptance, the form which had been drawn up. They were instructed, moreover, to demand that he should return from his flight, and select one of the three cities, Ulm, Ravensburg, or Basle, as his place of residence, where the council by its ambassadors might have access to him. Two days were allowed him in which to make his choice. In case of his refusal to comply with the demands of the council, it was resolved that he should be cited to appear and answer to the accusations brought against him. This process, which looked to his deposition, was to be stayed only until answer should be received. In case of his compliance, however, no further steps would be taken.
Meanwhile the council were encouraged in their course by letters from the university of Paris, the only power in Europe the authority and influence of which rivaled that of the papacy. They were addressed, one to the council, one to the emperor, and one to John XXIII, and fully endorsed the policy hitherto pursued. The council on their part drew up letters to kings and princes, giving a statement of the doings of the council and the difficulties with which it had to contend, in which they endeavored to secure their allegiance and support. It was in these circumstances that an event occurred which showed to what a point the influence of the cardinals had declined, in consequence of their extreme reluctance to proceed against John XXIII. In the sixth session, on the seventeenth of April, a prelate, supposed to have been Benedict Gentian of the university of Paris, rose and read a paper in which it was proposed that the cardinals should be excluded from the deliberations of the council. It was urged against them, that if their presence were allowed they would be judges in their own cause; that in their election of John XXIII they had abused their office, and scandalized the whole church; that on the pope’s flight from Constance they had followed him, and rendered themselves justly objects of suspicion to the council; that such as had returned, had maintained that the council was dissolved by the flight of the pope, thus virtually arguing their own exclusion; and finally, that while the adherents of John are fed by his gold, their influence will defeat the reform of the church.
No action was taken by the council upon this startling proposition. But the very fact that it could be made with impunity, and without exciting a murmur except among those directly affected by it, is quite significant. On the other hand, the cardinals were indignant at what they considered the insult that had been offered them. They assembled to deliberate in regard to their own rights, and resolved at all hazards to vindicate their own and the papal authority. An “Apology and Vindication” was consequently drawn up, and presented, on the eighteenth of the month, in an assembly of the nations. It was publicly opposed by the cardinal of Cambray. But the answer to it was not given until the second of May. Previous to this, the cardinals had become more fully sensible of the slight which had been put upon them. Matters had been determined in the assembly of the nations of which they were allowed no knowledge until a short time before the public session, when there was no time to deliberate. They demanded, therefore, that inasmuch as the council was composed of the four nations, of which the English had but three prelates, the college of cardinals should be allowed an equal authority, and be permitted to deliberate and vote as a nation by themselves. Such a demand was little to the taste of the majority of the council. It was consequently refused. The cardinals might deliberate and vote with the nation of their birth, but were not allowed recognition as a distinct body.
Meanwhile the ambassadors to the pope had set out on their journey. It was on the nineteenth of the month that they received their final instructions, and a safe-conduct for John XXIII in case of his compliance with the demands of the council. But the pope was no longer at Freiburg. Haunted by his fears, and apprehensive of arrest by the imperial army in the neighborhood, he had fled to Breisach. It was his evident purpose to escape from the territories of the empire and seek refuge in France, or put himself under the protection of the Duke of Burgundy. The ambassadors of the council followed him in his flight. They reached Breisach on the twenty-third of April. On the following day they laid the demands of the council before him. They were informed that an answer would be given the next day. In the interval, however, the pope disguised himself and fled, leaving as an excuse to the embassy, that during the night he had received intelligence of danger which threatened him at Breisach. His first stopping-place was at Nienburg, a village two leagues distant. But here again his fears would allow him no rest. Nor was the ground of his apprehensions merely imaginary. The friend on whom he had hitherto relied, the Duke of Austria, was unable any longer to protect, and was in fact about to desert him. One city after another had withdrawn from him its allegiance. The imperial armies were closing around him. If the conflict was to be continued, he could only offer the resistance of despair. He had relied on the fidelity, or at least the neutrality of the Swiss; but the terrors of excommunication and the imperial ban had forced them to take up arms against their ally. Frederic saw the daily defection, and began to despond. John XXIII alone exhorted him to a manly resistance, and promised him whatever amount of money he might need. He endeavored to persuade him that, at the report of the war, the council, deprived of its head, would be dissolved, and that those who had revolted would return to their allegiance.
