The Swedish Revolution Under Gustavus Vasa
by Paul Barron Watson
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Early in June Gustavus came from Vesteras, and opened negotiations with the canons of Upsala, with a view to win them over to his side. As they refused, however, to take action without consulting the archbishop, he begged them to consult him at once, and he himself wrote a pacific letter urging the archbishop to champion his country's cause. Trolle, then in Stockholm, scorned the message and seized the messenger who brought it. Then he placed himself at the head of a troop of three thousand foot and five hundred horse, in glittering armor, and marched to Upsala, declaring that his answer to the message he would convey in person. Gustavus, expecting daily the return of his messenger, was taken wholly unawares. The great body of his soldiers had gone back to their farms, and he had but six hundred of them left. With these it would be madness to withstand the archbishop's force. He therefore evacuated the city, and hurried over the meadows to the west. As soon as he was out of danger, he despatched officers to call back the farmers to his ranks, and meantime drew up an ambuscade on the road between Stockholm and Upsala, thinking to spring upon the archbishop as he returned. The plot was discovered, and when the troops returned they took another path. Gustavus, however, did not give up the chase. With his ranks once more replenished, he pursued the enemy, and a battle followed so hot that when the archbishop arrived at Stockholm, he entered the town with only an eighth part of the glittering troop with which he had started out.[62]

The patriot army now proceeded to the capital, and pitched their camp on the hill north of the town. There they found four gallows from which were hanging the bodies of four Swedes, murdered to glut the rapacity of their Danish masters. One day, while encamped on this spot, the Danes came out against them, and dividing their forces into two bodies stormed the Swedish redoubt simultaneously on both sides. The charge was fierce, and lasted half a day, when the Swedes were driven from their stronghold with heavy loss, and forced to take up a new position about twelve miles farther north. There they remained three weeks, battling daily with the enemy with varying success. At last the commandant of Stockholm had recourse to strategy. Advancing with a powerful army till near the vicinity of the Swedish camp, he halted and placed his force in ambuscade. He then pushed forward with some forty horse and a few weak infantry to the enemy's earthworks, as if to storm them. After a slight skirmish, in which some eight or ten of the horse were captured, the Danish leader shouted that all was lost, and took to flight. The patriots, all unsuspecting, dashed after them, and followed blindly into the very midst of the Danish army, into the jaws of death. Thus ended the first attempt of Gustavus Vasa to capture Stockholm.[63]

Better fared it with him in other parts. One of the most valiant officers of Gustavus was Arvid Vestgoete. This man was despatched, about the middle of May, to the provinces south of Stockholm, to enlist the peasantry in the Swedish cause. Collecting his forces along the way, he advanced from one town to another, plundering the estates of all who would not join him, and before the end of June reached Stegeborg, a strongly fortified castle on the Baltic coast. This he proceeded to besiege. In July, Norby, the most famous naval officer of Christiern, came to the rescue of the beleaguered castle with sixteen men-of-war. Landing his forces on the shore, he drew them up in battle-array, three hundred strong. The Swedes, however, rushed furiously upon them, and drove them to the sea. A few days later, after provisioning the castle, Norby sailed away to Denmark.[64]

All through this spring and summer Gustavus was busy passing from camp to camp, giving orders as to the disposition of his forces, and receiving the allegiance of the people. His practice, as far as possible, seems to have been to use persuasion, and only when that failed did he resort to force. This method proved successful in a marvellous degree. One after another the provinces recognized him as their leader; and on the 14th of July we find him issuing a proclamation as commander of five provinces, named in the order of their declaration of allegiance. His greatest difficulty at this time was in finding the means with which to pay his men. Possessing no authority to levy taxes, he was often forced to close the mouths of his clamoring soldiers by allowing them to plunder. The great body of his army was of course made up of Swedes. These were fighting for the welfare of their wives and children, and were content if he provided them only with the necessities of life. The mercenaries whom he employed were few. One of them, a tough old warrior named Rensel, has left us a chronicle of his life. He tells us he came over from Livonia in the winter of 1521, and was among the four thousand German veterans that counted on entering Stockholm in the spring. Gustavus sent him back to the Continent for more men and ammunition; and when he returned in July of that year, he brought back sixty mercenaries with him. In August Gustavus made an inspection of the camp at Stegeborg. While there, he learned that the Bishop of Linkoeping was more than half minded to join the patriot cause. This bishop, Hans Brask, was a man of rare shrewdness, excellent common-sense, and as time-serving as any man in Europe. He had strong convictions, but he always looked to see how the wind was blowing before he spoke them out. He had, among others, signed the decree for the demolition of Staeket, but had taken the precaution to place under his seal a slip of paper declaring that he affixed his signature perforce, and when his fellows were brought out to be beheaded, he removed the seal; by this little bit of Romanism he saved his head and the emoluments of his priestly office. To this man Gustavus wrote in August, asking for a conference. The aspect of the heavens was not such as to justify the wily bishop in refusing. The continued brutality of Didrik Slagheck had raised such a storm of indignation in the country, that his own followers had found it necessary, on June 16, to hurry him out of Sweden, and announce that they had thrown him into jail. Nearly all of Sweden, except the fortified castles, was in the patriots' hands. The forces of Gustavus were growing stronger day by day, and in the continued absence of Christiern the fortresses that still held out were likely soon to yield for want of food and ammunition. In this state of affairs Hans Brask made up his mind without delay. He granted the interview with Gustavus, and was very easily persuaded to join the Swedish cause. It now seemed best that the vague authority conferred upon Gustavus by the different provinces should be defined, so that he might as representative of the Swedish nation treat with foreign powers. He therefore announced that a general diet would be held at Vadstena on August 24, and all the chief men of different classes in the kingdom were summoned to attend. By whom the delegates were selected we are not told. Certainly they were not selected by Gustavus. At all events, they came together in vast numbers, and, if we are to believe the chronicle, urged Gustavus to accept the crown. This, however, he refused, but accepted the title of Commander of the Swedish Army, at the same time adding that after they had wholly freed themselves from Christiern, a general diet might then be held to discuss the propriety of choosing some man of their own nation king.[65]

While the patriots were occupied with their diet, the Danes in Stockholm sent a force by water to the relief of Vesteras. The patriots, still in possession of the town, sought by aid of their falconets to prevent a landing, but without avail. The relief-party made its way into the castle, replenished it with men and ammunition, and withdrew. Gustavus, knowing that the Danes on their return to Stockholm must pass through a narrow inlet some thirty yards in width, sent thither a force to throw up earthworks on both sides of the passage and await the coming of the enemy. The battle which ensued was fierce, and lasted two whole days; but finally, having inflicted as well as suffered heavy loss, the Danish fleet escaped. Shortly after, in September, Gustavus sent a force to Finland. This force received large reinforcements from the people in that province, and on the 24th of November, being furnished ammunition by the bishop of Abo, laid siege to Abo Castle. On December 18 the Castle of Stegeborg still besieged by Arvid Vestgoete, fell; and the commandant, Berent von Mehlen, after two months in prison swore fealty to Gustavus. Six days after the castle yielded, Norby, not having heard of the disaster, came sailing boldly into the harbor with food and men. The patriots soon informed him of his error by firing upon him from the castle walls, and in the conflict which took place it is reported that six hundred of his men were lost. Most of Vestgoete's forces, after the fall of Stegeborg, were transferred to the vicinity of Stockholm, to which Gustavus early in the autumn had again laid siege. The summer's experience had made manifest that it would be useless to assault the capital. Gustavus therefore held his forces several miles away from the city, and with a view to cut off supplies divided them into three camps,—one on the north, another on the south, and the third on an island to the west. On Christmas eve the garrison, finding that no assault was likely to be made, embarked some fifteen hundred men on yawls and coasting-vessels, and proceeded against the island-camp. The Swedish leader watched the preparations from a hill; and when he saw that the enemy were coming against himself, divided his men into squads of fourteen and sixteen, and placed these squads at intervals through the woods with orders to sound their horns as soon as the neighboring squad had sounded theirs. He then waited till the enemy were all on shore, when he gave the signal, and in a moment it was re-echoed all along the line. The effect was marvellous. The enemy, horrified by the apparent number of the Swedes, turned and fled. The Swedes, who had but about four hundred and fifty men in all, pursued them to their boats and cut down two hundred of them on the shore. After this the garrison from time to time made raids upon the northern and southern camps, and generally got the better of the Swedes, though nothing of marked importance was accomplished by either side. On the 30th of January the Castle of Vesteras, hard pressed for food and cut off from supplies, surrendered. Later in the winter, seemingly in March, Norby came from Denmark with a large force to Stockholm, and replenished the garrison with fresh men. About the same time the Swedish camp on the north was moved nearer; and the Danes, thus reinforced by Norby, came out against them April 17, and routed them with heavy loss. The day following, a like sally was made on the southern camp with like result. Having thus raised the siege of Stockholm, Norby set sail for Finland, and routed the Swedish forces still besieging Abo. The bishop of Abo, finding his own land too hot for him, embarked for Sweden; but his vessel foundered, and all on board were drowned. In April Gustavus recruited a strong force in Dalarne and the other northern provinces, and pitched his camps once more to the north and south of Stockholm.[66]

