The Tensions Which Eventually Led to the Second Kappel War

At a general diet which met at Baden, January 8, 1531, the Five [Catholic] Cantons declared that unless justice was done them with respect to the Abbey of St. Gall [which had been seized by the Reformed and sold, the proceeds going to help the poor], they would not appear again in diet.

Threats and insults were freely exchanged, although the use of abusive language was expressly forbidden by the treaty. “Thief,” “murderer,” and “arch-heretic,” were some of the epithets applied to Zwingli. But the Five [Catholic] Cantons did not content themselves with the mere use of invective. A vigorous persecution was raised against the poor people among them who loved the Word of God [i.e., the Reformed]. They were fined, imprisoned, cruelly tormented, and expelled from their homes.

Secret councils were held and threats of war were heard on every side. The evangelical cities, greatly alarmed by these warlike manifestations, assembled in diet at Basel, February, 1531, and again at Zurich in March. At the former of these meetings, the deputies of Zurich presented a long list of grievances alleged to have been suffered by them at the hands of the Five Cantons. “What can we do,” inquired they, “to punish these base calumnies, and disarm our enemies?” “We understand,” said Bern, “that you would resort to violence, but we bid you reflect that the Five Cantons are forming secret alliances with the Pope, the Emperor, and the King of France. Think also of the many innocent and pious people in the Five Cantons who would suffer in case of war. Think how easy it is to begin a war, but how hard to predict how it will end. Let us rather send a deputation to the Five Cantons requesting the punishment, according to treaty, of those who have circulated these infamous slanders. Should they refuse to do this, let us break off all intercourse with them.”

“Such a mission would be useless,” said the deputies of Basel, “let us rather summon a general diet.” This proposal won general assent, and the diet was accordingly convoked at Baden on the 10th of April.*

The gathering clouds of war would eventually burst in a great tempest in October, 1531, after 10 months of terrible tension between the Catholic Cantons and those which adhered to the Reformed views of Zwingli. And it all started with a squabble over property… and faith…

*Samuel Simpson, Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (New York: Baker & Taylor Co., 1902), 245–247.