Another feat of like nature Joachim II. had long ago achieved; which likewise in the long-run proved important in his Family, and in the History of the world: an "ERBVERBRUDERUNG," so they term it, with the Duke of Liegnitz,--date 1537. ERBVERBRUDERUNG ("Heritage-brotherhood," meaning Covenant to succeed reciprocally on Failure of Heirs to either) had in all times been a common paction among German Princes well affected to each other. Friedrich II., the then Duke of Liegnitz, we have transiently seen, was related to the Family; he had been extremely helpful in bringing his young friend Albert of Preussen's affairs to a good issue,--whose Niece, withal, he had wedded:--in fact, he was a close friend of this our Joachim's; and there had long been a growing connection between the two Houses, by intermarriages and good offices.
The Dukes of Liegnitz were Sovereign-Princes, come of the old Piasts of Poland; and had perfect right to enter into this transaction of an ERBVERBRUDERUNG with whom they liked. True, they had, above two hundred years before, in the days of King Johann ICH-DIEN (A.D. 1329), voluntarily constituted themselves Vassals of the Crown of Bohemia: [Pauli, iii. 22.] but the right to dispose of their Lands as they pleased had, all along, been carefully acknowledged, and saved entire. And, so late as 1521, just sixteen years ago, the Bohemian King Vladislaus the Last, our good Margraf George's friend, had expressly, in a Deed still extant, confirmed to them, with all the emphasis and amplitude that Law-Phraseology could bring to bear upon it, the right to dispose of said Lands in any manner of way: "by written testament, or by verbal on their death-bed, they can, as they see wisest, give away, sell, pawn, dispose of, and exchange
And made accordingly it was: signed, sealed, drawn out on the proper parchments, 18th October, 1537; to the following clear effect: "That if Duke Friedrich's Line should die out, all his Liegnitz countries, Liegnitz, Brieg, Wohlau, should fall to the Hohenzollern Brandenburgers: and that, if the Line of Hohenzollern Brandenburg should first fail, then all and singular the Bohemian Fiefs of Brandenburg (as Crossen, Zullichau and seven others there enumerated) should fall to the House of Liegnitz." [Stenzel, i. 320.] It seemed a clear Paction, questionable by no mortal. Double-marriage between the two Houses (eldest Son, on each side, to suitable Princess on the other) was to follow: and did follow, after some delays, 17th February, 1545. So that the matter seemed now complete: secure on all points, and a matter of quiet satisfaction to both the Houses and to their friends.
But Ferdinand, King of the Romans, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and coming to be Emperor one day, was not of that sentiment. Ferdinand had once implicitly recognized the privilege, but Ferdinand, now when he saw the privilege turned to use, and such a territory as Liegnitz exposed to the possibility of falling into inconvenient hands, explicitly took other thoughts: and gradually determined to prohibit this ERBVERBRUDERUNG. The States of Bohemia, accordingly, in 1544 (it is not doubtful, by Ferdinand's suggestion), were moved to make inquiries as to this Heritage- Fraternity of Liegnitz. [Ib. i. 322.] On which hint King Ferdinand straightway informed the Duke of Liegnitz that the act was not justifiable, and must be revoked. The Duke of Liegnitz, grieved to the heart, had no means of resisting. Ferdinand, King of the Romans, backed by Kaiser Karl, with the States of Bohemia barking at his wink, were too strong for poor Duke Friedrich of Liegnitz. Great corresponding between Berlin, Liegnitz, Prag ensued on this matter: but the end was a summons to Duke Friedrich,--summons from King Ferdinand in March, 1546, "To appear in the Imperial Hall (KAISERHOF) at Breslau," and to submit that Deed of EBVERBRUDERUNG to the examination of the States there. The States, already up to the affair, soon finished their examination of it (8th May, 1546). The deed was annihilated: and Friedrich was ordered, furthermore, to produce proofs within six months that his subjects too were absolved of all oaths or the like regarding it, and that in fact the Transaction was entirely abolished and reduced to zero. Friedrich complied, had to comply: very much chagrined, he returned home: and died next year,--it is supposed, of heartbreak from this business. He had yielded outwardly: but to force only. In a Codicil appended to his last Will, some months afterwards (which Will, written years ago, had treated the ERBVERBRUDERUNG as a Fact settled), he indicates, as with his last breath, that he considered the thing still valid, though overruled by the hand of power. Let the reader mark this matter; for it will assuredly become memorable, one day.
The hand of power, namely, Ferdinand, King of the Romans, had applied in like manner to Joachim of Brandenburg to surrender his portion of the Deed, and annihilate on his side too this ERBVERBRUDERUNG. But Joachim refused steadily, and all his successors steadily, to give up this Bit of Written Parchment: kept the same, among their precious documents, against some day that might come (and I suppose it lies in the Archives of Berlin even now): silently, or in words, asserting that the Deed of Heritage-Brothership was good, and that though some hands might have the power, no hand could have the right to abolish it on those terms.
How King Ferdinand permitted himself such a procedure? Ferdinand, says one of his latest apologists in this matter, "considered the privileges granted by his Predecessors, in respect to rights of Sovereignty, as fallen extinct on their death." [Stenzel, i. 323.] Which--if Reality and Fact would but likewise be so kind as "consider" it so--was no doubt convenient for Ferdinand!
Joachim was not so great with Ferdinand as he had been with Charles the Imperial Brother. Joachim and Ferdinand had many debates of this kind, some of them rather stiff. Jagerndorf, for instance, and the Baireuth-Anspach confiscations, in George Friedrich's minority. Ferdinand, now Kaiser, had snatched Jagerndorf from poor young George Friedrich, son of excellent Margraf George whom we knew: "Part of the spoils of Albert Alcibiades," thought Ferdinand, "and a good windfall,"--though young George Friedrich had merely been the Ward of Cousin Alcibiades, and totally without concern in those political explosions. "Excellent windfall," thought Ferdinand: and held his grip. But Joachim, in his weighty steady way, intervened: Joachim, emphatic in the Diets and elsewhere, made Ferdinand quit grip, and produce Jagerndorf again. Jagerndorf and the rest had all to be restored: and, except some filchings in the Jagerndorf Appendages (Ratibor and Oppeln, "restored" only in semblance, and at length juggled away altogether), [Rentsch, pp. 129, 130.] everything came to its right owner again. Nor would Joachim rest till Alcibiades's Territories too were all punctually given back, to this same George Friedrich: to whom, by law and justice, they belonged, In these points Joachim prevailed against a strong- handed Kaiser, apt to "consider one's rights fallen extinct" now and then. In this of Liegnitz all he could do was to keep the Deed, in steady protest silent or vocal.
But enough now of Joachim Hector, Sixth Kurfurst, and of his workings and his strugglings. He walked through this world, treading as softly as might be, yet with a strong weighty step: rending the jungle steadily asunder; well seeing whither he was bound. Rather an expensive Herr: built a good deal, completion of the Schloss at Berlin one example: [Nicolai, p. 82.] and was not otherwise afraid of outlay, in the Reich's Politics, or in what seemed needful: If there is a harvest ahead, even a distant one, it is poor thrift to be stingy of your seed-corn!