The war had now been raging over a year, and Gustavus had experienced the utmost difficulty in obtaining money with which to pay his men. In the absence of any authority to levy taxes, he had resorted to the practice of coining money, and had established mints in several places through the realm. His coins, which were known as "klippings," consisted of copper with a very slight admixture of silver, and twenty-four of them were issued for a mark. As a matter of fact their actual value fell far below what they purported to be worth. For such a practice it is difficult to find excuse, except that it was a practice universal at the time. Why a monarch should be justified any more than an individual in giving a penny where he owed a pound, is difficult to comprehend. Yet this had been for centuries the custom, and each successive monarch had pared a little from the standard, so that in the eight hundred years preceding Gustavus Vasa the various monetary units all over Europe had declined to little more than an eighteenth part of their original value. In Denmark the debasement of the currency had been more rapid than in almost any other land, and the "klippings" of Christiern II. fell farther below their nominal value than any coin in Europe—till the "klippings" were issued by Gustavus, which were a trifle worse than those of Christiern. Of course, as the standard of currency is lowered, its buying-power gradually declines, so that ultimately, under whatever name a particular coin may go, it will buy no more than could be had for the actual bullion which it contains. A mark in the sixteenth century would have bought, provided the relative supply of bullion and merchandise remained the same, only an eighteenth part of what it bought originally. The aim of monarchs was, therefore, to get rid of their debased coins at more than the real value, and after they had depreciated, to get them back at the depreciated value, melt them down, and lower the standard further. Precisely how much Gustavus made by tampering with the currency is impossible to say, for there is no means of determining how many of his "klippings" he threw upon the market. It is clear, however, that the scheme was from a financial point of view successful, and that a vast number of the "klippings" were absorbed before the public detected their inferiority.[67]

Unquestionably the marvellous progress made by Gustavus in this first year of the revolution was owing in great measure to the critical state of things in Denmark. Christiern had by this time made enemies all over Europe. Lubeck, always a latent enemy, was particularly imbittered by Christiern's favoritism of the market towns of the Netherlands and his avowed intention of making Copenhagen the staple market for his kingdom; France hated him because he was the brother-in-law of her enemy, Charles V.; Fredrik, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, opposed him because he had laid claim to those dominions; and his own clergy opposed him because of his rumored leaning towards Lutheranism and his efforts to check their power. All these things prevented his return to Sweden, and conspired against his credit so that he was unable to raise an army of any strength. Didrik Slagheck, too, whom he had placed at the head of affairs in Sweden, had fallen into disgrace, and, to appease the public clamor, had been beheaded. Even Gustavus Trolle, after several attempts to exert his papal authority in Sweden, had found the land too hot for him, and for the present had withdrawn to Denmark.[68]

Norby was at this time the most valuable officer that Christiern had. He infested the shores of the Baltic with his fleet, making frequent incursions on the land to plunder; and at length became so obnoxious that Gustavus sent to Lubeck for a fleet. On the 7th of June it came, ten ships of war, laden with all sorts of merchandise, and fully equipped with powder, shot, and men. For this aid Gustavus is said to have paid an enormous figure, giving his promissory note for the amount. Picking out a battalion of five hundred men, he sent them down to Kalmar, to which castle Vestgoete had just laid siege. The rest of the reinforcements he despatched to Stockholm, quartering them in his different camps, and then discharged all of the Swedish peasants except the young unmarried men. Shortly after this change the commandant of Abo Castle crossed the Baltic with a powerful fleet, and sought to break the siege of Stockholm. But the Swedish fleet met him outside the harbor, captured or burnt his vessels, and took him prisoner. In October, seeing that the garrison was losing strength, Gustavus advanced his camps nearer to the town. His southern camp he moved to Soedermalm, from which he built a pontoon bridge to connect it with the west camp now on an island some three or four hundred yards from Stockholm. Another bridge he threw across the channel east of the city, and built upon it a turret which he armed with heavy guns. The city was thus hemmed in on every side, and a contemporary writes, "We cannot find in any of the old chronicles that Stockholm ever was so hard besieged before." Unless relief came it was merely a question of time when the garrison would have to yield. Once, in November, Norby came sailing into the harbor with five ships-of-war; but the Swedish fleet, consisting of fifteen vessels, drove him off, and, were it not for the half-heartedness of the German mercenaries, would very likely have destroyed his fleet.[69]

The high spirit of the garrison had fallen. Wasted in numbers, with hunger and dissension spreading fast among them, and with scarce enough ammunition to resist an assault upon their walls, they waited impatiently for the army of Christiern, and marvelled that it did not come. All servants, old men, monks, burghers, and prostitutes they sent away, that there might be fewer mouths to feed. Each day, too, their numbers were diminished through the desertion of able-bodied men who escaped through the gates or over the walls and made their way by one means or another to the Swedish camp. There being no longer possibility of driving off the enemy by force, they felt that their only hope was fraud. They therefore one day sent a Swedish magnate to the enemy, with instructions to pretend that he had fled, and after finding out how matters stood, set fire to the camp and either return to the garrison, or, that being impossible, make his way to Denmark and induce the monarch to send immediate relief. This piece of stratagem, however, proved abortive; for two refugees from the garrison came forward and denounced the magnate as a spy.[70]

When winter came, Gustavus sent a large part of his army, chiefly the cavalry, to take up winter-quarters in Upsala. Others were sent to other towns. Some, too, were sent, in February, 1523, to the Norwegian frontier to gain the allegiance of the people. Towards the close of winter Gustavus ordered his German troops to the south of Sweden on a similar errand, but within six weeks they came back and reported that the spring freshets had carried away the bridges and they could not proceed. Norby meantime lay with a strong force in the town and castle of Kalmar, and was making preparations to attack Vestgoete, who was still carrying on the siege, as soon as spring should open. But just as he was getting ready, he received word from the Danish Cabinet that Christiern had been deposed in Denmark, and Fredrik, duke of Schleswig-Holstein, summoned to the throne. At this news he set sail with all his force for Denmark, leaving only sixty men to hold the castle and town of Kalmar. Their orders were to form two garrisons of thirty each, one to guard the castle and the other to guard the town; and if through assault or failure of provisions they could not maintain the stronghold, they were to slaughter all the Swedes in Kalmar, set fire to the town, and sail to Gotland. As soon as the burghers of Kalmar learned of these instructions, they sent a messenger to the Swedish camp to tell the Swedes to enter the town by the north gate on the 27th of May, when the burghers would take care that the gate should be opened for them. On the day appointed Vestgoete advanced with all his cavalry, and drew them up in battle-array along the west and south side of the town as if to storm the southern gate. The garrison, all unsuspecting, flocked to that point in order to receive the charge. But meantime the Swedish infantry had massed themselves outside the northern gate, which at a concerted signal was thrown open on its hinges, and the infantry pressed in. It was but the work of a moment to put the little garrison to the sword. For a few weeks more the castle refused to yield, and it was not till the 7th of July that, reduced to the last extremity, it fell.[71]