But Frederic had another adviser in Louis of the Palatinate, whose sister he had married. Though armed on the side of the emperor, and ostensibly the enemy, Louis was really the friend of Frederic. He represented to the latter the desperate condition of his affairs, the readiness with which the chief cities would throw off their yoke and declare themselves free if the occasion was longer allowed; the folly of introducing foreign troops whose presence would only offend and alienate his own party; the fatal policy of allowing the emperor to stir up his subjects to rebellion, slaying the duke as it were with his own sword; the security to be attained by a reconciliation with the emperor, a thing by no means to be despaired of; and the wise policy of going at once to Constance and throwing himself upon the mercy of the emperor, aided and sustained as he would he by the intercession of powerful friends. These arguments and persuasions of Louis were enforced by the friends and servants of Frederic. He at length yielded to their force, thus leaving John XXIII, unprotected, to manage his own negotiations. He determined to secure his pardon at whatever cost. After having connived at, if not aided, the pope in his flight, and used him as his tool till he discovered that he was but a broken staff, he resolved to deliver him up to the emperor as a mark of his submission, and it was with this view that he returned to Constance. A Swiss historian declares that by Frederic’s intervention the pope was prevented from escaping to France. He wished to hold him as a pledge to secure his own pardon. Under the semblance of friendship he wrote to John XXIII a letter, the results of which, if not so intended, fully accorded with the interests of the council. He told him that he could no longer warrant his security at Nienburg, nor on his proposed route, inasmuch as the troops of the emperor were stationed to intercept him. The duke consequently volunteered the advice, equivalent to a command in the circumstances of the case, that the pope would best consult his safety by returning to Freiburg. No other course was left for John XXIII than to accept the advice, however unpalatable.
Meanwhile the embassy from the council, deserted at Breisach by the man with whom they had been sent to confer, and indisposed to follow up the fugitive in what they deemed a fruitless chase, had set out on their return to the council. They had already reached Freiburg, and were about to continue their journey, when they were agreeably surprised by information from Louis of Bavaria, who met them at that place, that if they would remain a short time longer, they might have the desired opportunity of meeting the pope, and executing their commission. In a few hours John XXIII arrived. He was extremely mortified at finding here the men to whom he had shown such antipathy at Breisach, and whom he dreaded almost equally with the imperial troops. They now repeated their demand of a power-of-attorney, and a choice of the proposed cities in which he might reside and treat with the council, declaring that in case of his refusal the council would proceed against him. The mortification of the pope was extreme. There was no longer any possible method of evading the demand. An answer must be given. It was promised by John XXIII, and the ambassadors of the council were to receive it on the following day. The day came, but no answer. The ambassadors at once went to search for the pope. They found him yet in bed, where he received them, as Niem reports, in the most indecent manner. He still refused to grant them a power-of-attorney to execute his act of cession, but promised to send it to the council after them. He merely placed in their hands a list of the demands which he made for himself as the condition of compliance with the wishes of the council. Unable to obtain anything more satisfactory, the ambassadors returned to Constance. At an assembly of the nations, held on the twenty-ninth day of April, their report was made. The irritation against John XXIII was now extreme. All professed to see in the result of this embassy another illustration of the duplicity and obstinacy of the pope. It was resolved, therefore, that the process against him should be commenced, and that he should be cited before the council to answer to the accusations brought against him. Before the citation was issued, however, the papal grant of a power-of-attorney arrived. But it was loaded with conditions wholly inadmissible. The council voted it unsatisfactory, in spite of the remonstrance of the cardinals.
On the second of May, the seventh public session of the council was held. It was in this session that Jerome, whose arrest was not yet known at Constance, was cited for the second time. The citation of John XXIII was likewise issued, in which he was charged with the crimes of heresy, simony, corrupt administration of his office, favoring the present schism, and other grave offences, scandalous to the Catholic church. He was accused, moreover, of gross immoralities. His flight, his evasion of the demands of the council, and his opposition to the reformation of the church were not forgotten in the catalogue of his crimes; and he was summoned by a public edict, to be published in the usual manner, to appear within nine days before the council and submit to trial. His refusal to appear should not stay the process.
The second citation of Jerome, to which we have referred as issued at this session, was urged forward by that enemy of the Bohemian reformers, Michael de Causis. He personally attended to the publication of the citation, nailing it, during the hours of public worship, on the doors of St. Stephen’s church and the church of the Virgin Mary. His assistants in the work were two fellow-priests of Prague, George de Walschim and Paul de Horowitz. It was not without reason that Jerome complained, on his trial, that he was persecuted by individual envy and malice.
