City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf (1626-1692)
Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff or von Seckendorf (December 20, 1626 – December 18, 1692), German statesman and scholar, was a member of the Seckendorff family, which took its name from the village of Seckendorf between Nuremberg and Langenzenn. The family was divided into eleven distinct lines, widely distributed throughout Prussia, Württemberg and Bavaria. Seckendorf, son of Joachim Ludwig von Seckendorf, was born at Herzogenaurach, near Erlangen.
In 1639, the reigning Swedish duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Ernest the Pious, made him his protegé. Entering the university of Strassburg in 1642, Seckendorf devoted himself to history and jurisprudence. The means for his higher education came from Swedish officers, former comrades of his father, who had been actively engaged in the Thirty Years' War and who was executed at Salzwedel on February 3, 1642, for his dealings with the Imperialists. After Seckendorf finished his university course, Duke Ernest gave him an appointment as hofjunker in his court at Gotha, where he laid the foundation of his great collection of historical materials and mastered the principal modern languages.
In 1652, Seckendorf was appointed to important judicial positions and sent on weighty embassages. In 1656, he was made judge in the ducal court at Jena, and took the leading part in the numerous beneficent reforms of the duke. In 1664, he resigned office under Duke Ernest, who had just made him chancellor and with whom he continued on excellent terms, and entered the service of Duke Maurice of Zeitz (Altenburg), with the view of lightening his official duties.
After the death of Maurice in 1681, Seckendorf retired to his estate, Meuselwitz in Altenburg, resigning nearly all his public offices. Although living in retirement, he kept up a correspondence with the principal learned men of the day. He was especially interested in the endeavours of the pietist Philipp Jakob Spener to effect a practical reform of the German church, although he was hardly himself a pietist. In 1692, he was appointed chancellor of the new University of Halle, but he died a few weeks afterwards.
Seckendorf's principal works were the following:
- Teutscher Fürstenstaat (1656 and 1678), a handbook of German public law
- Der Christen Stat (1685), partly an apology for Christianity and partly suggestions for the reformation of the church, founded on Pascal's Pensées and embodying the fundamental ideas of Spener
- Commentarius Historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo sive de Reformatione (3 vols., Leipzig, 1692), occasioned by the Jesuit Maimbourg's Histoire du Luthéranisme (Paris, 1680), his most important work, and still indispensable to the historian of the Reformation as a rich storehouse of authentic materials.