Kalmar had not yet fallen when it became clear that the war of independence was drawing to its close, and it was felt on every hand that the country had been too long without a king. The powers which Gustavus possessed as regent were too vague to meet the necessities of a time of peace. While the army was in the field, he had authority, as commander of the forces, to levy the taxes necessary to sustain his men; but, so soon as the war was over, there would be no means for raising the money needed to pay the nation's debts. He therefore, shortly before the fall of Kalmar, summoned a general diet to be held at Strengnaes on the 27th of May. Whether or not all the magnates of Sweden were summoned to the diet is not known, but at any rate the peasantry were represented. The wily Brask, who had once saved his head by a bit of strategy, dared not put it in jeopardy again, and fearing that matters of weight might be brought before the diet, was suddenly taken ill and rendered unable to attend. The Cabinet, hitherto the sum and substance of a general diet, was practically dead, having been carried off in the fearful slaughter of 1520. One of the first things to be done, therefore, after the opening of the diet, was to fill these vacant seats. This was accomplished on the 2d of June, but whether the members were chosen by Gustavus or by vote of the general diet we are not told. Noteworthy it is, that the persons selected, nine in number, were all of them laymen and warriors in the service of Gustavus. Four days later, on the 6th of June, the question of electing a king of Sweden was brought before the house. The proposal was received with shouts of acclamation, and with one accord the delegates raised their voices in favor of Gustavus. But the regent, so the reporter tells us, rose to his feet, and, mid the deafening shouts of those about him, declared that he had no wish for further honor, that he was weary of leadership, that he had found more gall than honey in the post, and that there were others more worthy than himself on whom to lay the crown. So importunate, however, were the delegates, that at last he yielded, accepted their allegiance, and took the royal oath. This done, the diet voted to levy a tax to defray the expenses of the war. Among the very first Acts to which the newly chosen monarch attached his seal was one which granted the cities of Lubeck and Dantzic, with their allies, the perpetual monopoly of all foreign trade with Sweden. At the same time it was provided that Stockholm, Kalmar, Soederkoeping, and Abo should be the only ports of entry for foreign merchants in the realm. This Act was the result of an application made by Lubeck the year before, and was carried by the importunities of Lubeck's ambassadors to the diet. It was a sop to stay the flood of their demands for immediate payment of the debt incurred to Lubeck by the war. As it granted these Hanse Towns entry for all goods free of duty, it must be deemed a marked concession. One favorable clause, however, was incorporated in the Act, providing that no alien should thereafter be a burgher either of Stockholm or of Kalmar. Another measure of weight which the diet passed provided that a tax payable in silver should be levied to defray the expenses of the war, though apparently nothing was fixed by the diet as to the amount to be raised or as to the mode of levy. With this meagre record our information regarding this celebrated diet ends; but the new Cabinet, before it parted, drew up a long-winded account of the cruelties of Christiern, which it sent abroad among the people for a lasting memorial of their tyrant king.[72]

No sooner had the diet closed its doors than the monarch sped with all the haste he could command to Stockholm. That city had been for several days in the last stages of despair. The garrison was miserably wasted in numbers, and its food was gone. Longer to look for aid from Denmark was to hope against all hope. Indeed, the wretched soldiers now thought only of the terms on which they should capitulate. During a month or more they had parleyed with their besiegers, but the terms which they had offered had thus far been refused. As soon as Gustavus reached the spot, negotiations were once more opened. The new monarch, fresh from the honors of Strengnaes, seems to have shown them mercy. Apparently he granted their requests; for on the 20th of June the castle yielded, and the garrison, supplied with food and ships, set sail for Denmark. Three days later, June 23, the monarch entered the capital in triumph, amid the hosannas of his people. With this glorious issue the Swedish war of independence closed.[73]

In contemplating this struggle as a whole, the reader will doubtless be impressed by the extraordinary ease with which the victory was won. In less than two years and a half after the first blow was struck, the Danish tyrants had been driven from every stronghold, and the patriots had placed their leader on the throne. Indeed, eighteen months had scarcely passed when the issue was practically decided. The remaining year consisted mainly in the reduction of Sweden's strongholds, and was marked by little bloodshed. It furnished small opportunity either for brilliant strategy or for acts of startling courage. The enforced absence of the Danish monarch prevented his army from entering the field, and the patriots had neither arms nor ammunition with which to storm the forts. Both parties, therefore, waited; and the last year was little more than a test to determine the endurance of the contending armies. While, however, this period wants many of the features that make war grand, it is yet instructive if not interesting in its results. The struggle at the beginning was against overwhelming odds. The patriots had neither ammunition nor resources, and their leader was without prestige. On the other hand the Danes were well supplied with men and arms, and were led by one of the powerful monarchs of Europe backed by all the authority and influence of Rome. In spite of all this, the patriots grew in numbers day by day, while the Danish forces steadily declined. The patriots succeeded in obtaining rich supplies of men and arms from abroad, while Christiern was scarce able to keep his army from starvation. One by one the strongholds which he had seized surrendered, till finally his entire army was forced to yield, and Sweden, from her place as a weak and down-trodden Danish province, attained an enviable position among the great monarchies of Europe. The key to this marvellous transformation in the two parties can be found only in the characters of their respective leaders. The people were horrified by the brutal cruelties of Christiern, while allured by the evident sincerity and enthusiasm of Gustavus. In all history there is no more striking example of the far-reaching influence which individual characters sometimes exert upon a nation's growth.


[56] Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 432-433; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 17-18 and 20-21; Ludvigsson, Collect., pp. 86-87; and Sver. trakt., vol. iv. pp. 1-5.

[57] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 18-19 and 21-23; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. iv. pp. 1340-1348; and Dipl. Dal., vol. i. pp. 237-238.

[58] Rensel, Beraettelse, p. 19; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., p. 26; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. iv. pp. 1338-1339 and 1353-1356; and Dipl. Dal., vol. i. pp. 240-241.

[59] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 25-26; and Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. iv. pp. 1349-1350 and 1352-1353.

[60] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 24 and 26-30.

[61] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 31-34.

[62] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 35-37; and Sver. trakt., vol. iv. pp. 7-15.

[63] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 37-39.

[64] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 30 and 42-43.

[65] Rensel, Beraettelse, pp. 22-23; Diar. Vazsten., p. 217; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 39-41 and 43-46; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. iv. pp. 1356-1369 and 1374-1375; Dipl. Dal., vol. i. pp. 240-241, and Suppl. p. 30; Nya Kaellor till Finl. Medeltidshist., pp. 708-709; and Sver. trakt., vol. iv. pp. 5-6 and 27-35.

[66] Diar. Vazsten., p. 217; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 43 and 46-55; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. i. pp. 197-211 and 214-220; and Nya Kaellor till Finl. Medeltidshist., pp. 712-714.

[67] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 23 and 53; and Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. i. p. 214. See on this subject a most valuable discussion by Hans Forssell in his Anteckningar om mynt, vigt, matt, och varupris i Sverige, pp. 19-43, printed at the end of his Sver. inre hist., vol. ii.

[68] Eliesen, Chron. Skib., p. 570; Rensel, Beraettelse, p. 24; Svaning, Christ. II., pp. 389-392 and 432-437; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. i. pp. 159-196 and vol. iv. pp. 1369-1379; Dipl. Dal., vol. i. pp. 242-244; Nya Kaellor till Finl. Medeltidshist., pp. 718-726; and Skrift. och handl., vol. iv. pp. 351-357.

[69] Rensel, Beraettelse, pp. 24-30; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 51, 55-56 and 61-64; and Sver. trakt., vol. iv. pp. 15-27.

[70] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 65-66.

[71] Rensel, Beraettelse, pp. 30-33; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 67-69; and Kon. Gust. den Foerstes registrat., vol. i. p. 106.

[72] Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 70-73; Alla riksdag. och moet. besluth, vol i. pp. 1-17; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. iv. pp. 1457-1458 and 1677-1682; Kon. Gust. den Foerstes registrat., vol. i. pp. 63-86; Svenska riksdagsakt., vol. i. pp. 8-9; and Sver. trakt., vol. iv. pp. 55-60.

[73] Rensel, Beraettelse, p. 34; Svart, Gust. I.'s kroen., pp. 69-72; Christ. II.'s arkiv, vol. iv. pp. 1452-1454, 1463 and 1474-1482; Kon. Gust. den Foerstes registrat., vol. i. pp. 90-95; and Sver. trakt., vol. iv. pp. 61-65.



Nature of the Reformation in Europe.—Cause of the Reformation in Sweden.—The Debt to Lubeck.—Riches of the Church.—Relations of Gustavus to the Pope.—Johannes Magni.—New Taxation—Dissension among the People.—Opposition of Gustavus to the Pope.—Trial of Peder Sunnanvaeder.—Expedition against Gotland.—Repudiation of the "Klippings."—Berent von Mehlen.—Negotiations between Fredrik and Norby.—Congress of Malmoe.—Efforts to appease the People.—Lutheranism.—Olaus Petri.—Laurentius Andreae.—Brask's Efforts to repress Heresy.—Religious Tendencies of Gustavus.—Character of Brask.

We have now reached that point in our narrative where the history of modern Sweden takes its start. With the close of the war of independence those features which mark the face of mediaeval Sweden disappear, and a wholly new countenance gradually settles upon the land. Nor is this transformation peculiar in any way to Sweden. Early in the sixteenth century all Europe was passing from mediaeval into modern history. In the Middle Ages there was but one criterion for every question that arose, and that criterion was the past. Whatever had been, should continue. All Church dogmas were settled by an appeal to the ancient Fathers; all political aspirations were fought out on the basis of descent. Tradition was the god of mediaeval Europe. At last, however, questions arose for which tradition had no answer. On the Renaissance in Italy, on the invention of printing and of gunpowder, on the discovery of America, the ancient Fathers had not spoken. On these things, therefore, which raised the greatest questions of the age, men had nothing for it but to do their thinking for themselves. The practice thus evoked soon spread to other questions, and gradually men grew bold enough to venture opinions on certain stereotyped matters of religion. As all the world knows, the Reformation followed, and from an age of blind acceptance Europe passed to an age of eager controversy. Instead of searching to find out what had been, men argued to determine what it was desirable should be. If tradition was the characteristic of mediaeval, policy is the characteristic of modern, history. Some old dogmas, like the divine right of kings, still linger; but since the fifteenth century kings have had little chance whose claims conflict with the balance of European power.