While these things were taking place, Frederic of Austria was industriously looking after his own interests. Abandoning the pope to his fate, he hastened to Constance. It was on the thirtieth of April that he reached the city; but nearly a week passed before he could find access to the emperor. On the fifth of May, Sigismund had assembled the Italian ambassadors and a great number of the prelates of the four nations at a banquet, in the large hall of the Franciscan monastery. He was seated at the further end of the hall when the vanquished prince appeared at the threshold. Frederic advanced, conducted by Duke Louis of Bavaria and the elector of Brandenburg. As he approached the emperor, he bent his knee thrice to the ground. “What do you want?” said Sigismund. “Powerful king,” replied Louis of Bavaria, “the Duke Frederic, my cousin, here present, implores your royal clemency. He is ready to bring back the pope; but he requires, for his honor, that no violence be offered the holy father.” Frederic confirmed what was thus advanced, and at last moved the emperor, who tendered him his hand. The prince gave up all his domains in Alsace and the Tyrol to Sigismund, and swore fidelity to him as his lord suzerain. The emperor, whose pride was flattered by this scene of Frederic’s submission, and who wished to make the most of it, turned to the personages there present, and said, “Gentlemen of the Italian nation, you are acquainted with the name and power of the dukes of Austria, yet observe how I tame them; and learn from this what a king of the Germans can do.” Sigismund wished to make an impression that should overawe the partisans of the pope. To this end he sacrificed his true dignity to the bombast of power.
Frederic’s submission had been preceded by that of John, archbishop of Mentz, who saw no further hope of success in his attempts to obstruct the proceedings of the council. He had been one of the pope’s warmest partisans, but, like Frederic, had no disposition to invite his own ruin by clinging to a sinking cause. Thus John XXIII saw himself entirely deserted, save by the few partisans and cardinals whose voice was drowned in the loud murmurs of the council. During the nine days allowed for his appearance, the process against Wickliffe and his writings was pressed forward. Their condemnation, referred to already, took place at the eighth session of the council, held on the fourth of May. The citation of John XXIII had alarmed even the friends who had still followed him in his flight, and had hitherto adhered to his falling fortunes. Day by day some prelate or cardinal might be seen straggling back to Constance. Otho de Colonna, afterward elected pope in the place of John XXIII, was one of the last to desert him. The semblance of a court which had hitherto attended the fugitive pontiff now disappeared. Yet, hopeless as his case was, John XXIII still obstinately refused to submit to the council. The ninth session was held on the day fixed for his appearance. Prelates, appointed for the purpose, called at the doors of the church for John XXIII to appear; and, when no person came forward to answer the summons, three-and-twenty commissioners, amongst whom were Cardinals de Ursinis and St. Mark, were designated to hear the witnesses against the pope.
But the council were not disposed to be content with John’s absence. His reluctance to appear was foreseen, and the citation was enforced by methods of a more effective kind. Soon after it was issued, the council sent the archbishops of Besancon and of Riga to use their influence with him, to persuade him to return, while the emperor reinforced their persuasions by sending along with them three hundred men, with the Burgrave of Nuremberg at their head. If argument and persuasion could not avail, they were to employ force. On their arrival at. Freiburg, their first precaution was to station guards at all the approaches of the city, from fear that the pope might escape their hands. The prelates exhausted their eloquence in urging John XXIII to Constance, but in vain. The pope received them in the most affable and cheerful manner, assuring them of his readiness to comply with their solicitations, meanwhile resolved to play out his last card of negotiation before giving up the game. Again he sent propositions to the council; but these were again refused. His letter, giving notice of his conferring the power-of-attorney on three cardinals, St. Mark, Cambray, and Florence, was read. But the cardinal of Cambray was absent. The cardinal St. Mark declared that he never had performed the office, and would not do it now; while the cardinal of Florence declared his wish to proceed according to the will of the council; but, as there was no reply, at length added that it was hard to be advocate against the whole world. In these circumstances, the whole thing was allowed silently to drop. The power-of-attorney was not read, or even produced.
