Diet of Speyer (1529)
Diet of Speyer, 1529, the notorious Imperial Diet at which the first imperial law was passed against the Anabaptists threatening death to anyone who did not recognize infant baptism. Thereby the mandate of Charles V of 4 January 1528, acquired the consent of the estates, including the Protestants, who at the same diet protested against compulsion in religious matters. The delegates from the cities (Catholic and Protestant) declared in a petition presented on 8 April to the two estates of princes that they would give their consent to the article on Anabaptism and on 12 April the Protestant princes also expressed their willingness to agree with the majority in the matter of the Anabaptists. Prince Louis V, a Catholic of the Palatinate, suggested a lightening of the penalty to the effect that only those should be punished with capital punishment who would not desist from Anabaptism. In the session of all the estates of the diet of 17 April, a draft of a decision made by the committee, to be included in the mandate against the Anabaptists, was announced to the estates and received the consent of both princely chambers, whereas the cities were for the time being still debating it. The Protestant princes in addition, in their protestation of 19 April and again on 20 April, declared their express agreement with the measures to be adopted against the adherents of adult baptism. The imperial law against the Anabaptists was issued 23 April 1529.
The content of the mandate—printed in the Neue und vollständige Sammlung der Reichsabschiede (Frankfurt a.M., 1747) II, 284; in J. J. Schmaussens Corpora juris publici Academ. III (1755) No. XIX, 141-43; Krohn, 213; and Bossert's Quellen (TA Württemberg, 1930) 3*-5*—was about as follows (literally according to Ney, 216, who gives an excerpt): Although the common law forbids upon penalty of death to baptize again an already baptized person and the emperor at the beginning of 1528 has given a new warning against the transgressors of the prohibition, that sect is still increasing. Therefore the regulation is ordered again, that each and every rebaptizer and rebaptized person, man or woman, of an accountable age shall be brought from natural life to death with fire, sword, or the like according to the circumstances of the persons without previous inquisition of spiritual judges. Against the preachers and leaders of the sect as well as those who persisted in the same or fell back into it no mercy shall be exercised but the threatened penalty shall be ruthlessly performed. Those who confess their error, recant, and beg for mercy may be pardoned. Whoever does not have his children baptized shall be considered an Anabaptist. No pardoned person shall be permitted to emigrate, so that the authorities can see to it that he does not backslide. No prince shall receive the subjects of another who have escaped. This mandate shall in all points be most strictly performed by all in order to perform the duties and oaths to the emperor and empire and to avoid the serious displeasure and punishment of the emperor.
The edict of Speyer brought brutal punishment upon the Anabaptists such as was inflicted upon no other religious party of the Holy Roman Empire. The law was repeated at Speyer in 1544, and was finally renewed at the diet of Augsburg in 1551. As late as 1694 the court councillor of Jülich, von Heyden, justified his sudden expulsion of the Mennonites from Rheydt by the edict of Speyer.
Bossert, Gustav. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer, I. Band: Herzogtum Württemberg. Quellen und Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte XIII. Band. Leipzig: M. Heinsius, 1930: 1-3.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. IV.
Krohn, B. N. Geschichte der Wiedertäufer vornehmlich in Niederdeutschland: Melchior Hofmann und die Sekte der Hofmannianer. Leipzig, 1785.
Ney, "Geschichte des Reichstags zu Speyer 1529," in Mitteilungen des historischen Vereins der Pfalz VIII. Speyer, 1879: 130, 175, 189, 215, 234, 254.
Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899: 50.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 593. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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