The beginnings of modern history are inextricably bound up with the beginnings of the Reformation. It is a common belief that the Reformation in Europe worked a radical change in the doctrines of religious men, raising up two parties with diametrically opposing creeds. Such a conception, however, is misleading. The Reformation was not so much a religious as a political revolt. It was the natural outcome of a growth in the power of northern Germany at a moment when Rome was losing her political prestige. The alliance between the German Empire and the popes of Rome had its origin in a need of mutual assistance. Western Europe consisted, at the accession of Charlemagne, of many independent principalities at war among themselves, and what they needed was a powerful protector to adjust their various disputes. Later this need of a protector became still more urgent, when Germany and France fell under different rulers, and the German Empire began to be threatened by the monarchy across the Rhine. Rome, by reason of her spiritual supremacy, was the arbiter to whom the northern nations naturally turned, and she found ready recompense for her services in the treasures poured generously into her lap. Such was the basis of the Holy Roman Empire. But by the beginning of the sixteenth century all this had changed. Germany was no longer weak. Her little principalities had become cemented together under an emperor well able to repel every invasion of the French. Society had made vast progress, not only in its comforts, but in its demands. Rome, on the other hand, had lost her prestige. In Italy, where the brutality and licentiousness of the popes were open to every eye, people had long since lost all reverence for the Church. This feeling did not spread readily across the Alps; but it came at last, and at a moment when Germany no longer needed aid. A nation guarded by the strong arm of Maximilian could ill brook new levies to feed the extravagance of its decrepit ally, and the infamous practices of Tetzel served as a timely pretext to shake off the burdensome alliance of the papal see. The abuses of popery were little more than a war-cry, while the real struggle of the Reformation was against the political supremacy of Rome.

In Sweden, more than in almost any other land, the Reformation was a political revolt. Indeed, it may well be called a political necessity. At the moment when Gustavus Vasa was elected king, Sweden was on the verge of bankruptcy. The war just passed had drained the resources of the country, and left her heavily involved in debt. The principal creditor was Lubeck. Precisely how much had been borrowed from that town it is impossible to determine, though it is certain the total amount fell not far short of 300,000 Swedish marks.[74] One payment of about 17,000 Swedish marks Gustavus had made in 1522.[75] This of course was a mere drop in the bucket, and other devices were necessary to relieve the general distress. One favorite device, to which allusion has been already made, consisted in a debasement of the currency. That device, however, had soon lost its savor, and the coin which in 1522 Gustavus had issued for an oere and a half, he was forced in 1523 to place upon the market as an oere.[76] So that when the new monarch ascended the throne it was manifest that the treasury must be replenished in other modes. The natural direction was that in which the greatest wealth of Sweden lay,—in other words, the Church. We have already seen how completely, in the centuries preceding the Reformation, the Church in Sweden had freed herself from all authority of the people, and had gradually accumulated for herself a vast amount of wealth. Some conception of this treasure may be had by comparing the edifices belonging to the Church with those owned by individuals. Such a comparison reveals at once an enormous disparity in favor of the Church. At a time when well-to-do citizens dwelt in what would at this day be known as hovels, they worshipped in churches that must have seemed to them palatial. The six cathedrals that existed in the time of Gustavus still remain, and even at this day compare favorably with the finest structures in the land. In addition to a magnificent palace, the archbishop and the five Swedish bishops each possessed a fortified castle in his diocese. In each diocese, too, there were an enormous number of estates belonging to the bishopric; those in the diocese of Linkoeping, for example, numbering over six hundred. The rents and profits from these estates went directly to the bishopric, and were wholly exempt from taxation, as were also the untold treasures of gold and silver belonging to the various churches. Beside all this tithes of every species of farm produce raised in any part of Sweden were due the Church, also tithes of all other personal property acquired. Further, a small annual tax was due the Church for every building in the land from a palace to a pig-sty; also a fee for every wedding, death, or childbirth. No one could inherit property, or even take the sacrament, without a contribution to the Church. And every peasant was bound one day each year to labor for his pastor without reward.[77] How all this money was disbursed, seems difficult to comprehend. Some clew, however, may be gained when we consider what a vast horde of clergy the Swedish people had to feed. Take, for example, the cathedrals. Most of them formed a little hierarchy in themselves. First of all was the archbishop or the bishop, who lived in regal splendor. Around him was his chapter, comprising in one instance as many as thirty canons. Then there was the archdeacon, the cantor, the scholasticus, and some thirty or forty prebends. This little army of Church officers required to be fed, and fed well—and the people of Sweden had to pay the bill. It was but natural, therefore, that, Sweden being heavily involved in debt, the monarch should seek to stay this wasteful extravagance and divert a portion of the Church incomes to the crown.

By the war of independence the way had been already paved for a war against the Church. Christiern had declared himself the champion of the pope; and the higher clergy, as vicegerents of the pope in Sweden, had generally allied themselves with the foreign party. So that the rebellion had been in large measure directed against the authorities of the Church itself, and the victory of Gustavus was felt distinctly as a victory over the powers of the Church. The Chapter of Upsala had therefore deemed it policy to please Gustavus, and were talking of electing his chancellor archbishop in place of Trolle, who had fled the realm. For a like reason the Chapter of Vesteras had chosen a former secretary of Sture to their vacant bishopric. The bishoprics of Strengnaes and Skara, made vacant by the expulsion of the Danes, had also been filled by persons favorable to the general policy of Gustavus. So that when the new monarch assumed control, the dignitaries of the Church seemed likely to listen to his demands.[78]

It is not for a moment to be supposed that Gustavus at this time contemplated an opposition to the pope. Such an idea had been spread abroad by Christiern with a view to win sympathy in Europe; but Gustavus had written to all the potentates of Europe to deny the charge, and had sent a messenger to the pope to raise a counter charge against Christiern as the murderer of two Swedish bishops in the slaughter of 1520. The pope, already distrustful of his Danish ally, had listened favorably to the message, and in the following summer, 1523, had sent a legate to Sweden to inform him further on the subject.[79]

This papal legate, Johannes Magni, was the son of a pious burgher of Linkoeping, and along with his two brothers had been educated from childhood for the Church. At the age of eighteen so marvellous was his precocity that he was made a canon both of Linkoeping and of Skara. Later, as was the practice with scholars of that period, he continued his studies at several of the leading universities in Europe. But in spite of a sojourn of some seventeen years away from Sweden, he never ceased to keep up a fervid interest in the affairs of his native land. As soon as the atrocities of Christiern reached his ears, he made a personal visit to Pope Leo X. and denounced the practices of the Danish king. The suggestions which he offered seem to have been scorned by Leo; but in 1521 that pontiff died, and his successor, Adrian VI., listened more readily to the Swedish canon. Adrian himself was from the north of Europe, and had earlier been an instructor of Johannes in the University of Louvain. The characters of the two were not unlike. Both held strong theological opinions, and looked with dread upon all opposition to the papal power. But they were both keenly alive to the abuses that had gathered about the Church, and were eager to repress them. Johannes was peculiarly suited by nature for a work of compromise. With no ordinary talents, of untiring energy, sympathetic, generous, and conciliating, but withal imbued with an ardent love of the Church, Adrian at once discerned in him a valuable mediator. When, therefore, Gustavus wrote to Rome to defend himself against the charge of heresy, the pope selected Johannes as his legate, with instructions to proceed to Sweden and investigate the charges made against each other by Christiern and Gustavus. The legate, complying with these orders, arrived in Sweden while the diet of Strengnaes was in session. He therefore made his way directly to that town. While on the road the tidings reached him that Gustavus Vasa had been elected king. As soon as the new monarch learned of his approach, he sent for him to come before the house. There he was overwhelmed with expressions of gratitude for his past interest in the Swedish cause. In return the legate addressed the house at great length in favor of Gustavus. The impression left upon his hearers was so pleasing that the Cabinet drew up a letter to the pope requesting that Johannes be given full authority, with the bishops of Sweden, to reform the Swedish Church. In the same letter opportunity was taken to denounce the vices of Archbishop Trolle, and to beg that, he having already resigned and fled the kingdom, the pope should use his authority to have a new archbishop chosen in his stead.[80]

This document bears strong evidence of the influence of the king. Its allusion to the resignation of Archbishop Trolle was of course untrue. That prelate had fled the realm to escape the fury of his opponents, but he still looked for the restoration of Danish power and a return of his own prerogatives in the Swedish Church. The king's desire, as reflected in the letter of his Cabinet, was to secure from the pope a recognition that the archbishopric was vacant, and then to use this recognition to force the unwilling Chapter of Upsala to nominate as archbishop one who was in the interests of the king. The scheme, however, failed; for Pope Adrian died before he had had time to act, and was succeeded by a pontiff who hated everything which savored of reform.