The tenth session of the council was held on the fourteenth of May. The ceremony of the previous session, calling on the pope to answer to the citation, was repeated. He did not appear, and was declared guilty of contumacy. The commission for examining witnesses against him reported to the council that testimony had been heard sufficient to warrant his suspension. Ten witnesses had been examined. Their words had been reduced to writing, and their depositions were read. The allegations against the pope, as contained in the citation, were considered to be fully sustained, and his suspension from the pontifical office was pronounced. Among the charges against him was that of heresy. To this the cardinal St. Mark excepted, declaring that no witnesses had been heard upon that point. The council, aware of the maxim of the common law that a pope can be deposed only for heresy, and considering John XXIII guilty of this, at least by implication, were unwilling to allow the force of the cardinal’s objection, and the discussion of the matter was deferred to another occasion.
The controversy between the council and John XXIII had, for the time, absorbed the interest and anxiety of all parties. Meanwhile Huss had bean removed from the Dominican monastery to that of the Franciscans only that John XXIII might more conveniently expedite his processes against him, and thus divert the attention of the council from his own affairs. At the time of the pope’s flight, he was under the charge of officers of the papal court. These, when they learned that the pope had fled, deserted their post to follow their master. The keys of Huss’ prison consequently fell into the hands of the emperor. The opportunity was one not to be lost. The reformer’s faithful friend, De Chlum, accompanied by other Bohemian nobles, immediately waited upon Sigismund in the hope of procuring his release. They pointed out to him the favorable occasion now afforded of delivering an innocent man from indescribable suffering, while he vindicated his own honor and that of the empire from the contempt to which they had been subjected. Sigismund listened in embarrassed silence. He protested, not without a confusion excited by a sense of his own injustice, that the future destiny of the professor lay not in his hands, but in those of the four presidents of the several nations of the council. All that he himself would consent to was that the nobles should pay the invalid a short visit in the presence of witnesses. Conducted by the emperor’s attendants, the Bohemians proceeded to the Franciscan convent. There they found Huss, to outward view, a pitiable object. He lay stretched on a miserable couch, emaciated, and wasted almost to a skeleton. On the ground before him lay a small strip of paper. They picked it up, and though the writing upon it was scarce legible, it told the story of the neglect which would soon have saved the stake a victim. “If you still love me, entreat the emperor to allow his people to provide for me, or else enable me to find sustenance for myself.” Such were the words they read.
Huss had formerly been scantily supplied from the pope’s kitchen, but since his flight had been entirely overlooked. Fur three days the weak, enfeebled prisoner had been without food. Meekly and uncomplainingly did he endure what God had seen fit to suffer wicked men to inflict upon him. At the melancholy night, the bearded warriors were melted into tears, but their resentment was aroused. “With uplifted lands and eloquent eyes, they besought Heaven to give them, at some future period, an opportunity of avenging with their swords” such inhuman cruelty and injustice. Undoubtedly Sigismund might thank his own policy, in allowing such treatment of Huss, for the bitter wars that afterward ravaged his Bohemian dominions. The meeting of Huss and his friends, says the chronicle, was very melancholy, and the parting was still more sad; for all those brave men loved Huss as their father, and their hearts were full of gloomy foreboding. When the sufferer had received the last embrace of his countrymen, he sank back fainting on his chains. The next day he was given over by the emperor and the council to the rigid custody of the bishop of Constance. By the order of the latter he was conveyed by water to the castle of Gottlieben. Armed men accompanied the prisoner till they reached the spot on the banks of the Rhine, three miles distant from Constance. He was thrown into the tower, and treated with a severity which would have been harshness even to the greatest criminal. Irons were fastened to his feet, and during the day be might move the length of his chain, but at night he was chained by his arms to the wall. With such inhuman cruelty, enough to crush the boldest spirit, Huss was to be prepared to stand up alone against a host of enemies that thirsted for his blood. Undoubtedly there were men among them who would deliberately prefer to browbeat an invalid, or argue with one too weak to defend his own cause, than contend with the living, vigorous energy of thought and action that had electrified a whole kingdom.
