University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XVI: The German Crusade on the Baltic,   pp. 545-585 PDF (16.2 MB)

Page 582

answer the question of whether they were willing to pay the cost of restoring
to the order sufficient power to withstand future attacks. For Tannenberg
had not settled the political issues between the order and its neighbors.
Their promise to Prussia was war, continuous war, until the order should
be so weakened that it could not thwart the Baltic ambitions of its enemies.
The economic consequences of Tannenberg were serious enough. The order's
treasury was ex hausted, and so to pay the huge war indemnity new and unpopular
taxation was necessary. Indeed, the grand masters immediately re sorted to
a debasement of the coinage. After 1410 the foreign trade of the Gross-Schafferei
at Marienburg and Königsberg was ruined. The campaigns of 1409—1410
had devastated the order's estates, with the result that a surprisingly large
percentage of them became and remained uncultivated. Indeed, after 1410 the
population of Prussia declined. 
The economic consequences of war hurt the order's subjects no less than itself.
They could avoid constant war for the future either by means of an accommodation
with Poland-Lithuania or by restoring to the order its former strength. The
order had not built up in Prussia, among either Prussians or Germans, the
loyalty necessary to call forth this support. To an important section among
all classes in Prussia the order's sway had become an alien occupation by
rela tively few squabbling German aristocrats for whom it was worth sacrificing
nothing. Indeed, since Prussia no longer needed the order, it was worth sacrificing
much to get rid of it. 
In the years following Tannenberg, therefore, the order had its last chance
to win over its subjects by removing the sources of complaint that had created
the Eidechsengesellschaft. It failed to do so. The Prussian towns had come
to look upon the freedom of the Hanse towns in much the same way as the Prussian
nobility looked upon the independence of the Polish nobility. The order had
not learned how to associate the nobility and townsmen with itself in the
government of Prussia. It did not learn how to do this in the first half
of the fifteenth century, in spite of constant demands and many attempts.
The representatives of the Prussian nobility and towns, in their almost regular
meetings, kept demanding that the grand master share his authority with some
kind of Landesrat, and that he permit some kind of appeal from the arbitrary
violence of the order's officials and the arbitrary appropriation of income
from the towns (Pfundzoll) for the order's treasury. The very condition of
the order itself inspired no respect. The constant deposition or resignation
of the grand masters; the outrageous insubordination of lesser officials,

Go up to Top of Page