During the first months of his reign Gustavus was made wretched by the importunate demands of Lubeck. Her ambassadors continually dogged his steps, and declared they would not leave him till every cent that Sweden owed was paid. After the fall of Kalmar the monarch needed his foreign mercenaries no longer, and would gladly have cashiered them and sent them off. But the "klippings" struck the year before had so far lost the confidence of his subjects that the soldiers refused to take them at any price at all, and Gustavus was compelled to keep his men on foot till he could obtain the silver requisite to issue better coins. The diet just dissolved had passed an act providing for the levy of new taxes to be paid in silver, and the king apparently had been given power to fix the mode in which the levy should be made. This was a matter which required skilful handling; and it is fair to say that the policy which the king pursued, if not perfectly straightforward, showed, at any rate, rare skill. Fearing lest another direct call upon the peasantry would raise an outcry, he resolved to make his application to the Church, and give her the option of surrendering a portion of her riches or of losing her prestige by laying new burdens on her devotees. With this in view he wrote first of all to Brask, and after demanding some five thousand guilders which he understood that prelate had stored away in Lubeck, he called upon him to collect four hundred marks in silver from the clergy of his diocese. He then issued a proclamation to the churches and monasteries throughout the land to send him all the chalices, patens, and ornaments that could be spared from the altars, as well as all the silver coin that could be found; and along with this he published a statement of the total amount which each diocese and monastery must provide. Two things are noticeable in this proclamation: first, it does not specify the amount which each particular church must furnish; and, secondly, it distinctly states that the sums handed over are to be deemed as loans, which he will duly acknowledge and ultimately pay in full. In his letter to Brask, on the contrary, the exact amount for which the bishop must be responsible is named, and no definite promise is given to repay it. The document seems part of a deliberate plan to crush the power of the crafty bishop. This Brask noticed, and in his reply adverted to a suspicion lest for some reason he had incurred the king's displeasure, which he would willingly avert. The simplest mode of averting the king's displeasure would have been a speedy compliance with the king's demand. For this, however, Brask had little relish. So Gustavus, two weeks later, wrote again. "We are much surprised," he said, "that you show no more concern while a weight like this rests upon the kingdom. The amount which we must raise without a moment's delay is two hundred thousand guilders, and the Lubeck ambassadors refuse point-blank to depart unless they take that sum with them. If they don't get it we fear open war, which God forbid! Therefore, by the allegiance which you owe us and the realm, we exhort you, send the four hundred marks' weight without delay." Even this appeal had no immediate effect, and after two weeks more he sent Brask another despatch. "The Lubeck ambassadors," wrote the king, "will not leave us till they get the money which we owe in Lubeck,—a vast sum. It is, therefore, of necessity that we lay this tax upon the churches and monasteries. Strain every nerve to obtain some relief for us in your diocese, especially from your churches and monasteries; the clergy we shall spare for the present." The bishop finally complied, though with an ill grace; and on the 10th of August we find Gustavus writing that he has so far satisfied the demands of Lubeck that her ambassadors have parted from him on good terms.[81]

The tax had been collected, though not without much friction. It had found the people in an irritable temper, and it had left them more irritable still. The ruin which the war had caused was visible on every hand, and the blessings that were expected to follow were not so easily discerned. During two years the fields had been lying fallow, commerce had steadily declined, and the people were actually suffering for food. Stockholm had been rendered desolate. Its population had fallen to about one quarter. "Every other house," wrote Gustavus, "is now empty;" and there appeared so little chance of a revival that the king issued a proclamation calling on the burghers of other towns as far as possible to sell their houses and settle down in Stockholm. Another cause of dissatisfaction was that, though the war was over in Sweden, the Swedish possessions in Finland were still in the hands of the enemy, and a considerable army was needed to reduce them. Fredrik, king of Denmark, had resigned his claim to Sweden; but certain islands off the coast, as well as some districts along the frontier of Norway, were still matters of dispute. All these circumstances tended to raise a spirit of discontent, which, though for the nonce restrained, was ready to break out into violence at any moment. To prevent evil, Gustavus resolved to issue a proclamation to the people.[82]

On the 8th of September the annual fair at Vesteras was opened, and Gustavus seized this opportunity to make a public statement of his doings. This statement was in the nature of an apology for the recent tax. It declared in the first place that the expenses of the war had reached a higher figure than had ever been incurred by Swedish king before, amounting to a total of over nine hundred thousand marks. A large part of this sum was for foreign troops, hired that the Swedish peasantry might "stay at home in peace, tending their fields and pastures, and caring for their wives and children." When the war was over and the mercenaries were ready to depart, they had demanded with threats of violence immediate payment for all the arms and vessels they had furnished. Having no means to satisfy them, Gustavus had consulted with his Cabinet, and by their advice had called upon the churches and monasteries for a loan, "which with God's help shall be paid, if all goes well." "Nor," continued the monarch, "was this tax in any way a departure from the practice of former rulers, as may be seen by referring to the ancient records.... Some there are among you who assert openly or in private that we have fleeced the churches and monasteries. This we assert distinctly we have not done, but have merely called upon them for a loan, which shall be paid.... We trust you will give no heed to such conspirators and traitors, but will aid us in bringing them to punishment." The document closes with some remarks upon the coinage. "It must be clear to all," it runs, "that with the enormous expenses which have been rolling up against us we could not issue coins of the quality which you are accustomed to of old. From sheer necessity we have issued 'klippings' after the pattern of King Christiern, though his coins are now, thank God! departed from the realm.... These 'klippings' are at present not accepted for more than half their worth; and while this has been strenuously forbidden, the only result thus far has been that traders have refused to trade at all, and have carried their salt and hops and clothing back to Germany. We therefore intend at the first opportunity to instruct our Cabinet with the most learned men of the various classes to determine whether the 'klippings' shall be accepted for their present value or for less; and whatever their decision, we promise faithfully we shall obey."[83]

After administering this soothing drug, the monarch turned his thoughts once more to the appointment of a new archbishop. The letter despatched by the Cabinet to Pope Adrian immediately after the diet of Strengnaes had proved of little service, for Brask on the 18th of July had secretly sent a messenger to the pope with word that Church property was being confiscated. Gustavus, ignorant of the bishop's perfidy and wondering at the pope's delay, now wrote again. "For a long time, Holy Father," began the courteous monarch, "our cathedral chapters have urged us to solicit you in behalf of the persons elected by them to fill their vacant posts. Trolle having resigned the archbishopric, the prelates and canons of Upsala have chosen your legate Johannes Magni in his stead; the canons of Skara have chosen their archdeacon Magnus Haraldsson to the bishopric vacated by his predecessor's death; and the canons of Strengnaes have chosen their provost Magnus Sommar. The prelates and canons of Vesteras, their bishop having died, present the name of Petrus Magni for the post. In Abo, though the bishop died a year ago, no successor has as yet been chosen, that church having only recently been captured from our enemies. As the persons above named are satisfactory to us and to our people, we beg you to confirm them as soon as possible, and thus avert the danger to which vacancies in the episcopal office would expose the Church." Whether or not the Chapters had actually elected all the persons named, may well be doubted, and is, indeed, of little moment; for their spirit was by this time broken, and if they cherished any preferences they dared not speak them. The letter was intrusted to Johannes Magni with orders to obtain confirmation from the pope and then return to Sweden. But just as he was making ready to depart, the long-awaited letter came from Adrian, though it differed much in tenor from what had been expected. Instead of urging the Upsala Chapter to choose a new archbishop, it commanded Gustavus to restore Archbishop Trolle to his post, threatening him with punishment if he refused.[84]