It was but. a few days after the removal of Huss to Gottlieben, on the fourth of April, that his friend and associate, Jerome of Prague, arrived at Constance. The misfortunes and sufferings of Huss had become known in Bohemia. An intense sympathy was felt in his behalf. His cruel treatment, and the danger to which be was exposed, became the subjects of daily conversation. Men began to blame Jerome that he should have left his companion and brother in faith to contend alone and unsupported against a host of enemies. But their complaint was ill-founded, as the event showed. On his departure from Prague, and more especially after his imprisonment, Huss had exhorted his friend to preserve himself for better times. He was ready and willing himself to become a sacrifice, if one was demanded, but he could not consent to have the cause of truth deprived of so able and faithful a champion as Jerome. In the generous mind of the latter, however, the blame imputed to him, and to which he was so sensitive, outweighed every other anxiety. He immediately quitted Bohemia and hastened to Constance. His countrymen, to whom he presented himself, were terrified by his arrival. They knew too well the spirit that had been shown in the treatment of Huss to dare to trust it further. They at once pronounced his journey useless, since all hopes of his friend’s release from prison were at an end. But Jerome was resolved to see Huss if possible, and exert himself on his behalf. By some means he seems to have secured admittance to him; but when he saw his gloomy prison, the chains upon his limbs, and the harsh treatment to which he was subjected, his apprehensions of the vanity of any effort in his behalf enforced the persuasions of the Bohemian nobility, and he withdrew from Constance, where his own liberty was endangered, and where spies were on his track.
Yet he had already learned from other sources facts that excited all his fears. Since his arrival in the city, he had mingled, without being known, with the crowds of people about the streets, and had overheard disastrous intelligence. It was said that John Huss would not be admitted into the presence of the council; that he would be judged and condemned in secret; that he would leave his prison only to die. Jerome was struck with alarm, and thought that all was lost. A violent terror seized on him, and be took to flight as suddenly as he had come. It is even stated, so precipitate was his departure, that be left his sword at the inn where he had alighted. The news of his arrival had already spread abroad, and he was searched for in every direction. But it was soon ascertained that be had left the city.
By the aid and counsel of his friends, the Bohemian magnates, he withdrew to the neighboring free city of Uberlingen. Here deeming himself more secure, his calmer reflection led him to take those steps which his generous and impulsive nature had caused him to overlook on his departure from Prague. The precaution was indeed tardy, and one from which he could not expect any great result; yet the sanguine hope of contributing to aid Huss, the bitter fear that without such aid as he might render his doom would be sealed, and the shame of fleeing for his life only to bear back the sad message of hopeless effort to his friends at Prague, impelled him to do what be could in his friend’s behalf. He wrote to the emperor and the council, asking each to grant him an open and unequivocal safe-conduct, provided with which he might appear at Constance and justify himself and Huss from all calumnious accusations brought against them. He grounded his claim on the fact of his having come to Constance of his own accord, without being summoned there like Huss. The answer he received was too ambiguous to allow him to repose any confidence in it. The emperor made the only reply that could reasonably have been expected from him after what had occurred. He refused a safe-conduct. Most probably it was his wish that Jerome would remain as far away from Constance as possible. The affair of Huss had already given him too much trouble, and Sigismund was anxious for the attainment of an object with which the trial of Jerome, or the confusion incident to his presence at Constance, might be expected to interfere.
The council replied to Jerome’s request in strange terms. They granted him what they chose to call a “safe-conduct,” but what was, in reality, a document of quite another character, and which illustrates only too well the real object in view—the arrest and condemnation of Jerome himself. It was a very different document from that which Huss had received: “The sacred synod, forming a general council at Constance, assembled by the Holy Spirit, and representing the universal church militant, recommends Jerome of Prague, calling himself master of arts in several universities, to be well-conducted, even unto sobriety, and to do nothing beyond what is necessary for being well-conducted. … As we have nothing more at heart than to catch the foxes which ravage the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, we summon you, by these presents, to appear before us as a suspected person, and violently accused of having rashly advanced several errors; and we order you to appear here within a fortnight from the date of this summons, to answer, as you have offered to do, in the first session that shall be held after your arrival. It is for this purpose that, in order to prevent any violence being offered you, we, by these presents, give you a full safe-conduct, as much as in us lies,excepting always the claims of the law, and that the orthodox faith does not in any way prevent it; certifying to you, besides, that whether you appear within the specified time or not, the council, by itself or its commissioners, will proceed against you as soon as the term shall have elapsed. Given at Constance, in public session, the 17th of April, 1415, under the seals of the presidents of the four nations.” Another account informs us that the cardinals wrote under Jerome’s petition, “We grant you our protection to this place, but not back again.” This was at least candid.
