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. CHAPTER II.
Early History of the German Tribes — This Name first Applied by Julius Caesar —Their Authentic History commences with the Christian Era — Early Habits and Stature — Confederation of Tribes — Severe Laws of Conversion to Christianity — The Reformation — Luther and Dr. Eck — Lower Palatinate of the Rhine — Religious Wars — Frederick Prince Palatine — Theidelburgh Library — The Palatinate Devastated — Continental Wars of Europe — Manheim—Characteristics of these People — A Legend.
The reader having been introduced to the aboriginal possessors of the soil of Herkimer county, so far as can now be defined, will have the goodness to indulge me a few moments, while I give a brief historical outline of a people of known European origin, who first planted themselves in the upper Mohawk valley. Indeed, the Anglo-Saxon race are of German descent, and whoever claims a Teutonic ancestry, traced through an English channel, will have some of the blood of a Saxon or Dane on which to rest that claim. Our design in this chapter is to set out, as far as needful, the origin of a race who are losing every distinct national characteristic, which they maintained more than one hundred years upon the American continent.
The Germans were believed, by the Romans, to be an aboriginal, pure and unmixed race of people. Th% primitive language of the inhabitants of Germany is the Teutonic, called High Dutch, and has no affinity with the Celtic tongue. The name Germanum, when applied to the tribes collectively, was first used, it is said, by Julius Caesar ; but German historians assert the aboriginal name of these people is what they bear at this time. It can not be vary remarkable that the original collective name of a people inhabiting a particular district of country, so much divided into tribes or septs as was the territory embraced in and now known as Germany, should be familiar to strangers coming from Rome or middle and southern Gaul. A Teutscher, or Deutscher, according to the method of pronunciation, was a person belonging to the nation. Some would no doubt translate this as meaning Dutchman. The first intercourse the original barbaric tribes of Germany had with a people practiced in historical writing, was in the year 113 before the Christian era, 1968 years ago, when the Cimbrians and Teutonians made an incursion into the Roman territories; but this must have been too transitory to have permitted the Romans to take any particular note of the origin or historical antecedents of their invaders. When Julius Caesar, about fifty years before the birth of Christ, advanced to the frontiers of what might then be considered Germany proper, and hence was brought into more immediate contact with its people, he is enabled to speak with certainty. Any thing like authentic German history commences with the Christian era, and it ripens with the progress of civilization and learning, and light comes to us through the darkness and gloom of the middle ages.
Historians describe the early German race as having " but one determined and equal form of body. Their chests were wide and strong; their hair yellow, and with young children of a dazzling white. Their skin was also white, their eyes blue, and their glance bold and piercing." Some ancient writers say their usual height was seven feet. It is also said that " from their earliest youth upward they hardened their bodies by all devisable means. New-born infants were dipped in cold water, and the cold bath was continued during their whole lives as the strengthening renovator, by both boys and girls, men and women." It is not intended to give an extended and detailed view of the habits, manners, regulations, and institutions of these people. But it is proper to note some points in their history down to the period of the immigration of the Palatines to this western continent.
It must be apparent to all, that in order to provide against assaults from without, there must have been a confederation of the German tribes at some period. The laws relating to these confederations were very severe, and their principle was, "one for all and all for one, for life and death." The most perfect of these alliances among the tribes took place about the year A. D. 235, in order to form a barrier against the Roman armies. The great migration of the Mongolian Huns from Asia and the irruption of the western tribes into Italy between the years 375 and 476 after Christ, changed materially the aspect of things among the German confederates, and subsequently produced changes in their customs and institutions. It was not until about the close of the eighth century, in the time of Charlemagne, that all the German tribes, or rather nations, were converted to Christianity.
The outbreak of the reformation in 1517 under the conduct of Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, and professor of theology in the University of Wittenberg, Saxony, is the first great event to which our attention is directed; that being the epoch from which we can trace the causes that drove the Palatines of the Lower Rhine to seek it home in the then province of New York nearly two hundred years afterwards.
It is worthy of note here, that in the celebrated controversy at Leipsic in 1519, which formed an interesting event in the development of the history of those times, two peasants' sons, Martin Luther and Dr. John Mayer of Eck, represented the antagonistic ideas that characterized the times, and whose unity or further division could not fail to produce consequences of the greatest importance in the civilized world. Luther was the descendant of a peasant family living at the foot of the Thuringian forest in Moravia, and Eck was the son of Michael Mayer of Eck, a peasant.
The princes of the Lower Palatinate of the Rhine early embraced the tenets of the Reformation, vibrating between the doctrines of Luther and Calvin, as suited the inclinations and peculiar notions of the individual reigning princes; and the great body of their people usually changed with their sovereigns. It once or twice occurred, in the course of one hundred and fifty years, that the reigning prince embraced the old religion, as it was then called; but this happened only when the Palatinate was bestowed upon some new family or.house, or when political motives dictated a return to the Romish doctrines ; but the great mass of the people rigidly adhered to the Protestant faith.
The final adjustment of the religious questions in the German empire and the conclusion of the treaty of Westphalia, took place in 1648, but this did not put an end to the religious wars in Europe. During the whole of the seventeenth century, and before and since that period, up to the extinguishment of the title, the emperors of Germany adhered to the Roman Catholic faith, and many of the princes of the empire were devoted to the same tenets; and while multitudes of the peasantry and middle classes embraced the doctrines of the Reformation, there was but small hope of toleration until Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, conquered a peace for them.
There were, perhaps, two motives that induced the people of the Palatinate to look to England for succor, at the commencement of the eighteenth century. Frederick, then Prince Palatine, who had married Elizabeth, daughter of James I, king of England, was in 1619 elected king of the states of Bohemia; but in the year following he was signally defeated at the battle of Weissenberg by the emperor of Germany, driven into exile, and all his estates were confiscated. This was during the thirty years' religious war in Germany. By the treaty of Westphalia the eldest son of the banished Frederick was restored to his patrimonial estates of the Lower Palatinate. This prince was cousin to Anne, daughter of James II, who ascended the British throne in 1702, on the death of William III. The Palatinate was occupied by the imperial armies in 1623, when the magnificent library of Heidelburg was seized and presented to the Pope of Rome. It was restored in 1815. The lower Palatinate was invaded by the French in 1689, many of its towns were burnt and the country devastated, while the defenseless inhabitants, who begged for mercy on their knees, were stripped naked and driven into the fields, then covered with snow, where many of them perished. One historian, in speaking of the cruelties committed by the French on this occasion, states that "the elector beheld from his castle, at Manheim, two cities and twenty-five towns in flames, and where lust and rapine walked hand in hand with fire and sword." Thus for nearly seventy-five years was this fair country, described as one of the most beautiful in Germany, the theater of wars and the scene of rapine, ravages and desolations, until the remnant of its population could no longer find a hiding place in fatherland. The Catholic rulers of France for a time sided with the Protestant league in Germany during the thirty years' war, and soon afterwards cut the throats of their Huguenot subjects at home.
The continental wars of Europe, at the close of the seventeenth and commencement of the eighteenth centuries, seem to have been promoted very much by religious considerations. The see of Rome was determined to "crush out" heresy, and exerted all its spiritual and temporal powers to accomplish it, and well did the Catholic powers and princes of Europe second the papal injunctions, except when great reasons of state intervened to prevent. The majority of Europe adhered to the Romish faith.
From the proximity of the Lower Palatinate to France and the Netherlands, it is very probable that it received accessions of population from both of those countries during the religious wars; and Manheim, a strong and well-built city at that day, was in the year 1576 appointed as the place of retreat for the families of the reformed religion, at that time