This change of colors on the part of Adrian has been accounted for in many ways. Johannes Magni himself suggested that it was the work of evil-minded counsellors in Rome. The more probable supposition is that Adrian had been influenced by Brask. If Church property was being confiscated, as Brask declared, Archbishop Trolle could be relied on to offer much more strenuous resistance than the prelate talked of as his successor. But the very reason which induced the pope to favor Trolle seemed to the king sufficient ground for supporting his opponent. It was precisely because of Johannes Magni's pliable and compromising temper that Gustavus would have rejoiced to see the mitre on his head. He was determined that Trolle, at any rate, should not wear it. So he sat down, as soon as Adrian's letter came, and wrote a warm reply to the College of Cardinals in Rome. "If our Most Holy Father," he said, "has any care for the peace of our country, we shall be pleased to have him confirm the election of his legate Johannes to the archbishopric, and we shall comply with the pope's wishes as to a reformation of the Christian Church and religion. But if his Holiness, against our honor and the peace of our subjects, sides with the crime-stained partisans of Archbishop Trolle, we shall allow his legate to return to Rome, and shall govern the Church in this country with the authority which we have as king, and in a manner which we believe will please God as well as all the princes of Christendom. We beg you, however, to use your authority in the Apostolic See in such way as not to harm our state, nor give the appearance of championing the crimes of Trolle against the tranquillity of a Christian people." Three days after writing this vehement despatch, the monarch sent off another, couched in language even more determined, to the pope. "We shall never," he declared, "allow that man to return as our archbishop. He not only is unworthy of the priesthood, he is unworthy even to live. We respect the Roman Church, and if need be would die in her behalf. But if she endeavors thus to ruin our country, we shall resist her till the last drop of blood is shed." This document was placed in the hands of Olaus Magni, brother of the proposed archbishop, with orders to inform the pope of the evils to which the Church in Sweden was exposed, and to use his utmost endeavor to secure the confirmation of the bishops. The missive, however, never reached the pontiff to whom it was addressed. Adrian was already dead and buried ere the document was penned; and when the messenger arrived in Rome, he found another pontiff, Clement VII., seated in the papal chair.[85]

The breach between the king and popery was now open. Gustavus had actually flung down the gauntlet at the feet of Rome, asserting that if officers satisfactory to him were not appointed by the pope, he would take the duty of appointing them upon himself. Still he did not relinquish hope that the breach might yet be healed; and on the 2d of November he wrote again, this time requesting the pope to confirm the election of Erik Svensson, a former secretary of Gustavus, to the vacant bishopric of Abo. "And if your Holiness," wrote the king, "shall delay in confirming the bishops-elect, we shall ourselves undertake the restoration of our ruined churches, and shall have the bishops confirmed by Him who is our High Pontifex, that His Church and religion may not be injured through the negligence of the Apostolic See. Moreover, Most Holy Father, we hear from certain men of Lubeck that one Francisco of Potentia has returned from Rome to Denmark with arguments in justification of that tyrant Christiern's massacre of our bishops, and that your Holiness has rewarded him with the bishopric of Skara. If this be true, the Apostolic See has done us and the Church a wrong equal in enormity to that of the Danish king, and we shall by God's aid avert it if necessary with our blood. Let not your Holiness fancy that we shall permit foreigners to rule the Church in Sweden." At about the same time with this letter the monarch, in writing to Johannes Magni, uses even stronger language. After suggesting that Christiern has so impoverished the Church that it is unable to send its bishops elect to Rome for confirmation, he asserts that it is rumored the real cause of the delay is that the Church has not been able to furnish the pope the customary fees for confirmation. "Some assert, too," he adds, "that there is no authority in Scripture for all the dues that belong by custom to the pope.... So soon as we find that our patience and moderation are of no avail, we shall proceed to rigorous measures. We shall not suffer our people to bend beneath a cruel foreign yoke, for we are confident that Christ, who is our High Priest, will not let his people die to suit the pope's caprice."[86]

These were bold words to use of the potentate whose command all Christendom obeyed. The youthful monarch, it was already clear, intended to rule his country with an iron hand. When only three months on the throne, he chanced upon some letters in which the bishop of Vesteras alluded to him in arrogant and contumelious terms. This bishop, who gloried in the name of Peder Sunnanvaeder, had been at one time chancellor of the young Sten Sture, and though elected in 1522 to the bishopric of Vesteras, had suffered the same fate as the other bishops and never been confirmed. Gustavus did not hesitate a moment. As soon as the abusive letters reached him, he proceeded with the entire Cabinet to Vesteras, and summoned the bishop with all his canons to the chapter-house. There he laid before them the evidences of the bishop's guilt. Unable to furnish satisfactory explanation, the bishop was removed; and the Chapter, at the instance of Gustavus, elected Petrus Magni in his stead. Even with this, however, the monarch's vengeance did not end. Knut, the dean of Vesteras and a former chancellor of Gustavus,—the man, indeed, who had been talked of for the archbishopric of Upsala,—was indiscreet enough to come forward at the trial with an apology for his bishop. The monarch wanted no other proof of his complicity, and discharged him along with Sunnanvaeder from his post.[87]

Gustavus was spurred on in his campaign against the Church by a continued need of money to keep his army in the field. Even after the subjection of Sweden he had to carry on the war in Finland; and it was not till nearly Christmas, and after he had sent a strong force of mercenaries across the Baltic, that Finland was subdued.[88] After this the great bone of contention was the isle of Gotland. This island, or rather its capital, the town of Visby, had been in ages past the leader of the Hanseatic League. Its situation in the Baltic, not far from the east coast of southern Sweden, made it still of great value to merchant-vessels passing between Sweden and the Hanseatic Towns. When Christiern fled from Denmark, Gotland was under the control of Norby, who continued after his master's fall to make depredations along the coast of Sweden and seize all merchantmen that came within his grasp. Danish, Swedish, and Hanse vessels were alike his prey, till Gotland came to be known by all as a "nest of robbers." Fredrik and Lubeck, unwilling though they were that Gotland should fall to Sweden, welcomed any movement intended to root out this impediment to the Baltic trade, and raised no opposition when Gustavus offered, in the winter of 1524, to attack the island in the coming spring. The attitude of Fredrik to Gustavus recalls the fable of the monkey and the cat. The Danish king hoped ultimately to secure the chestnuts for himself, but in the mean time was not sorry to see an army gathering in Sweden to bear the brunt of the assault. Which party first proposed an expedition against Gotland is not clear.[89] At the general diet held in Vadstena in January, representatives from Fredrik were present, and it was agreed that the expedition should be made as soon as the harbors opened. The quotas to be furnished by the different parts of Sweden by the first week after Easter were also fixed. The Danish envoys, it appears, made no promises except that a congress of the two realms should be held on the 14th of February to settle all matters of dispute. The passports for the Danish envoys to this convention were issued by Gustavus on the spot. They were never used, however; for just before the appointed day he received notice from the Danish Cabinet that they wished the congress to be postponed. This action caused Brask to suspect that Fredrik's sole object was to use up time. Whatever Fredrik's object, the congress could not be held without him. Gustavus therefore postponed it till the end of April, and set about raising an army for himself.[90]

The first person to whom the monarch turned was Bishop Brask. It appears that there had been some dispute between the bishop and one of the hospitals in his diocese as to the tithes from certain lands. The shrewd monarch conceived the notion that the simplest mode of settling the dispute was to hand the disputed property over to the crown. He wrote, therefore, to both parties to send him at once the original documents on which they based their claims. "And meantime," he said, "we forbid you positively to collect the disputed tithes. Should you touch them, we shall be forced to take further steps. We have, indeed, been told that in the times of our fathers the crown received from the canons throughout the realm one fourth of their tithes under the name of 'the poor man's portion,' with the understanding that the money should be used to found hospitals, and over these hospitals the crown has ever since held jus patronatus." To this demand Brask answered that he would send the documents desired, but that the crown had never taken the tithes from the canons except by force. A few weeks later, on the 18th of February, the king wrote Brask that the expedition would start as soon as the harbors opened, and that, as Brask had been one of the promoters of the scheme, he must expect to contribute generously toward it, especially since he and his diocese, being nearest to the isle of Gotland, would be the ones most benefited by the overthrow of Norby. Brask, in his answer of March 8, repudiated the idea that the expedition was the fruit of his brain, and expressed the hope that the matter might be settled without bloodshed. "'T is never wise," he said, "to break down doors already open." Brask asserted, further, that he had never received a penny of rent from Gotland, but promised to do all he could to obtain aid from the churches of his diocese.[91]

By this time it had become rumored that the king was about to levy a new tax upon the people, and a murmur of discontent had risen through the land. To allay this, Gustavus issued several letters, declaring that the contribution was to be wholly voluntary. One of the convents he begged to send him all the silver collected for a certain shrine, and offered to give the crown's note for the amount, secured, if the convent wished it, by a mortgage of certain crown fiefs. In writing to the people of Oestergoetland he pointed out that the expedition was necessitated by the piracies of Norby, who had caused a dreadful scarcity of food by checking imports; and he called upon the people to have a detachment of armed men ready by the first week after Easter at the latest, promising at the same time that as soon as the fleet should put to sea the men would be provided for at the crown's expense. To the people of Brask's diocese he wrote that he had heard a rumor to the effect that he was imposing a new tax upon the people. This rumor the king characterized as "a palpable lie." He declared further that he had applied the crown rents to pay for the expedition, and had asked their bishop to make a loan from his rents for the same purpose, to which Brask had replied that he would lend the money, but would raise it by imposing a tax upon his churches. This Gustavus declared was not his desire; all he wished was a free-will offering. From this letter it is clear the monarch sought to cast upon Brask the odium which this new levy had brought upon himself, and it is equally clear that in doing so he exceeded the bounds of truth. In calling upon Brask for a contribution he had in no way specified the mode in which the money should be raised; and Brask, so far from refusing to apply his own rents for the purpose, had distinctly stated, in every letter which he wrote, that he would do his utmost to furnish the desired sum.[92]