Dissatisfied with the answer which had been returned to his petition, Jerome determined to make one more effort. Our historian assures us that he returned to the council, and affixed his appeal for a safe-conduct in all the public places—on the city gates, the doors of the churches, the monasteries, and palaces of the cardinals. If he did, indeed, for a few hours return to Constance, it must have been by stealth; and his appeal, we may presume, was made public by means of the Bohemian nobility. It was unquestionably the same in substance with that which he had previously presented.
The answer of the cardinals to the application of Jerome was somewhat delayed. As no answer arrived for several days, the Bohemian knights represented to him the uselessness of his attempt, and earnestly pressed his return home. Sad at heart, he commenced his journey back to Prague. He saw the uselessness of all his efforts in behalf of Huss, and was uneasy at the manner in which he apprehended his return would be interpreted. He was, however, bearer of a document in which seventy Bohemian nobles, present at Constance, gave testimony to his having come there; that he had done all in his power to render reasons for his faith; and that he had departed from Constance only because he could not remain there in safety.
Such disappointment and provocation as he had experienced at Constance had not increased his prudence. He proceeded on his way, declaiming everywhere openly, and without precaution or moderation, against the council. He was still the same man as ever, full of generous and noble impulses, but often impetuous and violent. Conscious of his integrity, and listening only to his own strong convictions, his words and acts were rarely regulated by a calculating or cautious prudence.
On the 24th of April, Jerome had reached Hirschau, a small village of the Black Forest, situated on the Rhine. It was here that the curé persuaded him to stay and dine in his house, where he had invited several others of the clergy. Common prudence would have led Jerome to decline the invitation. He accepted it, however, and took his seat at the table with men whose suspicions were soon excited by what they deemed the heretical language of the stranger. The course of conversation led, as might have been expected, to a discussion of the merits of the council then assembled at Constance. The mind of Jerome was at once carried back to the prison and the wrongs of Huss. His indignation mastered his discretion. He so far forgot himself as to call the council “a school of the devil, a synagogue of iniquity.” Such terms could not fail to give deep offence. Some of the priests went at once and laid them before the officer in command of the town, by whose orders Jerome was arrested.
Hirschau was a city of the upper Palatinate, and it was not long before intelligence of what had occurred reached the palgrave then residing at Saltzbach. By his orders Jerome was cast into prison and bound with chains, while information of his arrest was sent to the council. The latter immediately besought the palgrave to send him bound to Constance. He promptly complied. Jerome was chained to a cart, his heavy irons clanking upon his limb, and conveyed to the city, which he reached on the 24th of May. Here Louis, Duke of Bavaria, brother of the count Palatine, waited the arrival of the victim. Surrounded by a multitude equally brutal with himself, he began to pull and drag Jerome by his chains. He led him about in this cruel and savage manner through the whole city. At length he stopped at the convent of the Minor Friars, where the priests were assembled to receive him. Jerome was led in like a wild beast by his chain fastened to a manacle, in order to be examined. The letter of the palgrave informing the council of Jerome’s arrest, and his citation published after his withdrawal from Constance, were read to him. One of the bishops then addressed the prisoner, demanding of him why he had fled and not obeyed the citation to appear before the council. “I withdrew,” replied Jerome, “because I had not obtained a safe-conduct either from you or the emperor, and besides, I was aware that I had here a great number of mortal enemies. I never received the summons of the council. Had I known of it, I swear to you that I should at once have returned, aye, if I had already reached my own country.” In evidence of the refusal of a safe-conduct and of the danger of his appearing before the council, Jerome referred to the document presented to him by the Bohemian nobles, which had been taken from him at the time of his arrest, and which was now in the hands of the council.
The reply of Jerome produced much sensation. Great noise and confusion ensued. A multitude of persons accused Jerome, and volunteered to give evidence against him. He had visited all the universities of Europe, and the fame of his eloquence, if not the vanquishing force of his arguments, had excited the jealousy and envy of many who were here present. He had the rancor of the doctors and the petty passions of former antagonists arrayed against him. The illustrious Gerson did not neglect the occasion which his present position afforded him, to exult over a man whose pride of intellect was fully equal to his own.
