Germany History – The Constitutional Problem and Reform Drawings in the 15th Century Part III

The court had to function according to a written procedure, to sentence on the basis of Roman law and local customs, and also had jurisdiction over the ban on the Empire, which had hitherto been reserved for the sovereign. In the financial field, it was decided to collect a tax for four years throughout Germany, which was called the “common cent” (gemeiner Pfennig), whose proceeds were to be administered by a treasurer appointed by the states of the Empire. The diet of the Empire attributed executive powers over the rules of peace and the judgments of the court, as well as the competence to decide on the use of funds obtained from the cent tax, on peace and war treaties, on military matters. The reform was resolved in the overcoming of the federalist tendencies of the reforming party, that is, in the overcoming of the electoral principles over the imperial authority. Maximilian I adapted, after having succeeded with his resistance to overthrow even more radical proposals, because only at this price was he able to obtain the subsidies he needed for his anti-French policy, and the declaration of war on France as a war of the Empire. For their part, the members of the Empire were generally averse to the reform, even if so reduced; among which there was a widespread tendency to hinder its application, or at least to disappoint it in its practical consequences.

The Swiss refused to admit for their territory the jurisdiction of the chamber court and the obligation to pay the cent tax. The attempt to bend them by force of arms ended with the defeat of Maximilian I and the peace of Basel (autumn 1499), who recognized the principle affirmed by the Confederates, and with this their definitive detachment from the body of the Empire. The conquest of the Milanese area by Louis XII forced the sovereign, in compensation for the military means made available to him, to give in also on the core of the problem, which had hitherto tenaciously opposed the opponents. The Augusta Diet (1500) deliberated the establishment of a central governing body, in the form of a Regency of the Empire (Reichsregiment), made up of twenty members, and chaired by the sovereign or his representative, who due to his character as a representative body of the states of the Empire, with the usual predominance of the electoral princes, and for the very extensive powers also in matters of foreign policy, reduced the royal authority to a larva. The Reichsregiment it did not last long, because it dissolved in 1502, due to the conflict that broke out with Maximilian following the negotiations it began with Louis XII in such a way as to damage the emperor’s policy towards France. There was an open break, which seemed to lead to the split of the Empire into two opposing governments and the deposition of Maximilian I, when the reforming opposition party lost its most influential and fervent leader with the death of Bertoldo archbishop of Mainz. (1504). At the same time, the internal struggles between the Wittelsbachs for the succession of the Bavaria-Landshut branch, which died out in 1503, led many princes to join forces with the Swabian League and with the sovereign against the Count Palatine of the Rhine, Robert. This was one of the most determined opponents of Maximilian, who therefore, as soon as, after a disastrous war, the dispute was deferred to his arbitration, he took the opportunity ready to hit hard with the sentence (1505) his opponent.

According to Lawschoolsinusa, the weakened Reform Party eased its opposition. Of the institutes introduced, only the court of the Empire and the tax of the cent remained, which essentially lost its common effectiveness, because princes and knights were excluded and weighed only on the bourgeoisie and rural classes. Not this time, however, did it give practical results. There was also talk (diet of Cologne, 1512) of extending the jurisdictional norms of eternal peace to the territories of the princes; to divide the Empire into ten circumscriptions ruled by officials appointed by the states of the Empire, but all this remained, for the time, as a pure design. The constitutional problem did not, under Maximilian I, other advances. It had now come to a standstill, due to the neutralization of the centralizing tendencies of the sovereign with the federalist ones of the states of the Empire. Above all, the persistent deficiency of effective executive organs was seriously damaging. Yet Germany seemed at times willing to rise up in a national movement under the auspices of the Empire, thus in solidarity with the policy of Maximilian I, for the conquest of a more worthy place in Europe. Thus, when the war against France was decided, as the war of the Empire; thus, when the states of the Empire had felt offended the dignity of the German nation in the refusal placed by the Venetians, in agreement with the French, to the passage of Maximilian I on their territory to go to Rome to receive the imperial crown, and therefore they had liberated in deliberating military aid to the sovereign. But every time the understanding between Germany and the sovereign in foreign policy problems, as well as in domestic politics, had broken. Thus contributed to the blows suffered by the prestige of Maximilian I for the unfortunate outcome of his war campaigns, such as the abrupt change in imperial politics when, joining the League of Cambrai (10 December 1508), Maximilian I joined precisely with the power previously pointed out as the national enemy, France, to fight at its side a ruinous war against the commercial interests of southern Germany, and humiliating in the negative results, against Venice, in which the closest and direct obstacle to the expansion of the Habsburg alpine dominions towards the south-west and south. Nor was the agreement re-established anymore. The further participation of Maximilian I in the great European events; the return to the alliance with the King of England against France with the League of Malines and the victory of their arms assembled at Guinegate (1513); the new unfortunate campaign in Italy against the Venetians and the French (1516); the accession to the Treaty of Noyon through that of Brussels (3 December 1516), took place without Germany feeling the identity of its own interests with the dynastic ones. And in the last years of Maximilian I’s reign, the electors came to haggle their vote for succession even with Germany’s most dangerous enemy, King Francis I of France.

Germany History - The Constitutional Problem 3