A further cause of disaffection lay in the general impression that the monarch was tampering with the coinage. This impression had its origin naturally enough in the fact that the general diet held in January had repudiated the Swedish "klippings." The reason given for that act was that, the Danish "klippings" having been repudiated in Denmark the year before, merchants were bringing barrelfuls of them into Sweden; so that the Swedish "klipping," being scarcely discernible from its Danish namesake, fell constantly in value, its fluctuations depending upon the importations of the repudiated coin from Denmark. In the Act repudiating the Swedish "klipping" that coin was declared to be worth four "hvitar;" that is, about one half of the amount which the crown had received in issuing it. The outcry which this Act called forth was universal, and the king was forced to issue a letter to the people in which he endeavored to allay their wrath. "We have never," he declared with brazen falsehood,—"we have never altered the coinage either by raising or by lowering its value, but have permitted each coin to pass for the same value as it had before;" and he added with bland simplicity, "the coin has fallen by its own weight." The striking feature in this matter is the audacity of the king. He trusted that the people generally would not have access to the documents which we now possess to contradict him. After issuing this mendacious letter, he approached the Stockholm merchants, and, by certain persuasive arguments whose nature it is easy to conceive, prevailed upon them to deposit all their "klippings" in the treasury, to be weighed and bought by the Government at their actual bullion value. He then began the issue of a new series of coins approximating though still below their face value, and published another letter, this time acknowledging that he had repudiated the "klippings," but asserting that the step was taken to comply with a suggestion made him by the people.[93]

Late in March Gustavus received a note from Fredrik requesting a further postponement of the congress till May 15. As the Vend Cities were to be present, Gustavus answered that he would communicate with Lubeck, and so soon as he had word from her would give a definite reply. He then despatched the Danish monarch's letter to Bishop Brask. The answer of that prelate was full of wisdom. "I marvel much," wrote Brask, "that his Grace should call a congress of these three realms without first consulting you.... He must be well aware that you cannot be present on so short notice, especially since he knows that you are about to make an expedition against Gotland. His real purpose, I suspect, is to induce you to postpone your expedition." In this surmise the shrewd bishop doubtless was correct. Fredrik, though satisfied that Sweden should go to great expense in preparing for an expedition against Gotland, was reluctant to see her armies actually land upon the isle, lest his own claims to Gotland might thereby be lost. It seemed to him that Norby, terrified by the armaments of Sweden, might be induced to go to Denmark and yield the isle to him. He therefore wrote to Sweden, requesting that the pirate be given a safe-conduct through the land. But the army was already in the field, and Gustavus answered firmly that he would not comply with the request. To this answer he was induced partly by a suspicion that Denmark was already furnishing supplies to Norby.[94]

On the 8th of May Gustavus despatched his fleet, eight thousand strong, to Gotland. The command he gave to a German adventurer who has already figured in this story as Berent von Mehlen. This person, after breaking faith with his former master, Christiern, had married a cousin of Gustavus, and had become a trusted counsellor of the king. By what traits he became attractive in his monarch's eyes it is at this day difficult to conceive. Certainly as a general he knew as little as any general possibly could know. Again and again he had been given opportunity to display his warlike power, but thus far in every instance he had failed. He now set forth, as admiral of the Swedish fleet, to besiege the town of Visby. The siege began on the 19th of May, and was enlivened during a few weeks by several skirmishes. Nothing of importance, however, was accomplished. The siege was protracted through the summer, and at last the besiegers showed so little life that their leader, the favorite of Gustavus, was reported to have turned his coat once more and joined the enemy.[95]

Not yet had the siege begun when evidence was furnished that Fredrik was in league with Norby. So early as the 9th of May Gustavus wrote to Brask that the Danes were rumored to be supplying Norby with stores and ammunition. A few days later word arrived from Fredrik that he wished once more to put off the congress, this time till the 24th of June. Gustavus was now fairly mad with indignation, and declared to Brask that he would neither be present nor allow his envoys to be present at the proposed congress. He was discreet enough, however, to conceal his wrath from Fredrik; and, without refusing the offer of the Danish king, he called a meeting of his Cabinet, to which he urged Lubeck to send her envoys. Fredrik in the mean time had been negotiating on his own account with Norby, and had wrung promises from him which led to the impression that Norby had thrown up his allegiance to Christiern II. and was ready to accept the authority of Fredrik. Elated by this false hope, the Danish monarch felt in a position to ignore the slight that had been put upon him by Gustavus, and sent delegates, apparently unbidden, to the Swedish king and Cabinet, proposing that a congress be held in Denmark to settle all matters of dispute, the Swedish army in the mean time to withdraw from Gotland, and Norby to be given safe-conduct from the isle. These terms Gustavus rejected with disdain, declaring that he had striven for the good of all to scatter Norby with his "nest of robbers," and would consent to a meeting with Fredrik only on condition that in the interval Norby should receive no aid of any shape or kind. Fredrik, finding that Gustavus was determined, and that Norby's feigned alliance was somewhat airy, yielded reluctantly to this condition. The Swedish army continued in its camp at Visby; and the two monarchs, attended by their Cabinets, proceeded to the town of Malmoe in hope of settling their disputes. The congress opened on the first day of September. The two monarchs with their retinues were present, together with envoys from the Hanseatic Towns. The meeting opened, as was usual, with an interchange of courtesies and with mutual promises to resist their common enemy, King Christiern. It was agreed, too, that all renegades from either country should be returned, and that citizens of one country should be entitled to any property belonging to them in the other. As soon, however, as the question of disputed territory arose, it became clear that no conclusion could be reached. It was therefore resolved, after long debate, that this question be postponed, to be decided by a congress of certain Hanse Towns, to be held in Lubeck in June of the following year. Till then a provisional frontier agreed upon by Norway, Denmark, and Sweden was to be observed; and Gotland was to remain during the interval in the hands of that party which held it on September 1. If it should be found that Norby held it on that day, he should be called upon to surrender it to Fredrik, to be placed by him under the temporary control of some person satisfactory to Sweden, Denmark, and Lubeck. If Sweden should continue the war in Gotland, she was to pay for all damage she might do. Either party by violating these terms was to become indebted to the other to the amount of one hundred thousand guilders. This conclusion reached, the congress was dissolved, envoys being first sent to Gotland to carry out the terms. Finding that Norby was still in possession, they entered into negotiations, and soon obtained a contract, signed by Norby as well as Mehlen, that each should withdraw his forces from the land. In conformity with this contract Mehlen at once broke camp and sailed with all the Swedish fleet to Kalmar; but Norby, laughing at the credulity of his opponent, continued to dominate the island, and began his piracies afresh.[96]

This disastrous expedition caused a heavy drain upon the Swedish treasury, an evil which the monarch sought to meet by new demands upon the Church. On the 9th of May he wrote to Brask that he must have more money, and that the bishopric of Linkoeping, being benefited more than others by the expedition, must expect to bear the chief part of the cost. To this Brask answered humbly that he had already furnished more than his proper share, but would do his utmost to obtain the needed sum. This promise, however, did not satisfy the king; and a few days later he sent a letter to Brask's chapter, declaring that they had collected certain rents belonging to the crown which must be yielded up without delay. Brask appears to have been a special object of the monarch's greed. On one occasion Gustavus seized some tithes belonging to that prelate, and then had face enough to write him that he had done so, his only excuse being that the army was in need of food. This high-handed mode of dealing with the Church is in marked contrast to the monarch's complaisance when dealing with the people. Before the common people Gustavus grovelled in the dust. Every day nearly he despatched some document granting new privileges to this town or to that; and when the people of Kalmar refused to contribute on the ground that their trade had been ruined by foreign merchants, Gustavus sent back answer that he would remedy this wrong. The notion getting abroad in Brask's diocese that new taxes were being levied, Gustavus insisted that the bishop should counteract this view, thus practically forcing him to make the contribution from his private means.[97]