After the tumult had somewhat subsided, the Parisian doctor addressed the prisoner. Gerson was not unaware of Jerome’s argumentative skill, for they had known each other at Paris. He therefore recurred at once to the old subject of dispute on Universals and Ideas. Gerson was a Nominalist, Jerome a Realist. “Jerome,” said the former, “when you came to Paris, you fancied yourself with your eloquence to be an angel from heaven. You troubled the university, broaching in our schools many erroneous propositions with their corollaries, and especially in the matter of Universals and Ideas, beside many other things of a scandalous nature.” “Master Gerson,” replied Jerome, “I answer you, that what I proposed in the schools of Paris, and what I answered to the arguments of the masters, I proposed philosophically, and as a philosophical thinker and a master of that university. And if I proposed anything which I ought not to propose, let me be instructed in what respect it is erroneous, and I will be corrected and set right with all humility.” At this point Jerome was interrupted by a doctor of the university of Cologne, who rose and said, “When you were at Cologne, you brought forward several erroneous arguments.” “Will you mention, first of all, one error that I maintained?” asked Jerome. “None occurs to me at present, but they shall be objected to you hereafter,” was the reply of the doctor, disconcerted by the unexpected question. A doctor from Heidelberg now became Jerome’s accuser. “When you were at Heidelberg,” said he, “you maintained grave errors with regard to the Trinity. You represented it there under the figure of a kind of shield, comparing the Trinity of persons in the divine nature to water, snow, ice, etc.” “What I wrote and represented at Heidelberg,” said Jerome, “I am ready to assert, write, and represent again. Let me know in what respect I have erred, and I will humbly recant the error.” A murmur now arose in the assembly, several calling out, “Let him be burned, let him be burned.” “If it be your pleasure that I should die,” resumed Jerome, “in the name of God, be it so.” The bishop of Saltzburg, the only one of the council who showed the least feeling of compassion, here interposed between the judges and the primer. “Not so,” said he, “not so; for it is written ‘I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn and live.’” This single tone of mercy was drowned, however, in the redoubled noise and vociferations of the assembly. The clamor and tumult of the accusations brought against him were such that all orderly proceedings were at an end. Jerome was committed, bound, to the charge of officers of the city, and the assembly broke up. Towards evening, Peter Maldoniewitz, better known by the name of Peter the Notary, an attendant on John de Chlum, and a faithful friend of Huss and Jerome, roamed about in the neighborhood of the house where the latter had for the time been lodged. Drawing close to one of the windows, Peter called out to Jerome, who heard and recognized his voice. “Welcome, brother ” was Jerome’s instant exclamation. Welcome, indeed, must one have been who came to cheer and encourage him in the gloomy prospect now before him. “Strengthen thy soul,” continued Peter; “be mindful of that truth which thou hadst so often in thy mouth when thou went at liberty, and thy limbs were free from shackles. My friend, my master, do not fear even to face death for it.” “Yes,” said Jerome, “you know that I do not fear death. We have often spoken of it, but now must we see what it can do to us.”
The soldiers interrupted this moving conversation between the friends, by repulsing Peter with violence and threats. He mournfully bade farewell to Jerome, and withdrew. His heart was filled with grief.
Scarcely had he gone, when another person came up, a servant of John de Chlum, named Vitus. Scarcely had be begun to speak with Jerome, when he was seized by the soldiers, and found no small difficulty in recovering his liberty.
The charge of Jerome was committed to John Wallendrod, archbishop of Riga. The selection of such a man for the office, although it fell to him probably as president of the German nation, was in keeping with the harsh treatment which Jerome had already received from the council. The archbishop removed him the same night from his temporary prison to the dungeon of a tower in the cemetery of St. Paul, where he ordered him to be heavily ironed. His chains were riveted to a lofty beam in such a way as to prevent his sitting down, whilst his arms were forced by fetters to cross on his neck behind, compelling him to incline his head forward and downward. Such is the description given by old authors and by those who were spectators of his imprisonment, in their accounts of his life. For two days he was kept in this posture. His only food was bread and water. No one of his Bohemian friends knew or could ascertain where he was. At last Peter Maldoniewitz discovered his circumstances through one of the keepers of the prison. By his means Jerome was allowed the indulgence of better food.
Had the council resolved to establish against themselves the truth of the charge made by Jerome? Had they determined, by their treatment of their prisoner, to make it manifest that they were indeed “a school of the devil, a synagogue of iniquity?”
They were murdering their prisoner by inches. Nature could not long endure such aggravated and cruel inflictions. Jerome’s health soon gave way. His life was at length in imminent danger. He now demanded that a confessor should be allowed him, and his request was granted. Some of his irons were taken off. His health at length was restored, and for a whole year he was the tenant of a prison.
End of Section III