In spite of every effort to appease the people, discontent was fast spreading through the land. To attribute this entirely to the actions of Gustavus is unfair. His expedition against Gotland, it is true, had proved a failure, and had cost his country dear. The monarch should have seen that, in the impoverished state of his finances, the duty of destroying Norby belonged to Denmark or Lubeck. But, granted that the expedition was ill-judged, its failure certainly did not justify revolt. The truth is, the Swedish people were so used to insurrection that the slightest disappointment sufficed to set the whole country by the ears, and no sooner was the expedition brought to its humiliating end than the people began to look about for pretexts for revolt. One of the first cries raised against Gustavus was that he had transgressed the law by admitting foreign citizens into the Cabinet of Sweden. To this charge the monarch was unable to make a rational reply. At the very outset of his reign, he had displayed his first infatuation for foreign men by raising Mehlen to the highest honors of the state. Later another adventurer, one Count Johan von Hoya, had appeared upon the scene. The king had forthwith showered royal favors upon his head. Scarcely two months after landing Hoya had betrothed himself to the king's sister, and had been received by the infatuated monarch into the Swedish Cabinet. Such a course appeared to the people in direct opposition to the promise made by Gustavus that he would drive out foreign power. This evil, however, was but slight, in comparison with others that the people had to bear. In plain English, they were starving. The long-protracted war with Denmark, followed by the brutal piracies of Norby, had so reduced the supply of necessaries, particularly salt, that few except the rich were able to get enough to stay their hunger. Hoping to allay the people's indignation in these matters, Gustavus called a meeting of his Cabinet in October, summoning at the same time two Linkoeping burghers to advise the Cabinet as to the best methods of improving trade. It is worthy of note, however, that though the meeting was expressly announced to be called for the purpose of improving trade, the documents describing the debate are devoted almost wholly to a consideration of methods to augment the royal funds. The king, it seems, came forward with a suggestion that, since he was likely soon to marry, some, provision should be made for adding to his income, and some steps be taken to reimburse him for the sums advanced by him to carry on the war. What he particularly wanted was the right to fix, according to his own judgment, the amount of rents to be paid by crown estates. He suggested, further, that, since the pope would not confirm the bishops till they paid their fees, his coronation should be delayed no longer, but the bishops should perform the ceremony without the papal sanction. He recommended also that, there being no satisfactory place in which to keep the Swedish cavalry, they be quartered in the various monasteries, "where," he added, "we find plenty of money, but very few monks." As to Hoya, he requested the Cabinet's sanction of the proposed marriage, shrewdly intimating that while he favored citizens of Germany, he believed no marriage between a Swede and Dane should be allowed. The answer which the Cabinet made to these proposals shows traces of a feeble opposition along with a manifest endeavor to accommodate the king. First of all, the Cabinet advised the king to appoint a few of the most intelligent and able debaters in the realm to represent the cause of Sweden at the congress to be held next year in Lubeck; and in accordance with this suggestion the king named Hoya, and the new archbishop, Johannes Magni. Regarding the matter of conferring fiefs on Hoya, the Cabinet yielded to the king's desire. "Though the law declares," they said, "that no foreigner shall enter the Cabinet or govern land or castle, yet we shall gladly see you grant him both castle and land as you deem best, doubting not that you will so watch over his and all other grants that your subjects suffer not." In accordance with this concession Hoya was given Stegeborg in fee, and his marriage with Margareta was arranged to take place in January next. As to quartering in the monasteries, the conservative element prevailed, the Cabinet decreeing that it was not advisable to fill the monasteries with horse and men. That the coronation take place at once, the Cabinet strongly urged, though they refrained from expressing opinion as to the confirmation of the bishops. The proposition that the king be given power to regulate the royal rents was not rejected, but a hint was thrown out that the proper step was rather to prepare an accurate list of all crown property and collect the rents as due thereon of old.[98]

Clearly enough this meeting would not satisfy a hungry people. In fact apparently it added to their rage, and we find the people of Dalarne at this time drawing up a long list of grievances to be laid before the king. Their first and weightiest complaint was that certain rich men, stewards of the king, had bought up all the grain in their district, and had made a corner in it so that the poor man could not get enough to eat. Further than this, they protested against the king's practice of admitting into the kingdom all sorts of foreigners, "who have put their heads together to ruin the common people." This vehement lament aroused Gustavus to the gravity of his position, particularly as he learned that Sunnanvaeder was inciting the people to rebel. Hoping to quiet matters, he despatched his messengers to all parts of the kingdom with soothing words. He endeavored in every way to impress upon the people that the high price of food was due entirely to the war between the emperor and the King of France; and as to the repudiation of the "klippings," of which some people had complained, he asserted that he had thereby suffered far greater injury than his people. Sunnanvaeder's conspiracy was the thing that caused him most anxiety, and on the 9th of December he addressed the Dalesmen on that theme. "Dear friends," he suavely wrote, "report has reached our ears that Sunnanvaeder has gone among you with plots to throw the kingdom into strife once more. We beg you in the name of God give him no heed. He has made statements about us, we are told, which are absolutely false; among others, that we are about to restore Trolle to his archbishopric,—the man who deprived us of father and mother and threw our kingdom into ruin. As we have called a diet to be held in January, to investigate these charges among other things, we request you at that time or earlier to send representatives from every parish to judge between us; and we hereby promise the said Sunnanvaeder safe-conduct to and from Stockholm for this investigation. You may make this proclamation to him; and if he will not come, you may know that he is false.... Further, since we are informed that you are suffering from great lack of salt, we have just despatched to you between ten and twenty cargoes of salt to relieve your want."[99]

While Gustavus was thus dickering with the Dalesmen, a far more weighty matter kept him continually on an anxious seat at home. This was the Reformation of the Romish Church. It has been already noted that the Swedish Reformation was a political revolt, and at its outset had but little connection with theological dispute. The conflagration that had raged in Germany since 1519 produced no immediate effect in Sweden, and it was not till the spring of 1523 that the Swedish prelates felt real dread of Martin Luther. The father of the Swedish Reformation was Olaus Petri, a blacksmith's son, of Oerebro. From his earliest years this champion of Luther had been educated by a pious father for the Romish Church. His childhood had been passed amid the religious influence of a monastery in his native town. There, with his younger brother Laurentius, he had shared the daily routine of a monk. When a mere boy his father, little knowing the temptation to which his son would be exposed, had placed him in the University of Wittenberg, where he sat for some years at the feet of Luther. On his return to Sweden in 1519, he was appointed to give instructions in the Bible to the youth of Strengnaes. Though only twenty-two, he already showed such promise that within a year he was chosen deacon of Strengnaes, and placed at the head of the school belonging to the Chapter. The opportunity thus given him was great. The bishopric being vacant, the charge of things in Strengnaes fell upon Laurentius Andreae, at the time archdeacon. Andreae, though fifteen years his senior, was of a kindred spirit, and by a contemporary is described as a willing pupil of the young reformer. There can be no question that even at this period Petri was regarded as a man of strength. A portrait of him painted when still a youth shows in a marked degree the traits by which he was distinguished later. The face is full and round, with large, warm eyes twinkling with merriment, and a high, clear forehead, from which is thrown back a heavy mass of waving hair. The mouth is firm as adamant, and the sharp-cut lips and chin are eloquent of strength. Altogether, it is the picture of just the man that Petri afterward became,—a brilliant orator, daring, good-natured, and gifted with a generous supply of common-sense. Precisely how much Petri owed to Martin Luther we cannot know. It is not, however, likely that at first his teaching in Strengnaes differed materially from that inculcated by the Romish Church. At any rate, he taught four years before any serious complaint was made. The first to charge him with heresy was Bishop Brask. On the 7th of May, 1523, that much-enduring prelate wrote to a member of the Upsala Chapter that a certain person in Strengnaes had inflamed the people by preaching heresies; "and God knows," he added, "we are grieved enough to learn that he is not silenced." What these heresies preached by Petri were, appears from a polemic hurled at the young reformer by Brask's deacon. They include, among other things, a denial of the priest's authority to solicit alms, with assertions that men should place no faith in the Virgin or in other saints, but in God alone; that the priest's first duty is to preach, not pray, and that confession should be made to none but God. Surely we have here the very essence of the Reformation. Brask was already trembling with apprehension, and despatched a letter to a brother bishop to say that the heresies of Petri had begun to break out in Upsala. "We must use our utmost vehemence," he gasped, "to persuade Johannes Magni to apply the inquisition to this Petri; otherwise the flame will spread throughout the land." Magni, it is clear, was deemed a little lukewarm by such ardent men as Brask, and on the 12th of July we find Brask pouring out a flood of Latin eloquence to excite the tranquil legate. In nothing is Brask's sagacity more manifest than in the enthusiasm which he here displayed. He discerned with perfect clearness that the battle must be fought at once. If Petri should once gain the people's ear, all hope was lost. Romanism was no match for Lutheranism in an open war. He therefore sought to stamp out the new teachings without allowing them to be fairly known; and had his superiors shown equal zeal, the Reformation might have been delayed.[100]

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